Abbey Vets played host to a 60th Birthday game for The Drifters Hooker Hank. In a relaxed game of rugby both sides were able run with the ball and score five tries a piece.
Drifters arrived on the field all sporting moustaches in homage to Hank. Abbey then gave them an early present when they lost the ball and a hopeful kick through turned the defence who were unable to recover as a Drifters' player dived on the ball as it bobbled over the line. Abbey’s reply was more skilled and a kin to the running rugby they are famous for. Slick interchange between Danny Muston and Rob Palmer broke the defence and Christian Harris was surprised to find himself unchallenged in acres of space to score. Muston missed the conversion under the posts. Abbey continued in this vein with Muston Justin Hewgil and Gareth Ray at the centre of some smooth passing that almost brought further scores. Abbey However did not find that final pass either in the backs who chose to pass it forward or in the forwards where space was not utilised. Hewgil was the victim of a disallowed try for a forward pass, and Andy Verran and Kevin Clift were stopped close to the line after some good approach work by the forwards.
Eventually they did break through and once again when the line was broken the score was easy as Clift unselfishly released Hewgil to go under the post to score. Muston missed the conversion again.
Drifters while not as expansive were still dangerous and strong work from their forwards saw them progress into the Abbey half the ball was released to their backs and with a turn of pace and a jink full back Sam Barnes was beaten and Drifters levelled the game.
Abbey continued to create the better chances and eventually Palmer and Hewgil created an opening for Jim the Flanker to break through and score.
The half time port was sweeter for the lead and it was agreed by both teams that a couple of the youngsters could play. Abbey provided these for both sides with George and callum house set against each other. George gave Drifters greater mobility in the forwards and made some strong hits and tackles. Callum offered pace and security in defence as Abbey had the sun in their eyes in the second half.
Drifters consistently kicked and Callum caught and ran, unfortunately while he beat two or three players when he was finally tackled his pace had left his team mates far behind and he was quickly swallowed up by the bulk of the Drifters players. Mark Oldfield encountered the same problem as he ran first left the right and then left again in a mazy run. He could not break through and his plaintive cries for help were heard across Rose Hill, but it was always slow to reach him.
Despite these draw backs it did offer Abbey better possession and field position and Muston made up for his lack of kicking success by scoring the next try. Miraculously he converted it as well.
Abbey’s forwards worked hard all game and Mick Lernnaz who had his first game in the front row was released ten metres out, he muscled his way towards the line and look certain to score but just ran out of steam.
Buoyed by this Drifters fought back, Birthday Man Hank intercepted the ball just inside the Abbey half and speed towards the line, in any vets game he would have scored but Oldfield youthful enthusiasm took over as he caught him up a smashed him into touch.
Drifters were not to be denied and camped on Abbey’s line the Abbey players feeling guilty for Oldfield’s faux pas encouraged them to hand the ball to Hank, but a scrum was awarded and they drove over for a try.
Abbey came back and when Drifters kicked out of defence, the ball was fielded by Barnes who turned the tables on Drifters as he now stepped and jinked his way past three players to score and banish his errors in the first half.
Abbey attacked again this time through callum house down the left, heading for the line he only had his brother to beat, and the rivalry was brought into sharper focus as George dumped him on the floor.
With the clock running down Drifters mounted one last attack and with the ball in Hank’s hands there was only one outcome as he smashed through the first tackled, driven forward by his team mates. Now in open space Hank ran to the line and the chase was on, this time he made it and dived over to score the final try and bring the game to a fitting close.