The sun was shining and the heat was intense. The players looked uncomfortable in what must have been a hot and humid day. Probably too hot to play such an important match. Then it was time for the game so I turned off the cricket highlights from the West Indies and got together my wet weather gear and winter warmers and headed to the Soccer Dome.
The pitch looked heavy (but better than the one at Featherstone) and it was clearly going to be another day of “up your jumper” rugby. The backs looked dismayed as they knew they would not have the opportunity to show off their silky skills. The forwards just looked – it would be half time before their brains registered that it was raining.
This return match against Waterhead was eagerly anticipated as the first game was so close. In similar conditions, OSJ came out on top that day but a recent run of games against tough opposition has meant that the boys were keen to get back into the winning ways.
With debutant Daniel Wilkinson added to an ever expanding squad, the teams lined up. Waterhead’s coach had been seen scouting at the Benchwarmers last game where the team skilfully kept their best plays under wraps so he was unaware of any new moves.
Straight from the kick off the heavy ground took charge of the game. Despite running from deep the forwards found it hard to break tackles and the fleet of foot could not find enough solid land to get to top speed. This was going to be a chess match with bruises.
After plenty of exchanges in the Waterhead half it looked like OSJ would start to take control. Then a bulldozer in green got hold of the ball and managed to break a tackle. He sprinted from his own half leaving a line of blue and gold shirts sprinting after him. With only steps to go a last ditch tackle caught the ankles but he managed to slide home under the posts. The conversion went over and the Benchwarmers were behind 6-0. With no further scores before half time, the coaches got to work on the boys.
Whatever was said at half time had more effect for the visitors as it was not long before they went further ahead with a deft kick to the wing. With the blue line bunched in the middle of the pitch, it was an easy pick up and place down for the centre. Fortunately it was too far out for the conversion and OSJ were still in with a shout.
The Benchwarmers kept probing at the line and it looked from the sidelines that the gap they were looking for was not going to appear. Then finally a breakthrough. With Waterhead on the ball, a timely interception from that fearsome head tackler Dylan Turner. He sprinted for the line and was tackled just short. “Momentum” came the shout from the side. Some short probing bursts were repelled but the damage was done. The defence has been sucked in and a quick couple of passes saw Michael run in at the corner. A fantastic effort from Josh fell just short but with the score at 4-10, there was still a chance.
The teams traded sets of six and knock-ons before OSJ managed to make ground up the field. With some desperate driving, it was left to Tom B to dive in under the posts. An easy kick in normal conditions but Josh took no chances and steadied himself before successfully bringing the Benchwarmers level.
There was only a couple of minutes left but enough for a winning score. From the kick-off, a safe catch by the green scrum half (a safe pair of hands all morning) followed by a pass out. But cold hands must have got the better of his team mate as the ball went to ground for a home team scrum. Seconds remained and the home team got to the try line but could not cross. Two more attempts and then…..the final whistle.
A really close game and probably the right result on a very difficult day. For the home team it was a back to business as usual as the tackling and driving forward looked to be back to normal. This was never going to be a day when passing won the game. It was a time for getting stuck in and putting bodies on the line and both teams did this well.
This should be a pivotal game for the blue and gold as they should now realise that they can still compete and that the run of tough games should not be looked at too closely in terms of results. Well done boys.