Saturday morning, the song of a mating Starling danced on the sunlight fighting its way through the gap in my bedroom curtains to gently awaken me from my deep slumber. Game day, after a breakfast of champions (grapefruit, oatcakes and marmalade, washed down with English breakfast tea), pre-game bathroom ritual and a quick brushing of teeth it was time to head to Clapham South for a rendezvous with the Irish fly-half and our stand in number nine, who per chance is also a personal trainer. The fifteen other team members headed to the fortress located in Beckenham, got a bus and probably chatted inanely on their way to the island where we were headed.
Owen ‘obviously-earns-too-much’ O’Malley rocks up, not in the usual Vauxhall Corsa, but instead chose his weekend car of a ‘pimped up’ Range Rover with tinted glass. In style and comfort we commence our journey. Through Lewisham and Peckham our 4X4 battles the terrain, passing some rather interestingly named shops (notable the convenience store called ‘Payless’). The heavens opened, a lot of water was pouring onto our ‘chariot’ as we fought through Londons worst traffic jam since records began. Eventually we emerged the other side and were on the Highway to Sheppey!
Sheppey appeared to us, through the downpour, at the end of a rather remarkable bridge, Brunel would have been proud of it. Sheppey was, to state the obvious, nothing like Peckham, so not ‘up and coming’ but it had its own unique flat charm. After numerous attempts to park his beast (of a car) Owen (#dickoftheday) decided on a spot too far from the changing room considering the conditions (the rest of the team members were, at this point, tempting death by warming up in the torrential rain) but as Moses parted the Red Sea, I opened the car door and the rain stopped. We changed and belatedly joined the rest of the team for a quick warm up then it was game time.
HSBC, with perfect game faces, prepared for an onslaught from a Sheppey side that ate a lot, grew a lot facial hair and had a penchant for ‘ink’ and a lot of it. The Bank did not start well, conceding a silly try to go seven down, Sheppey believed they were in for an easy ride. Lo hold! This is not a Bank side of weak resolve, this is a HSBC team with forwards willing to put in a shift and backs that can play. An intercept try from Mr. Peabody and then a well worked try finished by Mr. Brooks (Stella’s mate) put Bank fourteen points to the good after ‘Moneybags’ O’Malley added the extras. This led to a battering from Sheppey who, unsurprisingly, had the upperhand in the scrums and used their weight in the forwards to perfect the ‘route one’ game plan. Bank were stretched and this allowed Sheppey to walk in untouched. Their kicker however struggled with the kick in front of the posts (a theme that continued through the game). Bank were putting together some good pieces of play when they had the ball in hand and the backs fed in space. Elliot put in a cross-field kick (think he heard about my successful effort not so long ago) which was achingly long. Minutes later he found space and carved through only for dead leg to render his rugby afternoon over (should be pointed out he was tackled in this period).
Tackles (notably Gary’s on the line effort where he killed someone) were put in across the defensive line with some impressive work being done around the fringes by backs and forwards alike. Arun (#manofthematch) lead the way with hits and general hard graft that epitomised the HSBC effort put in against a pack who had a severe weight advantage. Polese marshalled the line out well, ably assisted by great darts from Ouldridge and salmon like jumping of Snaith. Bob, Mr. Botha and Cole followed Arun’s lead in big fringe defiance and graft in the hard yards. Edmund more than capably stood up to the rigours of Kent One, playing on after dislocating his shoulder in the first ten minutes. Randy continued Tom’s good work at hooker adding some much needed American enthusiasm to the cause and Coles was very unlucky to get a ten minute breather after replacing our injured centre. I have purposefully ignored the influence of the referee on the game but we thank him for his time on a less than warm Saturday afternoon. The result ended with Bank going down 29-20 with two penaltys being added by O’Malleys boot. A frustrating afternoon where HSBC will feel that a couple of concentration lapses in defence cost us the game.
After the game O’Malley, Edmund and I had to head to separate birthday parties near Peckham which meant we missed the festivities of the Bob social on the way back. There have been police reports and CCTV of a dark hair man matching our esteemed captains description ‘emptying his guts’ in the London Bridge area, no one is sure as to why but clearly the sign of a good coach trip.