A Quality Finish
Old Haberdashers welcomed fellow old boys team Old Priorians to Croxdale for the final game of the season. Both sides were well placed in the league at 4th and 7th respectively going into the game so the day was well set for some running rugby. A full seven months had passed since the sides last met but captain Jonny Whittle and vice James Clark were keen to remind the side that Habs owed their opponents a good performance having been beaten in the return fixture.
Full of confidence following a narrow loss against the league champions, Habs started well and immediately showed the focus and physicality which they’d come to expect in recent weeks. It wasn’t long before Habs got some territory in the OPs twenty-two following some accurate box kicking from Jonny Whittle. Habs won a scrum and, in a season where they’ve once again been the foundation of the side, it was fitting that our pack should open the account for the day with an uphill push over for James Clark. 7-0.
The middle of the first half was fairly scrappy with Habs doing a fair bit of defending and struggling to hold on to the ball when the turnovers came. Fortunately, the strength of the Habs set piece tipped the game in Habs favour at every opportunity so while the game seemed evenly matched, it was Habs who moved ahead on the scoreboard. Firstly, with a lineout which was excellently mauled over the line by the pack and dotted down by Seabrook. Then with another scrum where OPs seemed to throw in the towel and allow Habs to walk them over their own line for a second for James Clark. 19-0
OPs then showed they are a dangerous side and why they have fared well over the season as Habs turned over the ball from some loose play and OPs swooped to score and remind Habs of their counter attacking ability. 19-5
The Habs back line were late to the party but keen not to be left out so executed a perfect move from their own 22 to find space in the wide channels. Charlie Esam, with an offload out of the back of the hand, sent Josh Downie through and he drew the fullback and gave it to George Seabrook to score his second. The conversion was made to give Habs a healthy half time lead. HT 26-5.
Habs played down hill in the second half and the crowd swelled with the players from the 2s vs Vets fixture celebrating a cracking game which finished 50-59. This was all that OH needed to set about converting their strong start. First James Clark was back on the score sheet to secure his hatrick. An excellent performance from the aspiring front row.
Then it was Harry “Squishy” Briffit(t), playing with a broken finger from holding a door open, who scored his 21st try of the season, on his hundredth cap, with a clinical dive into the corner. A truly incredible achievement and one which won him top try scorer and I’m sure was a large part of him winning of the Seb Taylor trophy.
OPs stuck at it throughout the game but struggled for possession in the second half. This forced them to play off scraps and credit to them, that is possibly when they are at their most dangerous, as they managed to steal a second score against the run of play to increase their tally to 12.
Eventually the amount of possession for Habs and the hill took its toll on the tiring OPs players as Habs ran in a further 2 scores in broken play for Charlie Esam, Tom Solis.
At 48-12 you could be excused for thinking that Habs would throw the ball around for the remaining minutes of the game but the Sandersons had other ideas. A lineout on the opposition 22 saw Forward of The Season Ian Sanderson pick his man perfectly and the pack proceeded to march OPs towards their own line. A hopeful cry of “backs ball” came from out wide but a mocking grunt of “NO CHANCE!” was belched back from the Sandersons. The maul rolled on and Jonny Gatus was the try scorer. This rounded off an incredible season for Jonny, winning Player of The Season in only his second year at the club.
Final Score 55-12
Habs finished the season with their highest ever finish in 4th place.
The players dinner was a roaring success. Thank you to pauline and the girls for the meal and to Ian Sanderson and TJ for organising.
Thank you to everyone involved in making this year a huge success both on and off the field. We look forward to tour and some summer events to keep spirits high going into next year (info to follow).