Cometh the hour, cometh the men, the boys, a few locals walking their dogs and the first cold (like, actually cold) day of the season. I would imagine pretty much the whole population of Twickenham who wanted to stand outside for a couple of hours were present. The numbers were reminiscent of the time Jacko dressed up as Father Christmas and offered a free five minutes on his lap….
Anywho, the weather was grim, the ground sodden and the fixture tough. Following Hammersmith and Fulham Spartans faced third place Hanwell (by virtue of one bonus point). On paper, our second toughest game of the season.
The meet time was a good one and a half hours prior to KO, which, in hindsight, was one of the pivotal points of the game! The lads were out into the pre-match warm up with a full complement and with their game faces ON. It must have been Captain Canada’s Whats App at 10.58 that morning telling the lads to switch on! As a wise man once said “Perfecting ones intellect causes one to speak less, and those words spoken will be adorned with wisdom” and this was the mantra with which C Mike led the lads from the off (on his captaincy debut I might add).
So, good warm up (required by the temperature alone), good numbers and KO was upon us. The two teams were trading blows at the off, getting a feel for the oppo in front of them. 10 mins into the game and Spartans began to turn the screw. Good territory and possession led to a penalty in their half which our man Dan duly slotted over. 3-0. Again, the lads secured the ball, began running the phases with strong running from the George and Dom upfront seasoned nicely with the light-footed speed from Kieran and Zac. Another penalty in their half. 6-0.
At this point it felt as though we could have descended into the type of game Hanwell wanted. Up the jumper, hit the guards. But no! It may have been Bill on the sidelines screaming “Systems!” or Rory bellowing “Phases” or maybe training is actually paying off but the first try of the game was quintessentially f-ing awesome. Phase 1. Yours truly (to be known as J-Dawg from now on), up the middle (that’s what she said), phase 2, back the other way with strong running from Callum and support from Ben and Stephen, phase 3…. Lo and behold…. SPACE OUT WIDE. Kieran to Zac to J-Dawg, looping pass over the out of position flanker, who later secure DOTD for Hanwell, to Arun in space. No one’s going to stop him with those yellow boots. Gas, side step, under the posts. 13-0.
Spartans kept the pressure on in what turned out to be an epic 40 mins. Five minutes later and Kieran went over. Again Spartans drawing the oppo one-way then the next to create space, all stemming from strong counter running by Matt at full back and great support from the loose forwards with Colt showing his slippery fish side-step pivot. 20-0.
Finally Hanwell managed to gain some possession in our half. They did exactly what we thought they would do best and their size showed its strength. After several phases hitting the guards, over they went. Not exactly a lapse in concentration but credit to them, they took their chance. 20-5.
Would this be a pivotal moment? Were we over performing? Were the tides turning? Not if George Flatman had anything to do with it. Our kick. Great height, short from Kieran and like a leaping Salmon returning to its spawning grounds upstream, George collected the ball. The forwards rampaged on, and on, and on, and less than a minute later someone had touched down off the back of a ruck. What a response. In the melee, it may have been Ben. I’m not sure. 25-5. HT.
What needed to be said? Well… not a lot. Keep it up. Phenomenal first half against a very good outfit.
The first 20 mins of the second half were, in a word, attritional. Hard hitting, wet ball, niggly scums / free kicks one way then the other. Leo had been storming since his belated appearance with some big hits and jinksy running, and for his troubles one of their players gave him a good forearm to the face approximately 1.85 seconds after he kicked the ball. It was a shit kick so lucky for Leo!! Anyway, penalty for us and the oppo took 10 mins on the sidelines. Leo didn’t see the yellow card as he was out cold but deserved an Oscar for convincing everyone he was only “winded”. All of this whilst one of his eyes rolled up to the back of his head. I personally thought ‘another nutcase, who happens to be from Ireland….coincidence… I think not’.
With a player advantage, we began to swing the game back our way. Following a good set of phases Bam found himself in open space out left (Phase 3 me thinks). No one ahead. Here we go. “First try since I was 16!”…… alas. Scoring a try isn’t as easy as running in a straight line whilst carrying a ball. Bam instead threw ball on the floor in what can only be described as a form of rugby Tourettes.
Thankfully Captain Canada came to the rescue and shortly after scored off the back of a ruck. 30-5. Phases were beginning to…. Phase out… and Spartans began doing whatever we could. With the oppo back to full strength we still managed to pin them in their half. With what most of us thought was two minutes left to play (not sure where this vicious rumor came from) we had a scum 10m out. With J-dawg now on the wing, which is a more outrageous transition from back row than Sam Bruges’ (or something like that) brief holiday to England, some move was called that would result in me getting the ball. Dan had other (arguably better) plans. He picked up the ball and ran blind, which it turns out, their flanker was! Sneaking past and over the try line. 37-5. At this point I started congratulating everyone on a great game only for the ref to inform us there were still 15 minutes left. Bloody two minutes left my left glute! I put down my now half full Stella and returned to the wing…. Ever the optimist.
Fast forward 15 minutes and we were where we were, just a bit colder with the effects of the Stella beginning to kick in.
In summary, excellent. With the elements and size of the oppo seeming to work against us two hours prior, we had dug deep and delivered from 1 to 20.
MOTM: J-Dawg for apparently doing more than I can remember... so modest.
DOTD: Bam for his love of not scoring tries.
I leave you with this… as one person once said “Start by doing what’s necessary, then do what’s possible and suddenly you are doing the impossible”
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