In our penultimate match of the season, we were up against a newly formed Halifax 2’s. We hoped they would be dreadful but its always best to prepare for the worst and then play it by ear. We had a strong 23 man team and were quietly confident after 5 straight wins. Our season was coming to a close in a very satisfactory manner. Our team comprised of some regulars, a few Falcons, a good spread of students and a few irregulars. Among the irregulars we had Matty Barwell who is a quality player among the students, starting at 7. Xander Nash who’d been informed, that the day after would be making his first team debut, so he’d only be playing the first half. Rob (Pots) Potter who at a mere 47 had finally built up the courage to step up to play A-Team, a far cry from MLR (US Premiership). Finally, young prospect Will Cossey, formerly a promising prop, but he’d fallen on hard times nearly starved to death and had to get a Saturday job, so two stone lighter and only available on Fridays we tried him in the Row.
The lights twinkled and there was definitely something in the air, the giant Gorilla playing the drums to Phil Collins may have been a giveaway, if you believe in omens. It was going to be epic. The Ref was on time and the pitch was near pristine. It was a night for Passion and Glory. We warmed up and I inspired the men with a speech that would have persuaded Ghandi to go to war. It was game time and nothing else mattered.
The Halifax lads had clearly got wind that we had a decent team and had also turned up with a few ‘Irregulars’. The most obvious was Cooky’s Daddy, clearly keen to get back on The Field of Dreams and teach Cooky to kiss his own a… This time as a player, not the Ref, not that it had previously made much difference! Also, they seemed to have several players who clearly went to the gym more than the bar? It definitely looked a bit fishy. Nevertheless, too late to do anything except pay the price in blood sweat and beers!
The game kicked off and it was clear that it was not going to be a walk in the park. The Trojan Horse was already inside the city gates and it was to be some fierce fighting right from the start. Straight away Barwell began to look very handy, disrupting and making a complete nuisance of himself. Xander and Jiri looked strong in the centres and the whole first half was an absolutely even trade of colossal blows! However, in the last minute of the first half they attacked and there 6 lost his mind and tried the chip, it against all odds took a wicked bounce straight back into his hands as both Charlie Foreman and Ollie Shaw were foxed, both predicting more sensible trajectories. They scored, converted and we went into the break 7 down.
I steeled the troops and reminded them we were on OUR patch and nothing less than victory would suffice. So, the second half started and it was even more ferocious than the first. Halifax though had changed tactics they were getting considerably tougher. After we repelled them from our own line three times on the trot, their discipline broke. One of their gym players charged completely off the ball and punched Joe Brown in the face. Joe appeared to try to defend himself with his head. A massive show of hand bags broke out before the Ref pulled the two captains aside. I got there first and calmly explained to the Ref, that the Halifax player was clearly the one who had to go, for the 10m charge completely off the ball and the blatant unprovoked punch. I replied there was no headbutt in retaliation, JB was clearly concussed and his head was just doing a nodding dog from the shock of the punch. The Halifax Captain arrived and painted a completely different picture, he was obviously delusional. The Ref very sensibly went with my version of events, resulting for a red card for one of their players and a yellow for JB! A first class bit of captaining, and Reffing of course! In my absence, Andy Lyon had quickly realised what was going on and had told the lads that if we kept our discipline the Ref was going to favour us. I very loudly, in front of the Ref, ordered our troops to not rise to it and keep calm and play good clean Rugby. We could herar their lads getting ready for round two.
I inspired our players that when the chips were down we needed our Heroes. No quarter was to be given, no backward steps, the kitchen sink was to be thrown at ‘em! So, Parry kicked long but it didn’t make touch. We could hear them screaming ‘Time for some fun!’. I tried to get there first but a few of my 47 injuries slowed me down. One of their gym bound lads caught it ran ten yards, with an evil grin took a big step and threw all his weight into our defense. Some might call this a Samoan side step! It was young Will who had met him, two stone lighter than his propping days and there was an almighty impact! The shockwave knocked the entire crowd over and the Gorilla began to hit his drums. To my surprise, the result was that young Will had approached with momentum aligned his spine, kept his eyes up and had actually listened to my ruddy team talk! Their lad simply disintegrated like a sprinter running into THE HULKS fist! Simply magnificent! Why did Will do it? Cossey’s the man! I glanced at him he cheekily smiled at me and we tried to cover as they went wide. Lyonsy tried his Rugby League slam tackle, they all immediately claimed it was a trip and charged in. However, it all stopped very abruptly as their player suffering from The Cossey effect had got up run 5 yards then full on face planted into the ground, no arms out, completely out cold. The Ref stopped the game and I quickly reminded him that they’d just got a Red Card for fighting and within two minutes were trying to instigate another mass brawl. I didn’t want him considering sending Lyonsy for an early bath after the alleged trip!
We waited for their lad to get up but very quickly people got concerned, so tight head prop Sam Mann, paramedic/super hero jumped into action and held his hand. The ambulance was called and it appeared our day was done. Pots at this moment informed us he was finally ready to come on! An infamous 0-7 victory for the mighty A-Team. When you’re stuck against the ropes and you’re down on points with little time to go then you have to throw everything at it. So, we won by technical knockout! We celebrated in the changing rooms got showered and went up to the bar.
Even then they seemed to refuse to accept their fate, so there was only one sensible way this could be settled! Five brave warriors were called upon from each team, 10 bar stools were lined in two rows of five and 10 pints of Purity were poured! Joe Shiel outlined the rules. The entire ensemble was to start seated then the first player would rise stand on their stool, swiftly drink their pint (whilst enjoying the unrivalled hoppy flavour), then sit. Allowing the second team member to follow until we had a victorious team. They never stood a chance, I finished, as our last player consolidating the victory at least one player in front and they slunked off complaining about poor ability to stand on stools! Too much time in the gym and not enough time in the bar, a classic mistake of the younger generation!
The bar was open late and a great night was had by all, well apart from one! For the more empaphatic readers, their lad spent a night in hospital on powerful painkillers but was discharged with a clean bill of health the following morning. Hopefully he’ll be back fighting fit for the start of next season. I hear him and Sam Mann had a lovely bromance.