It was a dreich Saturday morning as Habs gathered at Kings Cross for the trip to Shelford. So disappointed was Jay-lad, at the prospect of spending 90 minutes in a confined space listening to Clarky’s music, he pretended to have left the kit at home, hence allowing him a peaceful, solo train ride up to Cambridge.
And so it was that Habs arrived at the ground, kitless, but full of enthusiasm as the rain abated and the prospect of an open game on the 4G pitch filled the Sandersons with joy.
The first half saw Habs playing up a slight slope into a stiff enough breeze to cause problems for the back three as they tried to field a series of well-placed nudges from the boot of the Shelford fly half. Despite the occasional foray into the opposition half, some poor game management from Habs saw them spend the majority of the first 40 defending in or around their 22. A combination of good Shelford kicking, poor Habs exit play, and being on the wrong end of a number of penalty decisions, culminating in a 10 minute breather for Jay, saw Habs trailing 12-0 (four penalties) with half-time approaching. It was only thanks to some heroic defending across the pitch, and the decision of the home team to go to the corner from yet another kickable penalty, that Habs managed to reach the break with only a two score deficit.
Some stern half-time words from the skipper saw the Habs machine kick into gear, as some strong scrummaging and hard running by Harry ‘Sea-biscuit’ Briffitt in the midfield saw OH finally gain some territory and allow Jonny Gatus to crash over the line (12-7). Unfortunately the next score went to Shelford, as some soft defending allowed the home side to score under the posts following a series of offloads (19-7).
Habs then came roaring back, with that powerful scrum doing the majority of the damage, as the pack forced their way over the line, allowing Tommy Arnott to flop on the ball (19-12). Shelford immediately received the ball back from the subsequent restart as Ben Lewry and Joe Horsham felt it would be more appropriate to have a cuddle than catch the ball, resulting in a penalty. The error was gratefully received by the home side as they kicked to the corner and scored a converted try (26-12) to extend their lead with less than 15 minutes remaining.
The end-to-end play continued, as Habs once again went straight back down the field and scored a second pushover try, this time with Clarky being the recipient of the work done in the engine room (26-19).
Habs, now with the bit between their teeth, immediately came roaring back, galloping down the field, and following some dancing feet from Horsham saw Briff power his way over the line, wide out on the left. With 5 minutes to go, Ian McGhee knocked over the conversion, in front of the clubhouse, despite some polite suggestions from the nearby home supporters that he had no chance (26-26).
The plan for the subsequent restart was to boot the ball long and force Shelford to run from deep, with Habs hoping to force the mistake and set themselves up for a late chance to win the game. Following an earlier discussion with Rob Howley, Arny had other ideas on how the game should end, and made sure to put a solid block in on the Shelford player attempting to charge down the clearance kick from Jonny Whittle, presenting the Shelford fly half with a kickable penalty to all-but win the game. Fortunately for Haberdashers, the penalty was missed and the dream stayed alive. Some quick thinking from Charlie Esam, taking the resultant drop out to himself, recovered the ball for Habs and gave them the opportunity to send the ball up the field. As Shelford attempted to run the ball back, more superb work from Esam saw the ball turned over, presenting Habs with another opportunity. As the team gradually worked their way into the opposition 22, McGhee dropped back into the pocket – implored by every Haberdasher present – received a lovely pass from Whittle, and patted over a drop goal with a minute left on the clock (26-29).
No errors on the restart from Habs this time, as they wound down the remaining seconds, before booting the ball into touch and claiming a remarkable, come-from-behind victory.
All credit to Shelford who dominated the first 40, and on another day may well have come away with a win. Based on the numbers watching and general club setup, they clearly have a great structure in place, and are serious about their position as a rugby club with a vision for the future.
The Habs post-match festivities were thoroughly enjoyed by all, except captain Whittle who felt that the bus home and pub were ideal locations for a catnap. Why so sleepy…..?
MoM and Author: Ian ‘the length’ McGhee
Final Score: 26-29