The Big Bad Wolves?
MK Wolves' debut season ended in bizarre and frustrating circumstances on Saturday, with a game the referee abandoned after an hour of play.
The match began in sombre mood, with a well-respected minute's silence for a recently-passed former teammate of the North Herts Crusaders, Michael Robinson.
However, once the game kicked off, despite facing a team pushing for top spot in the league MK were in ebullient mood, keen to round off a season of real highs and lows in style and in front of our burgeoning home support, happy to have been Rugby League pioneers in Milton Keynes, and having put Milton Keynes firmly on the Rugby League Map.
Eventually, after an opening 5-minutes of to-ing and fro-ing, it was North Herts Crusaders who scored first with a try in the corner from their right wing. However, MK centre Wes McGimpsey quickly struck back for the Wolves with a short-range try to level the scores at 4-4. A couple of minutes later, the Crusaders scored again via their captain to bring the score to 4-10, but it was still anyone's game.
Regrettably, it was then that the game began to unravel. MK Wolves had been repeatedly penalised for perceived infringements that they believed did not warrant a penalty - and when MK's firey-tempered 2nd Row Stuart Tomkinson was pinged on his 10 metre line mid-way through the first half, he was shown a yellow card for criticizing the referee's decision. Thommo evidently thought this was somewhat harsh and enthusiastically shared his sentiments with the match official. The yellow swiftly became a red for dissent.
Even being a man down, MK stood up well, with some sterling defensive work. But five minutes after Thommo had walked, Richard Hill was also shown a yellow card for a perceived swinging arm when moving a player off him so he could play the ball.
Frustratingly, with MK down to 11 men against 13, the game was effectively over as a contest as North Herts ran in a flurry of tries, taking advantage of the 10-minute disparity in numbers. However, one of MK's brightest talents, winger Michael Whitehead, bucked the trend with a tremendous burst of speed to outpace the Crusaders' defence and add to his impressive tally for the season.
So, at half-time with the score 8-34 in favour of the visitors, an aggrieved MK Wolves who felt they were repeatedly on the wrong end of the referee's whistle resolved to finish the game and the season with their heads held high.
Ambitious of a table-topping finish and scenting blood, North Herts pressed the advantage in the 2nd half against a 12-man Wolves side that had seen the wind taken out of their sails. Crusaders' extra-man advantage swiftly told, as MK were repeatedly penalised and Crusaders simply ran through the gaps.
Then, shortly after mid-way through the 2nd half, the referee brought a premature halt to proceedings. MK conceded another penalty close to their line, and Wolves captain Scott Aspinall asked the official what it was for. With that, the referee declared he was not going to have his decisions questioned and promptly walked off the field, thereby abandoning the game to the incredulity and bemusement of both sides who were keen to finish the match.
It was a bizarre end to a season that had seen everything - from our baptism of fire against Bedford Tigers, to the unparalleled highs of that thumping victory over the league leaders St. Ives Roosters.
To the chagrin of both players and supporters of MK Wolves, the inaugural season that began with so much optimism bizarrely fizzled out in exasperating circumstances.
Now, the job of re-building MK Wolves for 2013, Rugby League World Cup year, begins. And it will begin with trying to re-convince the Wolves squad that Rugby League is a superb sport, played in great spirit. To quote no less an authority than The Times, “Rugby league is called The Greatest Game because, not to put too fine a point on it, it is.”
MK Wolves squad vs. North Herts Crusaders
2 Michael Whitehead T (38 mins)
4 Wesley McGimpsey T (7 mins)
5 Scott Aspinall (capt.)
6 Chris Melly
7 Dan Pearson
8 Ed Kilby
10 Ian Gray
12 Mark Austin
13 Jamie Trevino
14 Aaron McConnell
15 Stuart Tomkinson (Red, 20 mins)
16 Morgan Head
17 Lewis Barnett
18 Richard Hill (Yellow, 25 mins)
19 Bernard Canon
20 Callum Stevenson
- Hugh Wrangham