Falcons go down in ‘home made flames’
It was a rough week leading up to this match. I spent most of it soldiering on with ‘manflu’. Joe Shiel the Falcons manager was off in deepest darkest Ireland convincing the Irish that he was more Irish than they were by drinking half the beer in country and dressing as a lady. Toby Spooner was off fraternising with some disrespectable characters in the oil industry, end up filthy rich there mate!
We were low on Falcons numbers. The tax dodgers were all off on one of their annual escapades drinking, playing rugby, breaking several Biblical laws and training to become the next world leaders. So, we were short on man power! I asked Tom Owen to play, but his missus has his kahunas under lock and key! So it was down to the mighty A-Teamer’s to step up! So, of course they answered the call! Ian Agnew our 50+ winger, our fake Australian Andy ‘Aussie’ Madden, Neil Thornton, a rugby league convert and the usual riff raff in the pack. Our, understrength, team was set!
On the morning of the game Aussie had to cry off with the excuse that ‘something very urgent had popped Up’! A matter that required urgent and delicate handling! I told him to get on with it and that too much of that sort of thing would make him go blind! He obliged and dutifully arrived in time for kick off. Tinks had promised to play but sadly never showed up, disappointing from a club man of his standing. Also, Callum Dyson had said he’d play and did turn up! All these things were very bad omens.
We did what we could and I tried my best to allow Leighton to captain his Falcons side the way he wanted. The warm up was very long, so long that the other lads lined up for kick off 10 mins before time! It turns out that our young, athletic referee hadn’t mastered the mysterious art of telling the time. We were rushed on and kicked off late.
Now I have become aware, that as my match reports have gone viral and that the referees are now reading them and could take offence at some of my remarks. Apparently being a mega hit on something called ‘Toktik’ is a big deal, who knew! I’ll have to dial up on my ZX Spectrum some time and have a look. I’d like to take this opportunity to say that they are giving up their free time and we all greatly appreciate their efforts and I wouldn’t dream of saying anything derogatory on the matter.
So, we kicked off and applied pressure. They were a young team who clearly wanted to play classy rugby. Now, any old veteran knows that when the conditions are wet and greasy and the pitch is uneven, there is only one way to play. Sadly, our half backs got a bit giddy and decided to play fast and loose. So, the game was played at a high tempo with lots of mistakes, classic school boy stuff. The scrummage, A-Team led, was a sight to truly behold, something special. We had newly recovered Josh Cook who’d swapped from loose to tight Head. Niall Phayer made him swap when he heard loose head was easier! Then very impressive part timer Will Cossey, masquerading as a hooker because in a club with more hookers than Amsterdam we couldn’t get one. Our scrum decimated theirs, walking them back up up to 10 metres a time and with a slightly dominant line out, the pressure was immense. A mere 7 minutes in and the after significant forward pressure we went wide and outside, centre Steffan Newport crossed the whitewash. The slightly dubious grounding was given and we kicked the goal to lead 7-0.
It was an opening score and I couldn’t help but give out The A-Team call of ‘5 phases’. This means both teams are at their most vulnerable after a score, so your points aren’t really worth anything till you put them in the bank. You do this by retaining the ball for 5 phases before you do anything risky. Simples! My words of wisdom were not heeded! Again fast and loose was the approach and a quick turnover was conceded. They had a couple of extraordinarily quick players with great feet. They scored very shortly after. School boy stuff. I stepped back and let Leighton talk, he urged the boys not to panic and to strike back.
We went after them and were heavily penalised several times and conceded another try. We again attacked for a period and our scrummage was magnificent but we attempted to play too wide too early and kick too much resulting in getting caught behind the gain line time and time again. We conceded again and I began to get frustrated. I told the lads that we were dominant in the pack, to keep punching down the middle and not to go wide unless we had a clear decisive overlap. It worked well but sadly we made a tactical blunder when the exuberance of youth got the better of the backs and we were taken apart again. At half time we trailed 24-7.
I made changes and brought the entire bench on deciding to even drop myself. I wanted to see properly what the problems were. Two things happened in the second half that were interesting. Leighton Davis grew in stature and played extremely well, but our structure as a team collapsed. Our dominance in the scrum was reversed mainly due to a terrible performance from Callum Dyson. After the game he said he couldn’t scrummage because he’d hurt his hand and pointed out a slight patch of mud on a middle knuckle. So, that’s what made him scrummage 18” too high and knock the ball on! I’m not convinced. It’s OK though because he’s not going to tell anyone he was injured so he can play next week! (Don’t ask Broughy for his opinion or he’ll tear you a new one! Justin Brown hasn’t played for three weeks after Broughy had ‘a word’!) Our lineout was also weakened but that was to be expected after three changes. There were some big positives though. Niall, now less tired at loose head, became dominant. He was like a raging bull, carrying heroically and showing real potential. Fin Browne didn’t look too bad either and carried on developing.
Although we had a bad start and were heavily penalised as the game went on and we had a few good phases but insisted on playing in a ridiculously open manner resulting in them scoring many more times. Eventually we found ourselves 15 metres from their line and 10 metres to the left of the posts when Charlie Foreman (15) completely unmarked and not a defender within 30m of him called for the cross-field kick. I bellowed at Mike Rafferty (10) to oblige but it didn’t come. By now the forwards had had enough of throwing it wide. A rusty Ollie Shaw (9) in his first game back kept it tight for two phases and Niall scored under the posts. Steffan also scored a second try, not out wide but by coming back in tight on a hard angle.
So, the game ended in disappointment. We need to analyse this performance and use it to grow. We have some great players and we need to go over every aspect of the game and work out where it went wrong and why and how we can do things differently next time. Otherwise, you end up like England last weekend with a semi final virtually in the bag with three minutes left and losing because they simply didn’t have the intelligence to put the ball up the jumper from the base of the ruck and play out the most boring 3-5 mins of rugby in history to guarantee a world cup final ticket. Never give up a narrow margin in the dying minutes.
In my opinion our game should have been played with two big pods hammering repeatedly down the middle until we had a two man overlap and only then should it have gone wide. Really basic stuff. Their pack should have all had to be air lifted to hospital and their fast elusive backs should have fallen to sleep and frozen to death. However that was not how it played out and we went down in home made flames.
Man of the match..Niall Phayer
Strong performances from Will Cossey, Josh Cook and Leighton Davis
Opposition voted Charlie Foreman their man of the match.
Dick of the day…Callum Dyson
Best tackle…Will Cossey
Tries..Steffan Newport 2; Niall Phayer
Conversions…Charlie Foreman 3/3
Written by George Hinchliff.