Please note that this is not the write-up. The secretary is responsible for the write-up. I am merely procrastinating from doing study. Firstly, I need to say that the highlight of the day was the presence of the new tent. A refuge from the biting wind and a place where wise men and women could share their hopes and dreams and Big Andy could revolt us all with tales that should never have been told. The taking down of the tent at the end of the day presented a challenge that required over 100 years of life experience to overcome. It is indicative of the age of our players that it took only 3 people to collectively accumulate that many years. The South Shore Game This whole game, from the 3 minutes before kick-off when everybody was still putting their boots on until the final whistle, less about 2 minutes in the second half, was played by a team that was just not together. It was obvious that we had not trained together and that we had not even warmed-up together. The lack of cohesion was worsened by the lack of confidence. No confidence in running the ball (when we had it) and no confidence when rucking or mauling. South Shore took advantage of our in-cohesiveness and lack of confidence and kept us from getting any momentum in the game. Amazingly our scrums did work OK but the line outs were pretty dismal and South Shore managed to run up a pretty big score. Every time we got the ball we just tried to do too much, too fast; running away from support, offloading a poor pass when it would be better to take the hit and set the ball up, missing with a bell ringing tackle or looking like a turnstile tackling too high. Not pretty. The only highlight in the game was a couple of passages of play after a penalty in the attacking 22. From a good pods charge the forwards (and some backs) kept clean ball moving through several phases, driving over the advantage line each time and setting the ball up for pick and drive and passing. This was real smashing rugby in both the English and the hard hitting sense and would be seen again in later games but not again against South Shore. I cannot remember who actually scored the try but every forward had a hand in it. The South Shore game was also notable for the injuries that forced several forwards to cover positions in the back line. What is it about backs not showing up? Kudos to Woody who played at flanker, 2nd row, inside and outside center and at wing over the course of the game. I have attached a picture of the ref from the game. Ordinary is an appropriate description for his talents (and his hairstyle) but Old Gold reverted to its bad old ways by chatting and yelling the whole game. The ref was “all out of love” for us and we were “making love out of nothing at all” trying to yell at him. The contrast to last fall and to the other games on Saturday made it pretty clear that when we shut up and play rugby, we are pretty bloody good. When we carry on like sooks and yell at everything we suck. Middlesex Barbarians Game Old gold was together before the game, warmed up together, ran some moves together and even worked out what to do in a line out. Actually practiced playing together. The difference was clear from the first kick-off. We went out to play the game at our own pace. We just needed to work out what that game was and what “our pace” was. A few minutes into the first half Pondsi
decided that he needed a rest and gently tapped a Middlesex player with his boot in full view of the ref (who was thankfully not a member of air supply or a Kenny Loggins lookalike) who sent him to wait under the posts with no sippy cup for ten minutes. O’Connor had a shocker at scrum-half and should only play there on a freelance basis. Once Pondsi was allowed back on he was promptly called back off to be replaced by the world’s smallest and fastest scrum half, our very own Simi. With the threat of being clubbed by our own scrummy, the Old Gold forwards cranked it up a gear and started hitting rucks and mauls with power and low driving body heights. Runners were running with confidence, looking for support which was there and setting the ball up if tackled. The clean ball provided by this aggression gave the backs something to play with and run they did. Caron was like a small ball of furious anger hurtling into Middlesex players, Filipe crashed but also swerved and put in some good kicks, showing a good range of skills normally reserved for B games. Matty Condon was a delight as he unleashed the manic hamster we all see at training upon the unwitting Middlesex back line. Matty was jinking and jiving and just driving straight over people who couldn’t believe the swiftness for such a svelte package. Big Andy was the pride of the forward pack, running like a Pelican high on angel dust from kick-offs, smashing the opposition to the ground and stealing sweet ball from the breakdown. The small field and the strong wind had each team using kicking for field position and Woody drew on his experience as a wing to run some balls out of our 22. The sidestep on this man from Canada via Rhode island and Syracuse is completely non-existent and the body-check put on a hapless Middlesex chaser was a delight to see for all except that poor number 15’s family and maybe his HMO (note this could have been in the River game but it was very noteworthy). The team played a game of controlled aggression. It was far from perfect but it was played with pride. This is a huge positive for the club. We stepped back from our hammering in the first game, identified our problems and overcame them by playing together. A couple of technical things. We won our scrum feeds quite easily but were nearly driven back off the ball by the opposition second shove. This happened in the River game as well. It was good opposed practice and we need to get the timing of the engage and a good drive right. The power we had at the engage indicated that we should have been able to gain a few meters from a drive and position the scrum for some back row moves. Something to work on. In the line outs we had good initial lifts but the jumpers were often required to tap the ball because they were on their way down again once the ball was there. Timing the lift and hold will be critical. Some more stuff to work on in set pieces that we need opposed sessions for. Charles River The Sth African ref was a lover of flowing rugby and made this game a treat to play in. We again played together and with purpose, being hungry for ball, setting the Ball up for clean phases and with confident running by the backs and forwards. Confidence and body-height were key as we did the simple things well. The backs and the forwards ran straight and into gaps, not running away from support and looking to keep the ball alive but safely. The tackling in this game was strong. Low hard hits meant that none of the River runners made good ground and pressure on their backs had them dropping the ball at set pieces. We showed excellent resolve when defending our own try line and need to remember that we can hold out and even drive teams back in defence. Beatty ran well, head down and putting his considerable mass to good use in shaking the fillings out of a few River defenders. He also showed good ball skills catching passes at his bootlaces and making some good pop passes out of heavy contact. However, I cannot remember if it was in the River or Middlesex game but Beatty did attempt some strange version of a kick in open play that should never, ever be repeated. O’Connor has only just been given conditional permission to kick and you could hear the intake of anxious breath from all players when he struck the ball with his boot. The game was again played with control and only Dupuy talking with the ref. Luck does seem to be on the side of the winning team but we made the most of it and played with composure. One last thing and this is directly aimed at the wingers. Dive for the try. Do not muck around in the try zone and place it down with one hand. Make sure of it. The ground is your friend in the try zone. At least one of our tries should have been rejected because it was dropped. Make sure of it. If the players inside you have done the hard work and given you the ball so that you just need to fall over to score, do them the courtesy of diving over. My, what a tent. Pat.