Cometh the hour, cometh the Vets
The starting pack for the Ravens was again a strong, if not a youthful one, consisting of Mark Bowers, Ian Sage, David Scanlon, Nigel Day, Keith Harrison, Chris (Miami) McPartland, Jim (Birthday Boy) Senior and Connor Mcmurdock, whose presence added some youthful exuberance to a very experienced pack. The starting line-up for the backs had a good mix of youth and experience and looked very dangerous consisting of Paul Thompson, Tony Kersh, Dom Duggan, Mark O’Connell, Ben Kirkup, Lewis Moon, and Rick (the wizard) Sheldon, On the bench were Andy Duggan, Bruce Carden, and Sam James so the Ravens had a very strong squad.
Right from the off, the day promised to be an exceptional one when the 71 seater double decker luxury coach turned up to pick up the 9 Ravens who had convened at the club. Never let it be said that Champagne Jim Senior does things by half! The coach journey over the picturesque peaks was accompanied by an hour or so of original stand-up comedy from a half cut Sam (Jagerbomb) James who’s unique brand of entertainment added to the enjoyment of the journey.
Upon arrival, the luxury coach raised several of the Buxton players eyebrow’s, no doubt perpetuating their perceptions of Wilmslow’s affluent population, however, some things never change and Buxton’s typically hostile weather conditions promised the Ravens a tough day at the office. The mood in the changing room, however, was one of confidence and as quality vet after quality vet turned up the sense of anticipation rose. Jim set about organising the plan of attack and Kershey treated the Ravens to one of his legendary warm ups which got the team well up for the challenge ahead. The Raven’s pre game talk consisted of matching Buxton’s aggression in the pack and using our experience to play smart rugby and how everyone would need to give their all against a very strong Buxton side.
The Ravens kicked into a strong head wind to start the game and Buxton’s aggressive pack wasted no time at all implementing their game plan to bully the Raven’s into submission, and it was Buxton who drew first blood early in the game when they earned a penalty in front of Wilmslow’s posts and kicked it over for a 3 point lead. However, the game was by no means one sided and there were signs that if the Raven’s forwards could stand up to the Buxton onslaught and match their aggression, that the Raven’s backs could do some serious damage. The next 10 minutes saw a brutal forwards battle for supremacy which occasionally boiled over into handbags due to the odd transgression, but perhaps the turning point came when the inspirational Scanners stood toe to toe with his opposite number in a defiant show that he could not be intimidated. From that point on the Raven’s started to dominate the game and after putting relentless pressure on Buxton within their own 22, the Raven’s earned a penalty in front of the posts which allowed Conner (The Prodigy) McMurdock to level the scores (3 – 3)
After the kick-off Wilmslow continued to apply pressure deep in Buxton’s half and it wasn’t long before Wilmslow’s injured captain made the pressure tell when he excellently charged down an attempted downfield kick and managed to touch the ball down for a birthday try. The kick was superbly converted by Conner to put the Raven’s into a deserved lead. (3 – 10)
The try added to the Raven’s belief and it wasn’t long before the back’s started to get a regular supply from the Raven’s pack and dominate the running game. Time after time, quick ball from Thomo and Kershey allowed Mark O Connell and Ben (Hollywood) Kirkup to smash their way through Buxton’s defences, over committing their defences which started to create space on the wings. It wasn’t long, therefore, before lewis T Rex Moon got the ball 30 yards out after a superb flowing move which used all the backs and he duly outsprinted his opposite number for try number two for the Ravens. Once again this was superbly converted from a tight angle by Connor Mcmurdock in difficult windy conditions to make the scores 3 – 17 at half time.
At the start of the second half , Jim (birthday boy) Senior had to go off to get some medical attention from Mr Lover Lovers private physician which saw flying winger Bruce (The Gay Icon) Carden come into the Raven’s pack at openside flanker and Chris Miami McPartland take over the captaincy. The Ravens second half plan was to keep matching Buxton’s aggression up front so we could continue to supply the dominant Raven’s backs with good ball to inflict more damage.
The second half picked up exactly where it had left off, with both teams going toe to toe for the first 10 minutes, however, the Raven’s pack continued to supply the backs with secure ball which allowed the superb back line to terrorise the opposition.
The experienced Raven’s pack did a great job of slowing the game down and eating away the clock by keeping the ball in hand and every time the ball was released to the backs they looked like scoring. An unfortunate knee injury to Spawn of the devil Dom Duggan who had played well on the wing saw the introduction of Sam (Jagerbomb) James who instantly made an impact by providing Lewis (T Rex) Moon with a great pass at the end of another flowing backs move and Lewis did what Lewis does by out-sprinting the oppositions defences to score a superb try from 40 yards. Once again the kick was duly converted by Connor Mcmurdock who’s kicking and all round play on the day were outrageously good.
By this point the contest was as good as over, Andy (Mr Lover) Duggan once again defied doctor’s orders and slotted seamlessly into the second row for Keith who with Sniffer had been superb at the coal face all game and just to emphasise their dominance on the day, the Raven’s went on to convert another penalty kick, narrowly miss another penalty kick and if Jim could catch would have scored another try, but at the final whistle the scores ended Buxton 3 Wilmslow 27.
Every single Raven had an outstanding game and gave everything they had to earn one of the toughest and most enjoyable wins yet this season. Special mentions have to go to all the vets who came out of various states of retirement and provided a gallon of class to proceedings. Rick “the Wizard” Sheldon once again showed pure class throughout the game and kept us in it at times with some last ditch try saving tackles and Lewis Moon’s finishing was devastating, Connor (the prodigy) McMurdock continues to get better and better and was unlucky not to get yet another man of the match award but for sheer impact and dominance in the centre, Ben Kirkup came close but the award for Man of the match went to the superb Mark O’Connell who made a much welcomed return to the Raven’s.
Buxton provided the Raven’s with an extremely hard and physical challenge as expected, but their attitude and sportsmanship was exemplary and we wish them the best of luck for the remainder of the season.
And finally, The “Andy Duggan cock of the day award, has to go to the man himself; Andy Duggan for shunning his good friend on his birthday and missing out on celebrating the Raven’s biggest win of the season to attend a jazz festival. Sorry Andy, no cock’s this week so had to pick on something