Old Cranleighan 2nd XV 22 v 22 Old Tiffinians 2nd XV
Old Cranleighans find safety in numbers against a depleted Tiffs side
Coming off the back of a disappointing defeat to Barnes IV's, many were hoping that the start of October would bring about a change in fortunes for OTs. With September gone, and with it the warm summer months now a distant memory, the first game to be played in the month of Thanksgiving and Halloween was away at local rivals Old Cranleighan. Would Ts be thankful for the fixture, or would it be a horror show?
After a week of scrambling around for players, OT's had put together, on paper at least, a squad of 16, consisting of work colleagues, returning old faces, friends and relatives. Suffice to say, it was a much changed line up from the side that faced Barnes IV's the previous weekend with the likes of ‘The Fridge’, George Powell and the ‘Fawcettasaurus’ all missing.
Of course, rugby is not played on paper and whilst the side from Thames Ditton started their warm up with an impressive number of players, Tiffs were forced to play a game of 6 a side touch with only 20 minutes to go until kick off.
Finally, a forward pack was at least assembled including a front row made up of Phillip Nunes, Steve Bannell and Sam Dowsett (no I’m not joking Dowsett actually played prop). Unfortunately, whilst a resemblance of a pack had been pieced together, the backs were less fortunate and we were forced to start the game with 14 players (1 of which had a broken toe).
Despite all the aforementioned team changes and the man advantage gifted to the hosts, optimism was somewhat high before kick-off.
From kick off, the returning Dom Baker made his presence immediately felt with a series of tackle breaking carries that took the ball deep into OCs territory. Despite the numerical disadvantage, Tiffs had started the better side in the loose.
Not only did the Cranleighan side boast a greater number of players on the pitch however, they no doubt supplied a greater number of years, and it was at scrum time when the older, 'wiser' Cranleighan forwards came into their own as Dowsett, Bannell and Nunes were squeezed, contorted and pressured at every scrum. Whilst Tiffs didn't lose any put ins and almost even stole a couple against the head, the size and wiley scrummaging of the opponents took it's toll and Nunes was forced to leave the pitch early with an injured back, depleting the side to 13 men.
Thankfully, OCS were obliged to also drop a man and so 14 played 13 for the remaining 60 minutes.
Due to the recent law change, Tiffs still had to put 8 man into the pack and so yours truly was moved to prop. Our front row was now made up of Myself (8kg lighter than the last time I played front row), old man Bannell (who is at least a hooker) and a chubby Dowsett meaning that we had to go uncontested.
The vacancy on the flank caused by my promotion to the front row meant that Ben ‘Bad Back’ Studdert got his call up from 12 to play with the big boys in the pack. He even ended the game in the second row.
As the pack was being reshuffled, the backs were left 2 men short and with only 3 outside backs to utilise, Tiffs had no option but to keep the ball tight to the break down and time and again James Lee was sent crashing into traffic. Despite the opposition being bigger however Tiffs worked hard, tackled hard and carried hard, resulting in long periods of possession.
Tiffin kept the pressure high throughout the game despite having one man less than our opponents and the score remained close throughout. When OCs did score, they only did so due to silly errors on our behalf, for example Burdess passing to one of their wingers who went on to run from his 10-metre line to score.
This is my first (and probably last match report) so I’m not sure how professional I’m meant to be, but I’ll just say that the referee was hardly Nigel Owens! Not only did he miss a few obvious calls he also awarded a few dodgy ones like when a sumptuous and perfectly fine pass from Prento out to Studds was given as forward.
That said, he kind of made up for it by falling over and ‘accidently’ stepping on one of their players which was most enjoyable to witness, so it was swings and roundabouts.
Despite being disadvantaged on many fronts Old Tiffinians fought valiantly to end the game with a 22-22 final score thanks to scores from Phil, Dom Baker, and James Lee. One can’t help but feel however, that with a full XV the score would have been more favourable to the boys from Grists.
Will Burdess - for a couple of legendary try saving tackles, including a beautiful tap tackle, which more than made up for his earlier blunder also deserves and mention for his surprisingly big carries.
Baker - for being immense and breaking through many a tackle.
Alex Lake - was very angry and up for it from the get go which was great to see.
MOM James Lee - who played 80 minutes with a broken toe, scored a wonderful try, carried superbly and is a lot stronger than he looks!
DoD award goes to Niall Duke, Matt Stevenson and Marquis Danielus for not showing up.
Final Score: Old Tiffinian 2s 22 V 22 Old Cranleighan 2s
Tries: Phil Nunes, Dom Baker and James Lee
Conversions: Prentice (2)
Report by Khalil Mhiri