On a beautiful autumn morning, the Mustangs rode north looking for a new fixture that had been secured through social media. Thankfully what awaited was not a dodgy Tinder date, but rather the friendly players, coaches and supporters of Newent RFC. It has been said in the past that the Mustangs don’t travel particularly well and a lethargy in the warm-up indicated that this might be the case. It was Newent that tore out of the blocks, turning over ruck ball and using some clever back play to release their winger in a one on one with Benji. There was no room for lethargy for Benji and he made a superb tackle, followed quickly by another to set the tone for his day’s performance and to inspire those around him. It was Benji that then broke the deadlock, receiving the ball on the right wing following some strong team play, he cut back inside and showed great determination to weave his way through traffic to score. Newent struck back almost immediately, winning a penalty 10 metres out from our try line. Their skipper, a big mobile player, took the responsibility and charged towards the line. Despite a brave attempt by Ben to stop him in his tracks, he was able to use his momentum to get over the line. With Newent scoring the extras, they crept in to the lead. Benji then got our noses ahead again, with almost a carbon copy of his first effort. Fortitude and footwork getting him over the line. Back came Newent, capitalising on a mistake in our midfield to send their right winger in to score. At the end of the first 20-minute period, it was Newent who had their noses slightly ahead 12 – 10.
As the second period got underway, it was remarked how well Newent had dealt with the threat of Ben, putting two tacklers on him and closing him down early. But talent always outs in the end, and from a well-worked line-out, he was able to spot some space and burst through the centre to regain our lead. One quickly became two following an excellent bit of poaching by Tommy S. Newent overthrew a line-out when in a strong attacking position and it was Tommy who pounced on the loose ball first. He fed Calum who quickly shipped the ball on to Ben who evaded a number of desperate tacklers as he ran 70 metres for his double. If the Mustangs thought they had bought some breathing room, this idea was quickly dispelled as Newent roared back to score two unanswered converted tries and with minutes going to the end of the second period, they had retaken the lead 26 – 24. Then came a fine introduction by Jonny on his debut. Playing out of position at 15, he was first to pick up on a loose ball that had flown out of the back of our scrum around the centre of the pitch. Showing great awareness, he threw a wonderful flat pass that just evaded the onrushing defence and enabled Ben to sprint through for his (customary) hat-trick. The second period finished and we had nudged ahead 26 – 31. It was a lead that we weren’t to relinquish.
The third period continued in the same vein, with both teams giving it everything. With a few injuries picked up along the way, the Mustangs had several players playing out of position. It was great to see the lads pitching in and playing wherever the team needed them. Tom G was our next scorer, picking up his first try in Mustangs colours. It started with great turnover ball by Samuel on the halfway line, first making a tackle then winning a ruck which released Calum down the blind side. Pinning his ears back, it looked like he might make it himself but he was tackled at the last. Great support play enabled the ball to be recycled quickly to Tom, who cut back inside and dotted down under the posts. Ben finished our scoring before Newent scored their last to keep them in the hunt and the result in doubt until the end. The Mustangs held off a late surge by the home team before the ref blew and a 33 – 45 victory had been secured.
After a slightly sluggish start, this was a superb team performance by the Mustangs against a spirited and skilful opposition. All the boys played a part and it was excellent to welcome Joe back to the fold and see Jonny make his first start. Alex demonstrated an excellent attitude. He had a superb first twenty in his customary scrum-half position, before running his socks off as waterboy for the middle period. He then came on out of position in the final third to finish off a selfless morning. Lots of contenders for the tackling prize today, Benji was ferocious and James G made a number of hits in the midfield, getting injured in the process. But in the end, the runaway winner of Tackle of the Day was Lewis who produced an astonishing effort on a centre running at full pelt towards a certain try, stopping him dead in his tracks and dislodging the ball. Definitely his best defensive effort in a Mustangs shirt and one for the scrapbook. Man of the Match goes to Benji for a superb all-round display of defence and attack. He made numerous tackles and scored two great tries. He also chose to do it on the day his Gran and Granddad came to watch and his dad had a day off from camera duties so was able to fully enjoy the display.
Our thanks go to today’s opposition, Newent RFC. They were most generous hosts and played with skill and passion whilst fully upholding the ethos of rugby. They were a credit to Greg and the rest of their coaching team. We were all taken by their skipper’s kind words in the Clubhouse afterwards and will be adopting that as a model of behaviour from now on. We would also like to thank today’s referee, John, who had an excellent game and allowed two evenly matched sides to play a safe and fun game of rugby.