Well with the Backy away playing with his ‘toy car’ in the hills of Wales and the previously appointed vice Boothy deported to Australia for the undisclosed crimes we know he has committed; it fell on the captain to find a replacement.  Competition as you would expect for such as prestigious position would have been intense but rather than pick it based on rugby ability, merit and vision of how to play the game he thought on this occasion he would turn to his nearest number i.e. 5 and therefore a text promptly landed in my inbox on Wednesday evening with “I’ve taken the universal decision Shelts to make you vice- congrats! Will get Leachy to update website”.

Checking the website Thursday I found this extra responsibility now official and that we were away at Aireborough which if I recall correctly last season we turned up with 13 men and when offered if we wanted to borrow any players we turned round and said ‘Nah w’ll be reet’…and went on to beat them so I thought what can go wrong…….  The next few days saw players drift in and out of the A team as the first and seconds jostled for players and we were close to losing some of our best lads. We finally settled with a gesture to the rugby gods and had to let our star prop of the season (to date) Sheilsy play for the Falcons, but he took the disappointment well and we promised he didn’t have to play for them next week.

Game day and the team was looking good – we had some decent liggers overall.  In the front row we had Adam ‘I cant be arsed’ Lancaster, but other than that people who I thought had the passion, heart and commitment to continue with a winning streak of one.  New player Steve Blakey was playing his first game of senior rugby and therefore brought the average age of the team down massively this week.  That said he only came on after our “help the aged return to play” rugby representative (Richard Sowerby) hobbled off at half time, returning to his much preferred but equally inept role of linesman. 

The pre-match routine started as ever for the A team with five minutes of T&P followed quickly by 3 lineouts and one run through.  For our youthful but rather old looking number nine he kept to his standard pre- match ritual of two Marlboro reds and a banana. 

Losing the toss might have been an omen to some people but letting them kick to us and be running uphill in the first half was all part of my cunning game plan.  I thought we usually play well with ball in hand so let’s have it from the off and dictate this on our terms in the style we have developed and become feared for; namely stuff it up your shirt, drive up the park and kick for the corner.  Which is exactly what we did for the first 20 minutes of the game. With the unusual position of both props keeping up with the play and large carries by all the forwards another milestone was achieved this week by the usually absent and mysterious Marcus Wood who stated afterwards that ‘this week I actually touched the ball’. 

First try of the match was a classic A team move.  Lineout five yards from the opponent’s line – catch, drive over (0-5). More dominance from the forwards resulted in a further score in the first half with a push over try by Huddersfield and a great display of skills from our No8 Neil Pollock.  Aireborough did put some points on the board in the first half but after 40 minutes we were leading.

The second half however was a different story and for some reason we decided to have a kicking contest between their back line and ours.  As you can imagine when a bunch of largely unfit, overweight, lethargic blokes who have a mixture of bladder disfunction, gout, myopia, arthritis and early dementia get let out on a Saturday afternoon they don’t respond well to change and this type of game play wasn’t suiting us. 10 minutes in and Matty Johnson decided it was time to have a rest starting a little tussle with their number 7 which resulted in both him and his handbag hitting mate being on the side-line for 10 minutes.  Up to this point, and mainly because Mr Baxter was away, I thought we had been very well disciplined and had the ref on side.  Short lived as we soon started chelping which turned the ref against us five metres from our line and despite a massive defensive effort eventually let Aireborough over our line.

Now most might have once heard Big Hinch give his thoughts on a game or three as well I’m sure recite a few poems ‘lads, rugby, rugby lads, together’ springs to mind but for a brief summary of the game here is George Hinchcliff thoughts :
“Thinking back about the game. We won every line out on our own throw. We stole about 4 of theirs. We didn’t lose a scrum. We won two scrum turnovers. We scored a push over try and should have been awarded a scrum penalty try. On top of that Lancaster scored off one of two successful driven mauls. You scored off the other. If I were to write a match report it would be very complimentary about the set piece. Lancaster would be man of the match. The main reason that the opposition were even in the game was because our backs kicked away our 65% possession in a battle that they lost miserably.”

If you want to know the other reasons for why we lost you’ll have to ask the backs; ineptness, stupidity, poor decision making has been muted but that was just James Lockwood. Still the one thing that you can count on having backs like Tim Taylor turning out on a Saturday is that the man knows where he can find a good pie and Aireborough on this occasion did him proud with meat and potato served along with a double helping of peas for his supper. 

Someone mentioned to me recently that rugby is a game of evasion and it certainly evaded and avoided the A team this week. So I was disappointed to say the least that under my first captaincy of the A team we lost but I do take solace in this………..

When the battle scars have faded
And the truth becomes a lie
And the weekend smell of liniment
Could almost make you cry.

If you’re an advert for arthritis
If you’re a thoroughbred gone lame
Then you ask yourself the question
Why the hell you play the game?

Do you sometimes sit and wonder
Why your time would often pass
In a tangled mess of bodies
With your head up someone’s……?

From the first time that you laced a boot
And tightened every stud
That virus known as rugby
Has been living in your blood

With a thumb hooked up your nostril
Scratching gently on your brain
And an overgrown Neanderthal
Rejoicing in your pain!

It’s almost worth admitting
Though with some degree of shame
That your wife was right in asking
Why the hell you play the game?

And yet with every wound re-opened
As you grimly reminisce it
Comes the most compelling feeling yet
God, you’d bloody miss it!

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