On Saturday afternoon when even Noah may have cancelled the arc, Five Ways Old Edwardians hosted their local rivals Aston Old Edwardians.
Five Ways going into the game full of confidence after strong performances since the turn of the year, were facing an equally confident and flying Aston side who had made the short journey to the south of the city looking to spoil the hosts’ VP Day.
As the teams ran out the heavens opened and the swirling winds began, the welsh contingent of the side certainly knew they were no longer in God's country. The high kick off from Joe Brook playing inside centre in a re-shuffled backline hung in the wind and was gathered by the Aston pack.
Aston made their game plan clear from the outset with a period of picking and going from the ruck before gaining a central position to clear their lines. FW won the first line out of the game and marched on eating up the ground in front of them, then released the ball to the backs crashed up by John Mounter who hit hard through the Aston centre breaking the game line.
After a series of forward dominated play the ball was eventually spilled forward by FW which resulted in the first of many scrums of the day. The scrum held even as Aston won the ball and exploited the blind side through their backs. Aston eventually being penalised for holding on after FW Rob Wigley latched onto the ball carrier like a ravished dog onto a butcher’s sausage.
Opting for touch old man Mounter secured some good distance on his kick putting the home team into the Aston 22. From the line-out FW secured the ball and continued to march forward before eventually being stopped 5 meters from the line.
Rich Sollom then made a break for the line before continuing his immaculate record of not crossing the white wash this season! Joe Brook gathered the ball and made a dart across the line giving Five Ways the lead, 5-0 (Captain Chaston unsuccessful with the extras).
Aston's restart fell deep into the host's 22 where a series of knock on's and dropped balls resulted in multiple scrums and restarts. The visitors were camped here for a good length of the first half creating strong and consistent pressure before a string of penalties eventually resulted in Aston opting for posts and taking the 3 points (5-3).
With FW's kick off holding in the air the Aston recipient knocked on giving the home team good field position. With the momentum ebb and flowing both sets of forwards slogged on in the ever churning pitch, with the home team continuing their forward momentum with a series of rolling mauls in the Aston half.
Eating the ground up in front of them FW powerful tactic found them just 5m out and could only be stopped illegally by an Aston player collapsing the maul. The hosts building on their confident start and with only a few minutes remaining opted for touch once more. With the ball finding the safety of veteran lock Craig Davies once again, Five Ways marched on with the well-known cry of “C'mon Ways” from Chairman Rosey and co.
The hosts rumbled on before once more being brought down illegally by the Aston forwards, this time the referee had no choice but to run under the posts and award a penalty try. A well-deserved try after a fantastic forward effort dominating the opposition pack in the line out where both second rows showed their experience (so much experience they easily qualify for a bus pass between them) to secure the ball with great support from both front and back row. As Captain Chaston slotted the extras and the official blew for half time (12-3).
Coach Steve Watkins main points in the rallying half-time talk were to make sure that a mirror imagine of the previous meeting between these two did not repeat itself, where Five Ways put in a dominant first half performance and fell away at the last. With the message from the senior players to keep the pressure on and to pin Aston back into their 22 which resembled an award-winning garden at the Chelsea Flower Show compared to the mud bath that Five Ways now had to defend.
As a lull in the howling winds began the hosts kick off struggled to make it to the 10m line resulting in an early scrum for Aston. The Aston powerful number 8 picked up and ran at the blind side only to be hauled down by back-rower Mark Bunn. The change to the visitors half back proved decisive in the second half with the new fly-half having much more time and control than his first half
predecessor. This time it was Aston who rumbled on and eventually crossed the line bringing the score to 12-8 clearly a tough day for the kickers.
This time Five Ways restart proved too far as it trickled over the oppositions goal line. Once again both sets of forwards found themselves packing down, and after a series of plays from Aston the rush defence of the hosts forced once another knock on and a new pencil was called for by the stat man to mark another unforced error in the column.
The second half continued much in the fashion of the first, heavily dominated by the forwards with lots of picking and going round the corner. Eventually Aston were once again penalised for not releasing the ball in the tackle, which gave John Mounter a chance to relieve the pressure and spiral the ball 5 meters from the visitor’s goal line.
This gave FW the opportunity to re-enact the platform that worked so well for themselves in the first half, but unfortunately this time they were penalised and were required to pack down and scrum. Aston won the scrum and took the opportunity to clear their lines.
This fell to fullback Tom Griffiths, who due to the 3pm kick off had clearly managed to watch all the Super Rugby and tried to offload out of the back door to an unsuspecting Joe Brooks. The ball was knocked forward and hacked through by an Aston player, eventually crashing over the line despite some well worked scramble defence (12-13).
With the away team taking the lead for the first time in the match the long restart was gathered by the Aston second rower and a high clearance kick fell in between the Five Ways defence before being pounced upon by one of the scrambling home team. This was then knocked forward by a FW player with Aston winning their own ball and getting the shove on in the slippery conditions.
Once again, a wave of attack followed and despite the resilient defence, a vacant blind side and quick ball allowed the Aston winger space to run only to be stopped meters before the line. The Aston forwards continued their attack crashing up only to meet the wall of the home team’s defence.
As the ball was finally released to the backline and some powerful runners Aston eventually broke the defensive line to score (12-18) what would be the final points of the game.