So at last the much postponed and rearranged cup final finally took place. This may not be at the glamorous end of Leicestershire rugby but it was nonetheless very important to the players and clubs involved. Ashby were the red hot favourites being several places in the current league system in front of the Newts. It also brought a certain Mr Gurry back to face his former club. The Newts front row had been licking their lips about this for several weeks.
The game started quite badly for Newts. The last minute drop outs of Kieran “Bailey Bomb” McKenna, Ben “how do I get my biceps in this shirt” Stringfellow and Jez “I blew me nose and it bled” Wood did not help the pre match preparation. Add that to some missed tackles and to be fair some clever lines and pace from Ashby’s three-quarter line and you are soon looking at a first half opposition score of 19 points. “Dead eye” McNeil did pull back two penalties to reduce the deficit.
From the touchline it was very frustrating seeing a number of other kickable penalty chances being turned down but I guess that is the modern way. Add that to a yellow card for Aidan “afterthought” Knock (ask him why that name) and Newts really piled some pressure on themselves. I was somewhat surprised that the amount of penalties Ashby conceded in and around their twenty two did not even warrant a “talking to the captain” by the referee. It seemed it was fine just to break up play illegally. I do think Newts need to be cleverer at reading a referee and play accordingly.
The second half started much better for Newts. Clearly the team talk from Dave “Keep warmed up lads” Bonser had an effect. The team looked different, aggressive powerful and had a belief. Inspired by the back row in particular Dom “adds a whole new meaning to the term line out” Hill and Kieran “not big enough for an under eleven’s number eight” Shuter were dominating. Ably backed by the rest of the pack a considerable amount of possession and territory was maintained. This resulted in a try for Shuter. Another penalty for McNeil and a try from Hill with a conversion took the Newts into a 21 19 lead. They were also the side dominating the game. There were several good runs made from the backs as well. The crab popped up again but as we all know his straight runs are rarer than a committee man at a cup final.
Sadly for Newts they gave a penalty away although a long way out pretty much in front of the posts. Ashby converted this into three points to go again into the lead 22 21. Newts then put Ashby under a mountain of pressure. Once again penalties were conceded but no conversations were had. There then happened what I think was just about a match turning decision from the ref. Quite honestly I was astonished at what I saw. Dom Hill
was completely “clothes lined” and taken out by the neck. The ref awarded us a penalty which was easily kickable and then for some bizarre reason reversed it. Subsequently it transpired that Dom had just said to him that’s a bit high sir. I really do not think that was enough to reverse what was a penalty given for serious foul play. No card or conversation was had with Ashby. Dom had to leave the field and is actually quite seriously hurt. I understand that the ref did apologise after the game to our captain for this but it does beg the question as to why he didn’t have help from society appointed touch judges.
Newts replaced the massive that is Dave Connell
and were camped on Ashby’s line. A hotly disputed line out decision by Ashby’s touch judge gave possession back to Ashby. There were then three huge scrums with Ashby’s put in contested one after the other five metres from their line. Such was the power of the Newts front row that the scrum had to keep being reset. What was frustrating was that in the second of these Newts won the ball against the head. Eventually a free kick was awarded to Newts but in desperation Newts lost the possession and Ashby cleared however resulting from this clearance Newts were awarded a penalty on their ten metre line slightly left of the posts. The ref confirmed this was the last play so dead eye attempted the penalty kick at goal. The kick was huge but as it reached the posts it just died and Ashby cleared the ball and won the game. Probably half a metre further and it would have been Newts game. A valiant effort indeed.
Credit and congratulations to Ashby, they were by far the better side first half. I am fairly certain though that had the game gone on slightly longer that there would have only been one winner.
I am still puzzled as to why in a cup final there were not a team of three officials. The touch judges would have been able to assist the referee and thus see a better game. I am also quite irritated at the presentation. I have no idea who presented the shield but whoever you are to say to Newts “thanks for participating” was actually quite patronising. They did far more than participate my friend they nearly and should have won it.
So that’s another season over. Hugely successful. Today showed we can compete at the level above and there is nothing to fear at all. There are young players coming through, a great sense of camaraderie and things are on the up. Far better to win the league than the pickle tray trophy. Look at the positives, get down to pre season and let’s get noticed again next year.
Its been a pleasure watching you this season.
Eddie “knows naff all about rugby” Underwood
These are my own very personal thoughts and opinions and do not necessarily reflect those of the club and its officials.