Battersea Ironsides 50 v 22 Old Tiffinians
Tiffs slip to 3rd defeat on the bounce
Tiffs 1s arrived in Earlsfield keen to put right what had been a disappointing start to the season against local rivals and apparent feeder-club Battersea Ironsides. Upon arrival at the clubhouse, the players were able to take solace in the knowledge that Grists is not alone in its status of ‘seen better years’ South London clubhouses. The trudge down to the playing fields was followed by what can be described as a crisp but altogether quiet warm up during which the Cabbage would often look around despairingly for someone to shout at him… but to no avail. Unfortunately for Tiffs, this would set the tone for the afternoon.
Blessed with numerous 2s stand-ins and new faces, Tiffs got under way, receiving the kick off and building steady phases before the reliable boot of Sharpie sent Ironsides deep into their own 22. Sustained pressure over the next 10 minutes with more reds and blues than a Malaysian Coral Snake saw skipper Jae beat 2 or 3 defenders with ease as we have come to expect from our national treasure and crash over in the corner. Conversion missed, Tiffs in control 0 - 5.
From kick off, Ironsides were able to collect possession for the first time which signaled the start of a desperate 20 minutes for Tiffs during which numerous penalties were conceded, tackles were missed and opposition mauls were allowed to roam freely down the park. Three of these mauls resulted in direct scores or crash balls through the middle. Depressingly, Ironsides looked just as devastating out wide, breaking with ease whenever possession was returned to them- the pick of the bunch coming from a cross field kick score. With only one conversion missed thanks to the cross bar, Tiffin found themselves 33-5 down with only 35 minutes played and facing an embarrassing defeat.
Captain Jae, with his badly bloodshot eye, looking more like Solid Snake circa Metal Gear Solid 4, raged at his troops and demanded a response worthy of the Tiffin shirt. That response came in the form of Louis Mackee, the ever energetic and willing runner from kick off collected a quite brilliant catch against the two tallest players on the opposing team. Hands in the resulting ruck from Ironsides, a kick to the corner and solid line out saw Ts finally on the front foot once more. Strong carries from Unwin, Cabbage and Kums kept the pressure on before Taylor, ignoring his own call, ran a solo line and crashed over to give Ts a much needed lift before half time. Conversion kicked, 33-12.
Blackers echoed the captain’s words at half time, repeating the need for the team to defend together and for much improved communication. Ironsides weren’t doing anything special, he said… Tiffs were just not doing the basics. The second half began much like the first, Tiffin being precise in possession and restricting Ironsides to the odd breakaway. This time however, tackles were being made with last ditch hits from Tommo and Sharpie saving almost certain tries. The best was to come from young Alex Cassidy however. Beaten for pace by the oppositions rampaging centre, Cass turned and dived to get a tap on the ankle that he had no right to reach. This moment epitomised what was later to be rewarded as a man-of-the-match performance on a disappointing day for Tiffs. Despite being lambasted for his swelling gut and damaged lungs, Cassidy sets an example for stand-in players from the 2s and other fresh faces; work you’re a**e off and front up.
A more resolute and chatty defence coupled with accurate attacking phases from Tiffs put the game back into the balance and with continued pressure from the lineout deep in opposition half, new boy and all-round nice guy Jorge pile over after a strong maul. Tiffin began to dream of an unlikely come back and were rewarded further with another try from George ‘I’m going to run my own hammer’ Taylor. His aggressive running and bullish tackles have been a much needed lift for Tiffs in the early stages of the season; the opposition skipper later commenting that his flabby sides were still hurting from the Tiffin 10’s full bodied hits.
With both second half conversions missed, Tiffs found themselves 33-22 down with around 15 minutes to play. The team should be commended for reacting to what was a shocking 20 minute, and rightly will be, however all of their good work was overshadowed by a further period of poor play in which they conceded 3 further tries. One of these, direct from kick off, laid bare the fact that while there were strong individual defensive displays from players, the overall defence as a unit lacked communication and cohesion. This was not helped by an incredibly fit Ironsides team (insider knowledge: their pre-season has been extensive) that sucked up all Tiffin had to throw at them before running away with it in the final few minutes.
There was however, just enough time for Apos to make his most telling contribution to the game. Finding himself tangled with Kums and the opposition winger in a little push and shove, a second row arrived at the scene. Keen to impress upon the ageing Apos his mistake in leaving his parent club, punches to the mid-drift were exchanged (the eagle-eyed observer Mackay later commenting that Apos’ punch had ‘done little if any damage’) before the opposing second row aimed one square into his jaw. Bloodied lip and chastened pride, Apos looked keenly for the ref but found him 40 yards away looking at a bit of grass.
All in all, a difficult day for Tiffs that demonstrated how a deepening injury crisis and relaxed pre-season have left the team short. 4 losing bonus points show that there is a competiveness and will in the squad, as well as no shortage of attacking prowess having scored 4 tries at both away games. It is in defence however, that OTs will need to work on in their coming games as they look to record their first win of the season.
Final Score: Battersea Ironsides 50 v 22 Old Tiffinians
Tries: Jae, Jorge, Taylor (x2)
Conversions: Sharpie (1)
MOM: Alex Cassidy
DOD: Tommo – no idea why but he definitely deserved it. Could also have been Paddy for a deliberate knock on that the ref would have binned him for had they not scored anyway…
Report by George Apostolides