MGM 5 - Oldershaw 5
Gritty draw for depleted Machine
For audio report click here.
At an unusually clement Fortress Hall Road, the Machine faced down the massed ranks of Wirralian rugby today and were a missed penalty away from a famous victory, settling instead for a gritty low –scoring draw.
Bottom club Oldershaw brought a 24-man squad, bolstered by volunteers from Wallasey and New Brighton, neither of whom had games today. All entirely above board – when you’re scrapping to avoid relegation you accept all the help you can – and mentioned only in order to provide context for the Machine’s performance.
In contrast the Machine was a little threadbare, fielding 14 brave men and true and welcoming back Waterloo stalwarts such as Cheeky and Dave Crank, who manfullymade up for the absence of many of the younger players who have contributed so much to the solid showing of Benno’s boys this season. The visitors sportingly offered the services of winger Ben, from Wallasey, who had a sterling game.
So, facing a physically big, young side, with plenty of subs, the Machine went to it with vigour and determination from the very start.
The machine tackled superbly and took the game to the visitors, running hard and strong, if not always particularly fast.
Cheeky belied his lack of game time this season with a typically boisterous display, showing the way with shuddering tackles and barnstorming runs.
The first half was a tight affair, with Oldershaw taking the lead following a kick to the corner which the MGM defence failed to deal with. There was arguably a penalty denied to the MGM, and an Oldershaw knock on in the score, but no matter.
Shortly after, Cheeky scored under the posts, following a bullocking run through the Oldershaw defence – the extra missed when the lack of a kicking tee persuaded Joe Spencer to drop kick the conversion attempt, pushing it some way wide.
And that was that in terms of scoring. The Machine dominated the second half, belying its age to keep piling on pressure until the end. Only a lack of composure denied what would have been a winning score, as the MGM spurned at least three scoring opportunities when just putting the ball through the hands would have meant a try.
But at the death, with the last play of the game, the Machine won a penalty about 30 yards out, just to the left of the posts. Up stepped man of the moment Cheeky, who, in the absence of a tee, built an old-fashioned mound, on which he settled the ball, pointing posts-ward.
After goading the opposition, who were complaining about the amount of time he was taking, with some rather dramatic grass throwing, to calculate the wind strength and direction, Cheeky took a single step backwards and toe-poked the ball in the general direction of the posts, but sadly not close enough.
A rather anticlimactic end to an entertaining afternoon’s rugby. How we laughed when we found the missing tee under a pile of coats at the end of the game.
So the victory may have slipped through the MGM’s hands, like a kick off optimistically claimed by Dave “Dave” Bentham, but what a hell of an account those ageing warriors gave of themselves.
Vive le Machine. Vive les vieux guerriers. Chapeau, mes braves, chapeau.