The beginning of the play-off system in Herts/Mids 2 had been a nail biter to get into, and was a complete nail biter to start with. T's looking to reverse all the lost fixtures, funnily enough against all the teams sitting above them, by the smallest of margins. What can only be described as a justifiable game of ages, many a player stood up and earned their shirt.
With the Spartans game off due to lack of dry pitches in the Twickenham area, the 1XV fielded a very strong team to gain revenge on the French. However, many an implication was in place before the first whistle. No shirts on both sides, but we were fortunate to have ours taxied over before KO. Then the French remained in their changing room for what felt like an age.
Eventually, KO came. A high bomb from Kieran, a great chase from the pack. The game was on. With the contact rousing, and the referee very quick on the breakdown, we immediately forced two quick scrums. Unfortunately the link move was called back for obstruction just as space began to open. The kick to touch was missed and gave Jonno the chance he dreams of, but good ankle tackling prevented him from advancing.
However, when we had a penalty with 5... everybody must note it was five minutes on the clock... a kick to the corner and a driving maul were a go. From what was a secure maul, the French somehow stole the ball and broke down the touch line of their 22. What followed was a moment of sheer stupidity from your truly …. Reading the pass early, caught man and ball very well, but proceeded to body slam (more of a Spine Buster) the player into the ground. Not my finest hour …
Scuffle. Whistle. Clock off. Player and Captain please. Deemed a spear tackle, I was given my marching orders, and stomped off like a baby throwing his toys out the pram. A baby wearing very tight tight tight shorts…
Down to 14, what came next was unreadable. The French cleared the lines and from the next lineout, they played up the middle and then back down the right, using some great off-loading work. With the line beckoning, Resident Superman Wiggles dived in to hold up the ball. I was praising the Gods of Rugby to anyone who was standing still and listening on the sideline... No one really. Scrum and the French went wide, but great drift D pushed them out and look for the space inside. Another off-load and again, a beckoning line. Call on Super-Wiggs again! Man and ball, held up again.
A free-kick to us at the scrum and Kieran didn't need a call from the skip. Go long and keep it there. The boy with a howitzer for a leg cannoned the ball almost 80m and the chase from Joe 'Sonic the Hedgehog' Morgan and Jonno 'Roadrunner' Chandler caught the full back and forced a penalty. Captain Rory called for the corner and force the mail. But it took longer than expected, with three penalties back to back in the red zone, something was coming. However I would not have another friend in the naughty box on the referee's list as a clean catch and drive, with Birthday Boy Callum Godden give a good amount of bark and even Jonno getting involved, carried Colin Coogan over for his One Billionth try for T's 10m from touch. Jonno unlucky to miss the conversion by a metre or so. 0-5.
From the kick off, we collected and took our time in working the ball in field before kicking long again. However, the French back three read this early and counter attacked, before foraging into our 22. A knock on, a let off. Scrum, another T's free kick. But then a moment of poor execution leading to poor play, the free kick was shanked, and gave the French a good platform to attack from. Hard ball carrying from their 8 and great support play, set up the a well worked try. The ever accurate 12 knocked over the conversion and 7-5 the score.
From the kick off, another bomb, and an almost big shot from Wigg-El, the last son of Krypton. But the French off-loading game was beginning to flow and ran them from just inside their 10 to mid-T's 22. A penalty for offside and the French called for the posts. What should have been a simple knock over for the known accurate boot, was a massive miss, and let our brave 14 off. How things may come to haunt players under pressure. But more on that later…. Cleared lines and a long patch of solid defense from us saw out the half.
Brave words from the Captain at half time. Attack from everywhere. Throw in the kitchen sink. We have nothing to lose. From the kick off, we looked very shakey and started the second half as we finished the first, with the French working on trying to squeeze the energy out of us. However, this led to great work at the scrum base between Marc Lynch and Callum, helping to relieve the pressure and earn a line out on half way.
The French threw poorly. The T's stole well. The back line with the return of Nobby (sorely missed) used excellent hands to set up in midfield, with big carries from Sam 'Bam Bam' Burlinson and Chris 'Soups' 'Tramp, I'm the secretary' Vinson, saw us get the go forward and split the French before Nobby drifting a lovely ball to Dan 'Goose to your Maverick' Jones hitting the line at pace and carving through for a quick 20m and from the ensuing ruck. We were awarded a penalty for hands in. A kick to the corner and an early sack on Mike 'Jumps like an Angry Candian Salmon' Jury should have wantoned a penalty but no. Still, the boy dusted himself off and as we have seen him do many a time this season, turn from mild mannered nicest guy you know to 'Get your hands off him you bitch!', hitting the next two rucks and lifting the intensity with Soups and Coogan. We won an invaluable penalty to the left of the posts. With free ball, anything goes... Or at least the Brothers Morgan believe so. Kieran not even stopping to look (probably because he read it psychically... Sibling intuition, y'know) caught the pass from Callum and kick passed to his younger brother, catching it on the full and scampering over 10m to the right of the uprights. A little unorthodox but sing when you're winning! Jonno added the extras and we sat 7-12 in the lead.
But from the restart, we failed to collect and allowed the French to drive into the 22 and set up great attacking play only to again have Lance 'Less cards than Tramp' Davies to snuff it out. A great long hoof from Nobby drove us down to the French half. However, where the defense had been great, it faltered. The French returned to their offloading game and worked a full 80m move that pushed back to our 22. Where other teams would have executed though, a fluffed pass ruined a try opportunity. Notwithstanding this, the referee called play back for an offside and the French took the three. 10-12.
A long restart and the 14 men in red were tiring and more missed tackles allowed hard running to move play back into our 22. A call for obstruction was ignored, and very good running lines allowed the French to score 15m from the sticks. The simple conversion however was missed, clipping the posts and out. 15-12.
Kicking high, our T's boys forced the eventual kick and with pressure rising, the once reliable 12's boot hit the ball out on the full and as it was passed back into the 22, we had a platform. The line out again was pulled down early, but the ball was shipped through the backs and with the extra man against them, a simple drift would have sufficed. But with ball in hand, Joe Morgan is one of the most scintillating and exciting runners to grace the grass with his feet. In what can only be described as a sliver of light with three defenders approaching, Joe gave it the show go, stop and go, see later bye bye shut the gate you won't catch me! Footwork, acceleration, dive, try time. A touch line conversion sailed wide unfortunately but still a lead is a lead. 12-17.
Again though, a poor restart gather gave the French possession and led to a penalty in front of the posts. This time the 12 confirmed the kick and we were behind again. 18-17. The 14 T's men refused to let another game slip and a short wide restart was knocked back by Lynchy, gathered by C-Mike, secured by Coogie Bear, whipped wide but Jonno couldn't beat the one on one. However, what he didn't win in space, he won in contact and whether the opposite winger will say he made the tackle, I'd like to think he will remember that he definite was hit by Jonno. Alas, the referee penalised us and the French moved into our half. Following a knock on at the line out, three scrums followed, a knock on for both sides and then an additional from the French 9. The 8 obviously unhappy with the decision spiked the ball and shouting at the referee, in what I can only describe as a fluent Parisian was Crazy Gibberish, gave us the penalty. A long kick, a line out, again, a platform. But the line out was lost and in a moment of confusion, a knock on gave the T's pack a second start. But from the scrum, great hands from Lynchy to Callum gave the youth and Joe Morgan 10m to make magic, finished in a little grubber that was eventually knocked on 5m out from the French line. Callum blowing and need of composure, the one man bench of Mark 'Slash' 'No, being sick is a good sign' Slater came on for the final five minutes. Working the ball wide, another kick in behind was used but not wide enough to allow Jonno the use his pace to steal, instead another important tackle and with that, the game seemed to be ever falling away from the 14 men of Thamesians.
But remember, Fortune Favours the Brave. The rugby gods smiled upon the boys and placed a second row at 9 for the French and a poor pass nearly resulted in a try for Super-Wiggs or Lance but instead resulted in another 5m scrum. From here, Slash looked to give it the eyes and drove for the line, Lynchy and Lance securing. Soups and Coogs picking and going. Rory securing. Whistle. Penalty. T's. Shut the Front Door! Rory grabbed the ball, calmed the nerves. Posts please, Jonno please, points please. No fear, no worries. Sweet as a nut. The kick split the uprights. 18-20. The kick off though was an issue again, and of all things a penalty. Two minutes left. Up step the 12. Rory O'Reilly was happy to tell me after he feared it was deja vu when the referee blew. The kick was long, straight, towards the posts. The clearest call from behind the posts. "NO!". One minute left. 22 drop out. Kick long. 50 seconds left. The French returned it to half way. 40 seconds left. Tackle. Tackle. Tackle. 20...10... Knock on! Look at the watch! Go on the clock! The final whistle! The 14 men playing 75 minutes of backs to the wall rugby had done it. Revenge served! Not the prettiest but the greatest team performance to have seen, and as an away game, having massive support on the sidelines was brilliant. Having mentioned all players it is odd to not have mentioned much of captain Rory 'Maverick' O'Reilly. The man did it all, carries and clears, tackles and line breaks, and galvanised a performance that showed the team can perform under pressure.
For those that watched, it was a great game to behold, for those that didn't, this game will go down in T's legend. As will my new naughty chair. Full swing in the clubhouse and wild ramblings of a wild lion roaming Putney and roaring at random strangers were the stories of the night. Great win and up to 5th.
Tries - Coogan, Morgan x 2
Conversions - Chandler
Penalties - Chandler
1. Sam Burlinson, 2. Colin Coogan, 3. Rory O'Reilly, 4. Chris Vinson, 5. Mike Jury, 6. Lance Davies, 7. James Irwin, 8. Marc Lynch, 9. Callum Godden, 10. Kieran Morgan, 11. Jonathon Chandler, 12. Michael Griffiths, 13. Dan Jones, 14. Joe Morgan, 15. William (Nobby), 16. Slash
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