I don’t like change. I don’t like it when Georgina buys a different washing powder or decides that we’ll try this Hovis Best of Both and I certainly don’t like it when she picks up the Indian takeaway from the Mumbai Palace when we always order from the Tandoori Palace, to see what it’s like. Why would we change palaces, we have a perfectly good palace, the Tandoori Palace is our palace! And how do you think I felt when I was told by Kieran on Wednesday, “Sorry, can’t make the Saturday ritual breakfast, I’m playing squash with Lynda”?
Last week’s result didn’t do me any favours either, having grown accustomed to winning over the last 18 months, I certainly didn’t enjoy losing in the manner with which we did – and reading the Black Horse match report didn’t make it any better, I mean, why let the truth get in the way of a good story, but that was just lazy journalism!
I therefore had a long time to get it out of my system as I drove to Watton-at-Stone to pick up Knight, good breakfast by the way Pete, and then further on into the middle of nowhere as we sought to make amends for last week’s result. A strong line up made its way to Berkhamsted, which included Matt Bryant, Luke Fields and the Jaffa Cake Man aka Tim Miall, return to the squad. Whilst it was also good to see the returning Eamonn “A-Bomb” Ash on the sidelines, returning from injury.
The game started with a kick off from Berkhamsted that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before – it went backwards. Scrum down on the half way line ... was going to be the running theme of the game in general. The first period of the game, like last week, was played in the opposition’s half, however unlike last week, our support play and rucking had improved significantly which led to the opening try of the match from our captain, Kieran. After this point, a number of handling errors on both sides saw a bit of a stalemate as both teams proceeded to scrum away in the middle of the field for the next 15 minutes or so. The well drilled Berkhamsted pack took a number against the head, although Southgate were not to be outdone and responded in kind.
With Peter Knight showing just how perfect he was, playing at full back, the line out jumping responsibility was given to the returning Luke Fields who did fantastically well at claiming our ball and also disrupting the opposition on theirs. He was also fantastic in the loose, making a number of steals and carrying well. Not to be outdone, the birthday boy, Herman Munster also decided that he’d like to show off his ball carrying skills and proceeded to steal the ball from an opposition maul and run a good 30 metres before being brought down with a neck high tackle ... no mean feat, given he’s about 6ft8!
With the forwards relentlessly tiring each other out with the number of scrums, it was left to the backs to put a positive shine on the half with further tries coming from Tom, Taff and Sam Hart, who got on the end of some phenomenal quick hits and offloading before side stepping the full back and going over. The only black mark on the half from a Southgate perspective was a serious shoulder injury to Louis, who had to be substituted and replaced on the wing, by none other than Jonah Miall. Half time 24-0.
The second half saw no let up in intensity, with Southgate adding to their lead with another try from Kieran. We were also able to introduce another back row forward to the backs, with Eamonn making a “special guest” appearance on the other wing. Combined weight of the 2 Southgate wings approaching 35 stone – I think that’s a record! Berkhamsted didn’t let their heads drop though and were now playing for pride, with the result out of sight. They continued to press and were denied a number of times from 5 metres out with some typical Southgate in your face defending.
However, the pressure was not sustained from Berkhamsted and it was now the turn of the forwards to get in on the try scoring act. Jack, Luke Rudd and Eamonn were able to break through after further excellent offloading from the forwards, Nick, in particular made a case for putting into practice what we had been drilled in training. Their tries were just reward for their outstanding performances on Saturday.
Another try was added when Tom went over after some excellent handling by the backs, it was just a shame that after having scored a try already, he couldn’t bring himself to pass it on one more time to Jonah, who had been standing out on the wing ready to cap it off. Quite selfish really! Berkhamsted then hit back, still with a great deal of pride, looking for the try that would give them a crumb of comfort from an otherwise disappointing afternoon, which they eventually scored after more frantic defending from Southgate.
The last word of the game and half, whilst it pains me to write it, goes to Gareth Saunders, aka Gazz/Gareth/Old Taff (he knows why we’re calling him this) for his excellent try to cap off a great afternoon for Southgate on the whole. Receiving the ball on the half way line, he produced 3 hand off’s in quick succession to break through the tiring Berkhamsted back line and have a clear run in. Cries from the touchline of “Swan dive” were heard and although he now treads the streets of Hackney, the little showboat in him who once trod the boards of the London Palladium and Her Majesty’s Theatre gave the crowds what they wanted to see. Jackie Lowery Saunders, if you’re reading this – your little boy done good!
So, our season’s back on track, next week away (again – sort it out Jack) to Chess Valley as we look to build on this positive performance. As always, many thanks again to all those who turned out to play and support, even Lynda Colt who effectively cost me my breakfast. You could have at least let him win!
Scorers: Taff (2 T and 3C), Kieran (2 T), Tom (2 T), Jack (1 T), Luke R (1 T), Sam H (1 T), Eamonn (1 T), Matt (2 C)
Team: Jack, Steve, Stav (Craig), Nick, Justin, Luke R (Stefan), Luke F, Sam H, Taff, Matt, Louis (Tim), Kieran (capt), Tom, Sam K, Peter (Eamonn).