Some days are just better than others. Friday evening was a little bit like that.
One of our lads, Harry ‘Pickles’ Nichols, lost his father last month to Cancer. Aged just 48, Mark was a regular spectator at our games over the number of years that Harry has been a member of the rugby club. He remained an avid supporter of the team even when his illness had become serious and life threatening. Mark had the privilege of seeing his son develop into a young man of not only outstanding character but also an excellent rugby player. Playing out wide, usually #15, Harry has become an unsung hero of the side. His increasing speed and strength combined with a strong work ethic has produced a player who always produces a strong performance. No fear in the tackle and possessing an electrifying burst of speed, we are used to seeing Harry make a lot of ground with ball in his hand.
On this sunny (but chilly) April evening, Pickles Captained the Under 16’s in front of a full and vocal Tows crowd! Our rugby family from all age groups, friends and family all attended to show their support and help raise funds for Cancer Research UK. It was truly special to see so many there, all singing, cheering and laughing.
Special thanks are due to Banbury RFC who came to give our Under 16’s a game and we feel the rugby played was entertaining for all.
The rugby was secondary today, but you try telling almost 50 lads that when there’s a crowd to please! Every player that was signed on for us turned up - a first this Season! And Banbury also brought a full compliment. The first half started with the wind at our bags and the momentum was definitely with Tows. An early phase of play saw a Tows line out, won by Bailey who brought it down for a maul. Tows drove them back before Conner got the ball out to Pickles – and this was the first moment we saw of ‘the Pickles Show’! Harry had picked the starting team and quite rightly played himself in the Centre, moving away from his more usual Full Back position. Ball to Pickles and he was off like a scolded cat, jinking one way and the next, leaving Banbury boys with no answer - someone finally got him down but a great offload to JJ and Tows found themselves on the scoreboard nice and early. Harvey stepped up for the conversion and we were 7-0 up.
The second set of points came fairly soon after. Banbury knock on just outside their 22. Our scrum, again Connor passed to Pickles and off he went! Pickles scored a brilliant try and the lads went crazy! As did the crowd! Pickles was mobbed by his team mates and he just soaked it up. So much so, he agreed to take the kick! I don’t think Pickles has ever kicked for the posts in a proper match, but today seemed like the right time to try it. What happened? He nailed it, of course! All seven points to Pickles.
14-0 to Tows.
Our third points came off the back of a great phase of play by Banbury. They deserved more, but our defensive play was excellent and when Banbury finally gave away a Penalty, it gave Harvey the chance to clear our lines. We won our line out and flash ball got to JJ who opened up the afterburners. Great run that resulted in a great offload to his cousin, Harvey, when he was tackled. Harvey got past their defence and was at full pace when he put the ball down for a great try. We missed the conversion, but we were still 19 - 0 up.
The fourth score came from a Banbury line out. Bailey secured the ball and Connor got the ball to JJ. Big tackle and our ruck protected the ball - we switched direction and the quick lads combined well for a great team try – Harvey to JJ to Lucas and he was through for the fourth try of the game. Pickles stepped up for the kick again and it just slid by the posts.
24-0 to Tows.
Try number five was created by Pickles. We don’t know if it was the occasion, but he was on fire tonight! An unbelievable run then put us deep in their half. We got the ball to Harvey and he kicked it through the gap which was secured by Lucas. He passed to JJ and that was try number five and JJ’s second. Pickles still wanted to have the kicking honours and he slotted the conversion home.
31-0 to Tows and the score stayed that way until half time.
With so many Under 16 lads there, we had a massive rotation of players to give everyone some minutes. That change to line-up certainly changed the momentum and it took us quite a bit of time to settle again. In to the wind now, it was Banbury’s turn to get some points on the board. A lot - and I mean a LOT - of referee decisions went against us during the first 20 minutes of the half and Banbury played some great rugby. They scored two well earned tries that they also converted. That comfortable lead was now looking a bit shaky.
31-14 to Tows.
In fact, a great move from Tows ended up with a wayward offload that gave the Banbury winger the ball. He was very quick and off he went, outpacing Harvey and JJ with some great steps - he must have thought he was through, from their 22 to ours he wasn’t challenged. I know I thought the score was about to be a lot closer, but George Dicks had other ideas. He came flying in from the other side of the pitch and put in such an awesome tackle that everyone on that side of the pitch winced! 100% a try saving tackle that gave us a line out. As is so often the case in rugby, that one hit swung the momentum back in our favour.
Such a great tackle from Dicks was certainly matched by the next phase of play to give us the sixth try. Alfie, our ‘Big Bear’ of a #8 had decided to take on their entire team with a run that was a massive crowd pleaser. I actually lost count of how many tackles he bounced - five, six? Maybe more. Unbelievable hand-off’s that left a string of blue-and-white hooped shirts on the floor. Eventually, some brave soul for Banbury managed to get him down. Alfie’s offload to Harvey was superb and the phase continued - Harvey tackled, and he offloaded to Lucas. Another try to Broady, well played Lucas. Unfortunately we didn’t get the conversion but it did put us 36-14 up.
Any match where you score seven tries is a good match. But who do you think scored those final points? Well it could only be one man - our Man of the Match, Harry ‘Pickles’ Nichols. A great run from Deamer that was passed to JJ and then Pickles. He put the ball down and the crowd went wild. His second try and our seventh.
The score ended up 41-14 and I don’t think anyone went home disappointed.
The lads jumped on Pickles (again) and sang their creative chant - “we love you Pickles, we do”.
A magnificent game of rugby that had the Tows faithful bouncing. But that isn’t where the fun stopped. Oh no - now we went inside for more fun and money-making antics. Some beers, a raffle, an auction and a few words from our Head Coach, Pickles and Mrs Nichols. There was a few glassy eyes and lots of hugs. The auction raised a massive amount - with signed shirts, holidays, Moto GP tickets - all sold.
So what did we raise?
Well, we haven’t done a final set of numbers, but it’s over £16,500.00 so far!
If you contributed in some way, thank you so much. If you haven’t, then get yourself over to our Giving page here and donate what you can!