Southwell 23pts Mannerians 40pts
Just for clarification before we start, the score displayed at the top of the page is the aggregate of those supplied by overworked Mannerian Chairman, Tim Sargent , the referee, who admitted he wasn’t counting conversions too closely, and cameraman Mike Dabell, an unashamed dog fancier who was distracted by a fine pair of puppies on the touchline. But in truth it doesn’t much matter. What matters is that in a week-on-week improvement going back to late March, Mannerians (with some generous help from their overmanned hosts) produced a comfortable win to end their season.
It was noticeable from the outset that Mannerian manager Denzil Bowyer, as ambitious a man as ever there was, had one eye at the forthcoming vacancy at the Emirates Stadium, and had taken on the Gallic nonchalance of a latter-day Arsene Wenger as he set about his task with cool detachment. And despite the changes and a raft of introductions as the Southwell loanees met their new teammates, it was Mannerians who started with more vigour in the Nottinghamshire heat.
Having mastered scrum half the previous week, club captain John Everitt moved on to claim the Number 10 jersey, and with good service from an unfamiliar partner, Everitt soon had his team going forward. After a week out, Ollie Crampton and Chris Taylor were back in the fray and bursting to outdo each other in the maziness of their running, while Paul Boon’s comeback was marked by some good lineout work in tandem with Rod Bell’s pinpoint throws. James Bentley was again pivotal; his forklift license being well used in hoisting Boon, and he was an anchor in an outnumbered scrum. The first score was breathtaking, and started by Everitt. He found Joe Harker with a sharp pass and Harker swept forward, inevitably finding his ageless father, Steve, at his shoulder. The senior man brought pace to the move, then executed the perfect back-of-the-hand offload back to his son and he in turn put Everitt away for the try. This family excellence saw Mrs Harker, cheering from the clubhouse, demand the opening of the Southwell Prosecco cellar and celebrate with style and pride.
The home side’s repost was quick, and it looked as though another cricket score was on the cards, a feeling that was enhanced when a wing that Southwell had provided put Mannerians back in front. Southwell struck again, and then the Bakewell side, with Crampton, Taylor and Bentley prominent, mixed pace and intricate ball play – the burly Will Adams being this time the beneficiary as he scampered fifty yards to score.
As the half neared its end, and Mannerians realised they needed to make the most of the slight slope, they produced their best rugby of the game – proper end to end stuff – and after good ripping work by Adams and Steve Harker, Crampton burst forward and engaged the opposition in a robust manner. Everitt spun a pass out to Taylor; he careered on then found Joe Harker with a delicate offload. Harker, whose form is improving by the week, and whose running style is beginning to remind aficionados of Henry Bagshawe, simply outran everyone for the try of the game.
The second period was always going to be more of a challenge. Southwell exchanged some of their loan players, while claiming the slope, and then Mannerians had a blow with the loss of the talismanic Rod Bell to a knee injury. So it became attritional, and about defence, allowing Boon, Bentley and Adams to come into their own, and despite it all, Everitt extended the lead with his second of the day. Southwell narrowed things with an interception try as Bakewell attacked and one of their loaned players – probably due to being second nature as normally they’d be on the same side – inadvertently passed to a home flier. But in the end victory was Mannerians’ and was well deserved.
Manager Bowyer was euphoric in victory, but magnanimous in thanking Southwell for the loan of their players. “For me, zat is ze spirit of le rugby,” said Arsene Bowyer, “ven ve can, ve ‘elp ze, ‘ow you say, opposition. It made for a game magnifique.” He then led his players to various bistros and brasseries, after Everitt had been asked to leave the clubhouse. “John was taking ze bonbons from ze enfants. Zay vernt ‘appy. Ve vill go first to ze Lion Rouge at Vellow, to see mon ami, Pierre Le Chef, and zen to ze Neptune at Chesterfield. Merci et au revoir.”
Team (Mannerians): Crampton, Bentley, Bell, Harker S, Adams, Boon, Everitt, Taylor, Harker J