We arrived at the ground to a sight to gladden the heart….the grey haired, whiskery captain sinking a Guinness in the bar half an hour before kick off.
The portents took a slight turn for the worse once we were on the pitch though, when through injury, illness and in a few occasions probably pre night high jinks, our vaunted squad of 20 plus had dwindled to 15.
Plus, the referee was Australian, AND knew the rules. Not good.
The first 20 minutes were score-less, although this was a feat in itself considering a certain returning player had obviously taken a liking to the grass on the Ealing side of the pitch, given the fact that he spent most of the game lying on their side of the ruck with commendable disregard for his own back. (Skiv).
We had to go to uncontested scrums mid way through the first half owing to Stoner popping a rib. This was a shame, as we were doing well in the scrum, and it also meant we were down a man for about 10 minutes until he bravely came back on for us.
As ever, around this point the Dogs began to tire, and Ealing duly scored their first try.
We quickly replied with another one from John Dev though, and the half ended roughly even, although Ealing did disgrace themselves by kicking for the posts after another indiscretion, and actually MAKING it.
In the second half, Ealing began to empty their bench as we all looked on longingly at what might have been. With several players playing out of position (including young Liam at full back when he is actually a scrum half) we leaked a few further tries, although Frank was nicely on Hugh’s shoulder after one of his typical sniping runs to finish another try off for us under the posts.
In true breakneck Bulldogs pacy fashion, the action then moved to our own try line, where after a heroic turnover effort from the forwards, our fly half for the day – Oli from BA, did one of the best comedy knock ons ever. He caught himself between 2 minds as to whether to kick or pass, and in the event did neither – watching helplessly as the ball dribbled out of his clutches whereupon one of the Ealing forwards gratefully flopped onto it.
This in no way detracted from a very good game that Oli had with some great kicks and good interchanging with Skiv’s mate Louis at inside centre, and we all agreed that we would never mention it again. Whoops….
Whilst Ealing were a nice bunch, Luke made a good point, which I mentioned to the Ref, about the fact that they were holding on in the tackle and generally diving over the top on a far too regular basis. They actually had a man binned for this, but it did continue throughout the match which led to inevitable frustration culminating in Luke being binned himself for a stray elbow. Could have happened to anyone and all taken in good heart.
The game ended as 29 points to Ealing and 14 to the Bulldogs, and in an ongoing theme I’ll finish with some key points:
Special mention goes to Tom Skivington for playing in the front row in his first game back for 5 years. Despite it going uncontested in the first half, he put in a shift and his bloodied face at the end told its own tale. I dread to think what his back looked like.
Louis, Skiv’s mate, was invaluable at getting us out of our half as he did some powerful runs at inside centre and stopped their big guy in his tracks. All the more impressive given that he is a winger and this was his first time playing in this position. Luckily he had a fat bloke called Will on his outside pretending he knew what he was doing so that’s alright then.
Also, big thanks to Liam for filling in at 15 (nobody’s favourite position) and to the 4 BA guys – Cocksy, Stoner, Oli and Tony. Tony in particular was a sight for sore eyes when he loomed into the changing room and confirmed that he was, in fact, a prop and not a frustrated winger or anything ridiculous like that.
A good pint or 3 in the bar afterwards plus some sort of Pie that looked like it had come in through the window, and we all set off into the Ealing twilight.