Old Habs headed to zone 8 this weekend for a top 4 clash, the winners of which would stay in the hunt for national league footy for next season, leaving the losers with nothing but a boiling hot shower after the game. The mind games started early with Tommy the Gunn mysteriously losing his train ticket, almost being sent packing by the Brentwood plant at the ticket gate. “I’ve got a receipt, I’VE GOT A RECEIPT” he cried and was eventually allowed to enter. The pre game chat was dominated by the weather, as a prevailing south westerly wind gusted down the slope into the bottom corner. Luckily Habs skipper Jonny Whittle had been practising his (coin) tossing, winning the call and choosing to play down the hill in the first half. What came next was extremely unfortunate, as Specky (Charlie) Johnson came down with a sudden case of Jibbers ankle after looking into the eyes of his opposite number, leading him to withdraw from the game and in came Adam Dye, we wish Charlie a speedy recovery. With Habs down to 17 and no forwards, backs, lineout, back 3, half backs, scrum, head, assistant head or assistant to the head coaches in sight (unlike their well staffed opponents), VC Clark would turn to regular touchy and former “safe hands” Gresswell to run touch, a decision he would later regret.
With a 20 point wind in tow, Habs knew a win in this game would take nothing less than a ruthless first half performance and they got just the start they needed, with Jonny Gatus bundling over from short distance after a strong scrum. The Sanderson's weight adding pressure down the hill proved too much for the young opposition front row all game and was an area Habs would exploit a few mins later with a scrum from 10m out going over the line and Habs number 8, Jimmy Clark flopping down for yet another score, that’s 9 for the season from a total of 7 yards ball in hand. A mix up in the feet of the second rows at the next scrum saw the ball turned over and allowed Brentwood a foot in the game. A well worked score down the left saw the score pulled back to 12-7 after the conversion. A deep kick from Habs 10, Jackson, in the next phase was followed up with a good kick chase and crunching tackle from Clark to briefly take the opposition captain out of the game, with the resulting play leading to a score in the corner from fellow back row, George Sleepbrook. Another score quickly followed, this time Josh Downie cutting the Brentwood defence to shreds for a score under the posts. At 24-7 Habs knew that one more score would put them in the driving seat, but after a series of mistakes, Brentwood attacked the Habs line and a chip through to the exceedingly large dead ball area (more on that later), was gathered by the Brentwood 12 to take the score to 24-14 at the half.
Habs knew that despite having their noses in front on the scoreboard, they were firmly backs against the wall playing into such a strong wind and hill in the second half. They would need to come out firing and they did after a dominant Habs scrum on midfield saw fullback McGhee cut through the Brentwood defence on the right, with the move eventually being finished by Harry Briffit in the left corner, 29-14. Habs would then need to soak up considerable pressure with a couple of excellent try saving covering tackles by some quick footed Habs forwards but the pressure eventually proved too much as Brentwood scored in the corner and another great kick from the Brentwood 10 took them within 8.
The controversy began with 15 minutes to go, as Habs conceded a penalty 45 metres out and the home side elected to kick at the posts. The kick was missed and as it was flying over the dead ball line, linesman Gressewell catches the ball a yard from the dead ball line to stop it racing down the hill, a quick games a good game. The referee decided that that had impeded Brentwood (somehow?!) and the kick should be retaken?! A bizarre decision in an otherwise strong refereeing performance and luckily for all involved, the retake missed again (and took precious seconds off the clock). Brentwood would return to the Habs 22 and kick their pen to get within 5 but a resilient Habs defence would eventually turn the ball over after the kick off and pick and go for 3 minutes to close the game out and earn a well deserved victory. 29-24.
After a relatively well behaved game, it was surprising that handbags came out after the final whistle. This commentator can’t tell you exactly where it originated but it seemed to centre around the Brentwood head coach and the lack of a handshake from the Habs coach after the game. We assured him that there was no coach, we’d got the train up here. The coach in question was invited to a breathing class by Habs own Tommy The Gunn the next day, with the invitation declined and The Gunn having a blanket to himself at the class, pictures available on request. The Habs winning streak stretches to 3 and into a break week this weekend, with Old Priorians up next at Croxdale.