It was just a shame that the fly-half’s kick off then drifted harmless straight out of play, conceding procession and field positon to opponents Bracknell.
To be fair after that aberration, the rest of the half went just about as perfect as it could, with five tries. The back division boasted the talents of former first team luminaries as Mark Richards, Paul Boulard and Nick Brooks, and former captains Jerry Downes and Justin Wheeler, whilst the front eight contained three former skippers; Marc McAdden, David Osborne and Colin Sharp along with current vice-captain Keith Searle.
Boulard opened the scoring in the 6th minute, intercepting 40 metres out and bundling through one suspect tackle on his way to the line. The second and probably the pick of the bunch came 4 minutes later, as No. 8 Julian Edwards combined with Richards, before the scrum-half produced a peach of chip which dropped invitingly for Brooks who was able to saunter over.
The second biggest cheer of the day came as new member of the 50+ club, Richard Hall was released by Boulard and the skeleton did just enough to beat the covering defence. Try four was a forwards speciality; a catch and drive from a five metre lineout, with hooker Glyn Blakemore as ever at the back able to dot down untouched by an opposition hand. The fifth, and Brooks’ second came from yet again from the Edwards/Richards axis this time straight hands and the pace of the full back was more than enough to beat the defensive cover. Justin Wheeler’s fourth conversion saw the Rhinos in at half time 33 points to the good.
Despite ringing the changes at half time, the Rhinos were straight out of the blocks and bearing down on the Bracknell line, sadly though a telegraphed pass was intercepted, and within a minute the lead had been cut by 7 points.
Fifteen minutes later, the captain was forced to leave the field after being unceremoniously dumped whilst in procession. Within two minutes of his departure the Rhinos had their sixth score as Wheeler trundled after a Boulard kick and somehow managed to outpace the chasing defence to score in the corner. Following two quick scores by the visitors, Boulard again supplied Wheeler this time with a simple pop which allowed the winger to bundle over after 70 minutes. Unfortunately, he did fail to convert either of his own scores.
Two late tries put a seal on the day, first Richards with a trade mark tap from five metres and wasn’t going to stopped, and finally with time almost up the biggest cheer went up as 60 year old prop Phil Wilson was on hand following a Sharp break to notch his first ever try for the Rhinos. Wheeler converted both for a personal tally of 22 points.
After the game David Osborne (forward of the match) and Dave Rowe (back), birthday boys; Allan Smith, Paul Shumake and Terry Walters, Richard Hall and fellow new 50+ members; Julian Edwards and Colin Sharp, and the skipper in celebration of his great kick-off, were all treated to a new beverage “Rhinos Breath” distilled especially for the team by Mr Walters. Lilley was later heard to say that its potency made him forget all about his bruised ribs and welted bottom (curtesy of David Osborne not Mark Richards).