Keith Searle’s first fixture as Rhinos skipper was arranged in part to help the Tigers open their new 3G artificial pitch, but mainly as a reunion with former Reading star Mike Crisp. Sadly Crisp was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a form of Motor Neurone Disease, in October 1986. So the trip was to be an opportunity for old teammates to meet up. Sadly, only three of the squad of players and supporters had actually played with him. As well as regulars Danny Pratt and Timothy Hill, former first XV scrum half Simon Dyson made his Rhinos debut.
Whilst on route to the game, Searle had the dubious honour of being interviewed on his thoughts for the new season by BBC Radio Berkshire newt and stoat expert Ali Driver. These interviews, which are now being used by the medical profession to help cure insomnia, can be seen on the Rhinos’ Facebook page.
Within ten minutes Searle must have wondered what he had let himself in for, as his side shipped five unanswered tries (all unconverted). It took a piece of opportunism to get them on the scoresheet, as winger Allan Smith intercepted a long pass just inside his own half and outpaced the covering defence to cross the whitewash. Sadly, the kicking “legend” that is Justin Wheeler proved that he is not a successful drop kicker, pushing his attempted conversion wide of the sticks.
Cheltenham were just as wasteful, as they added two more five pointers in quick succession. It was left to an unlikely source to finally hit a seven point maximum. Second row Jim Morton burst through a gap in the home defence, and with the help of Timothy Hill almost crossed. Following closely behind (or more likely recovering from a previous passage of play), prop Shaun Collins celebrated his first appearance as Vice-Captain with a score under the posts, which he then expertly converted.
The half ended with another Cheltenham try, which saw the Barbarians in total command at 45-12.
The second period started in much the same way as the first, with the home side adding to their tally within 30 seconds of the restart, and almost as quickly they added a second.
In America the American FootballGridiron season has just started, and the Rhinos’ newest recruit must be an avid supporter. Simon Dyson made trademark dart through a gap, before offloading to one of the Barbarians, who had been graciously loaned to the visitors. Not content with giving the pass, Dyson made sure of the score with a very subtle example of a Gridiron block on a covering defender.
Whilst that was as good as it got for Searle and his crash, the home sidecontinued to pile on the points with twomore scores, the first of which was converted, their only extras in the game.
Following two weekends of rugby, the Rhinos have the weekend off, but return to action a week on Saturday with a home fixture against High Wycombe.