A great game played in good spirit from both sides in atrocious conditions.
With Northolt having cried off mid week, Colin sorted a friendly fixture with our old friends Ealing Exiles, who we beat just before Christmas. The other team available for a game were Whitton Lions, so no doubt Colin thought long and hard for approximately one millisecond before choosing the former.
Unfortunately, we struggled for numbers all week, and our 15 became 13 on the day owing to a few players having to cry off with work and childcare commitments.
We did the sensible thing and stayed in the changing rooms until approx. 5 minutes before kick off because it was too cold. And rainy.
Upon getting to the pitch, I had a word with the Exiles Captain Jez (nice bloke) and explained our situation to him and the hilarious Munster Man John – our ref for the day. Jez immediately offered to slightly even up the numbers by calling for “Colonel”, who introduced himself by explaining that he has a heart condition and at various points in the game he might go a little quiet but just to ignore him – he’ll just be trying to sort out his heart arrhythmia. John nodded sympathetically and it struck me once again the sort of exalted company we keep at the club – you couldn’t make it up.
30 minute halves were agreed, with the ref, who was swaddled in wet weather gear and wearing a Munster Beanie hat, imploring us to kick off as soon as possible because “It’s fecking freezing and I’ve got to drive back to Ascot for the Ireland game.” Pure class.
With Ealing having arrived with 16 on their team sheet therefore, we played the first half a man down, but you really wouldn’t have known it. The fact that the pitch resembled a first World War Flanders bog made our playing strategy a no brainer from the start. Not much point kicking as the ball just dies on its arse, so we might as well try running it from everywhere. The fact that several of their forwards clearly couldn’t remember the last time they’d ever missed a McDonald’s drive thru also informed our decision.
Throughout the game our tacking was superb, and the effort put in from one to, well, thirteen or fourteen, was great. It was after a trademark blast up the middle by our forwards that the ball was spun through the hands (no mean feat in that weather) and Trevor crossed the line.
Unfortunately, he forgot to take the ball with him the first time, but he made no mistake a few minutes later when in a carbon copy of the first move he dabbed down in the corner. One condition that Jez and I agreed on before KO was that as it’s a friendly, the scorer must take the conversion which Trevor duly did – narrowly missing and hitting the post. A good effort with the pitch being so muddy.
There were too many hilarious moments to single out individually during this match, but the sight of the ref being unable to blow his whistle without a sound like a strangled fart emanating from the thing sticks in the memory. As does Colonel sorting it out for him by blowing loudly down each end, unclogging it and then unceremoniously showing it back into John’s mouth – where he promptly almost swallowed it. He then spent the remainder of the game whistling with abandon at every break in play, so that obviously made his day.
Sadly, our old habit reared it’s head again though, and it wasn’t long before Ealing came back with a score of their own. As this was fortunately scored by one of their forwards, he did the decent thing and missed the conversion, which left us at 5-5.
The remainder of the first half continued in much the same vein, with once again our heroic defence thwarting what at times looked like certain tries by Ealing. We genuinely never gave up, which was great to see.
After half time, we lost Colonel to Ealing, but two of their players unaccountably had to rush off so numbers-wise we were about the same ratio. There were unconfirmed reports that those two were on curfew and their electronic tags were about to go off, but I think that’s just childish rumour spreading.
Whilst the driving rain and bitterly cold conditions continued into the second half, we were only about 10 minutes in before Trevor damaged his shoulder. Ealing’s scrum half was a physio and with Trev in a lot of pain it was mutually agreed that it would be better if he went off, although that didn’t stop us bantering with their lot that “well you would say that, wouldn’t you?!” All in jest, of course. To literally add insult to injury, Trev also suffered the ignominy of having his leg humped by our mascot – Sidney the Bulldog. (Phone number on request, Trev). When it doesn’t rain….
Therefore, our 13 became 12, and we were seriously up against it with their 3 man overlap.
Time and again though, we kept on smashing them back. With uncontested scrums, their large frames were largely rendered useless after the inevitable knock ons, and we did well in the line out as well as we were considerably more mobile (and light) than they were.
However, at our level a 3 man overlap always eventually tells, and after their enormous South African forward had once again taken about 3 of our guys with him, Ealing finally exploited the overlap and scored with about 5 minutes left of our shortened game. Conversion missed, and the score ended at a more than respectable 10-5 to Ealing, considering the circumstances.
A fantastic game though, and I know it’s a tired cliché but the moral victory genuinely was ours on the day.
Sadly, the 6 Nations and several players’ work and childcare issues meant that The White Swan was pretty quiet numbers-wise afterwards. Our old Captain, Simon, was on hand with his wife and daughter and he gladly lent a hand with the burgers. Fortunately I caught the landlady before the full 25 were cooked so we have 15 in the bank for the next home match. (The 3 of us players plus Simon’s family had 2 each).
Liam our scrum half (who had been nursing a sore shoulder for most of the game following a tackle) later texted me to tell me that he had ruptured his AC Joint, and my suggestion of drinking 5 pints of strong lager and wiggling it around a bit hadn’t, in fact, helped. Get well soon mate.
A break next weekend for the 6 Nations before probably an away match, although I’m not sure who against if anyone can help?