It was time for the annual over 35’s charity game against the local rivals. A classic bout of gout vs determination. To raise a few pennies for The Darby Rimmer MND foundation.
I asked around everyone from the club and managed to get an incredibly strong 25 man squad. It was going to be like shooting fish in a barrel with an AK47. Then as we came within a week of the game the excuses began to come in. Sharpey couldn’t play because, after 6 months notice and him confirming 4 times, it turns out he can’t use a calendar and had double booked. With Tom Andrews and Danny Vento who would have also been very welcome. Robin Gledhill booked a holiday just so he didn’t have to play. James Giblin realised that the fact he was in Australia might be a problem. Plus other outrageously cowardly nonsense from some others. But 20 is plenty! So still confident I enjoyed my Xmas festivities. Apparently so did everyone else. The morning of the game the faeces really hit the fan. Chris Johnson couldn’t play because it would break his contract, that he had hand written. Steve Parry decided best not to play because he had the sniffles. Freddie Woodworth had a poorly foot. Duncan Cleave had some sort of family crisis and Michael Stancliffe couldn’t play because he was too old. He must have had a tough three days!
So come kick off we had a bare 15. With Gav struggling with faulty blood. Campbell struggling with life and the basic principles of rugby. Eddie Newman not fully recovered from his hamstring pull two weeks prior. Then there was myself, I have one really bad shoulder and one really really bad shoulder. Now some might say you require shoulders to play but I’ve seen many a fly half never use them. So there were 15 players. 11 forwards and 4 backs. So perfectly balanced. We made an emergency phone call for a lorry full of tape, to try to stop limbs from falling off. Then we strapped on our big cahoonas, convinced ourselves we were in better shape than we had ever been and Zimmered our way onto the pitch for something that might of, sort of, resembled a warm up.
Laund Hill were 25 men strong and had decided to use the over 35’s rule as optional. With 4 of their first team and the usual bunch of Scholesy’s ex-pro rugby league mates. So once again it was going to be a tough old day on ‘The Field of Dreams’ at fortress Lockwood Park. Luckily no one had come to watch.
The game kicked off and it was a wee bit tasty. Alex Battye (ex first XV captain) was out to prove a point and he looked like he should probably be the current first XV captain. Tony Stringwell wasn’t up for any nonsense either, after his extensive 30 second warm up. So we turned up the pressure. HRUFC legend Hamish Pratt dominated in the lineout, helped by Shiel’s excellent egg chucking. Tom Sharrock made some powerful runs in the 12 shirt, not bothering to alter his game plan at all from when he plays in the pack.
Laund Hill tried every dirty trick in the book to stop us. Their Captain began to make his ten high swinging arm tackles. The Referee coined his new catch phrase of ‘Sorry I didn’t see that’. Their Antipodean 8 also showed some power and flare. However after 20 mins their line broke and try machine Eddie Newman cut through from outside centre to score the first try.
At this point I noticed the crowd was up to about 100 and steadily rising. Sadly Eddie’s hamstring had gone once again so he had to leave the field. To make matters worse Gareth Tinker who had had a head injury assessment, was told by their physio he wasn’t allowed to carry on? He only had a bust lip from repeated swinging arms to the face! The ref apparently ‘sorry I didn’t see that’ three times. He should have asked our Doctor, Gav would have told him to play on with a shattered spine! Things looked bleak we needed a miracle, no we needed a hero! Then there was a murmur from the crowd and they parted to reveal Andre ‘The Giant’ getting ready to come on. This is what you get when you have a huge home crowd, inspired morons! He jogged on and we would have to play with this handicap too! Battye, who’d been frustrated with our backs kicking to touch, pulled rank and kicked the conversion. A perfectly normal thing for a Prop to do. I think forwards used to get shot for that kind of thing in my day, but we live in crazy times.
Laund Hill then began a heroic fight back. They tried to target our oldest player, Ian Agnew on the wing. However, he may look like he gets his pension but he has the heart of a lion so he cleaned up everything they threw at him. Some of our wonkier players began to faulter a little but not man mountain Gav Rhodes. When he smashes someone they no about it. On a couple of occasions I caught them in possession behind the gain line and ‘The Doctor’ helped them go backwards several metres each time. Harry Granger also managed to frustrate their 8 by constantly hanging on to his like a bit of unwanted loo role stuck to his boot! However, just on the cusp of half time Ben Hill, the Laund Hill Hooker, broke through the line to score. So we went into the break tied 7 points a piece.
I pulled everyone together and from behind a broken body I tried to inspire the Legends and Campbell. I looked back at several old war horses that I’d been to battle with on so many occasions before and I knew that they would apply their trade like we had done in Huddersfield’s glory years.
The second half was a half of pressure and comedic errors. Battye kicked the ball to touch each time and we had dominance in both scrum and lineout. The tackling was vicious and the contacts brutal, plus the invisible swinging arms. Battye tried to suggest that the ref actually enforced the rules? AND if he was desperate he could always try using that decorative charm on his necklace that some call a whistle. All to no avail.
I tried to bounce Ben Hill who was clearly their best player. However, Partially dislocated my shoulder in the process. It stung a little, with very limited control of my arms and no shoulders I was in trouble. But with no subs, I would just have to make do shouting at the enemy and tackling my face. No risk of damaging anything important there then. Around 50 minutes in, after some sustained pressure Cooky spun a forward pass out to Cloughy, the Laund Hill lad that fancied being on the winning team which he caught and walked in for the try. Only to get a right load of abuse from his own coach! They appealed and the ref said ‘sorry I didn’t see that’. So the try stuck. Battye slotted the kick from the touch line before saluting his adoring fans! My dad missed his mouth with his beer, Tracy Davis fainted from Lust and several ladies took off there tops revealing his name in letters painted across their chests! That last bit is definitely true!
We received the kick off and again went at them. I took contact and regretted it. I had to roll into four different positions to find one, that enabled me to stand up. What I saw next was unexpected. There was some sort of hack-through followed by a trip several juggles then a foot race between their full back and you guessed Tony Stringwell our tight head prop. We’ll their full back never stood a chance! He tried to overtake Stringwell, stumbled and fell over to see Stringers at a top speed of 5 mph, run 8 yards, dived on the ball and power slid to glory. A move I’m going to claim was clearly straight off the training park! The crowd went crazy, never has there been a game with such va va boom from the front rowers. They were playing like rockstars! Right up until Battye missed the kick from in front of the posts, but nobody cared with the champagne rugby that was on display.
Then Laund Hill again tried to come back they applied pressure and despite Harry Granger bringing down the 8 after clinging on to him for 20m, there was an off load and Ben Hill their Hooker (another front row) scored in the corner. They kicked the conversion and it was a 5 point game with 10 mins left to play! Nail biting stuff, the crowd had now increased to around the 15,000 mark by this point and there were frequent Mexican waves.
I pulled the lads in, gave them their orders: composure, don’t kick the fecking thing and keep ball til full time. However, we had to kick to them first. So we went to work and I ran around shouting at people and missing tackles. Well apart from the inevitably long amounts of time I spent trying to get off the floor. With three minutes to go they gave away a penalty 20m out straight in front of the posts. If we kicked it we’d have been 8 points clear and won the game. But Battye had other ideas. We gave the people what they wanted and fired the ball into the corner. This is what you spend your whole lives being coached for. Last lineout of the game, Hamish had won every one all game and even stolen a couple. So naturally I did the only thing sensible and called it to be thrown to me. I tried to catch it, I really did but the dizziness and the lack of any working arms meant that I fumbled, I heard a load of insults from my own team but they couldn’t possibly have been aimed at their illustrious Captain! So last play of the game and Laund Hill went for broke. They attempted to go wide from behind their goal line. We applied a lot of pressure, the back line all got in amongst them and about twenty lads started playing hot potato. Til the ball eventually fell neatly into Andy Lyon’s hands, he dotted it down between the uprights and the crowd went wild. The Girls screamed, the ladies threw various items of underwear at him and the men cheered so load the gherkin in London shattered. Then Battye stepped up and slotted the conversion. Job done! Never in doubt. Big thanks to Andre for stepping up. (This is top secret, don’t tell his wife or he’ll be in the doghouse, which ironically is about the right size for him.)
Man of the Match, the entire front row.
Opposition Man of the Match Ben Hill