Exiles beat London French II 19 – 5, Saturday 18 September 2010, MMT Division 5 league fixture. Ian Thynne tells it how it was in the following match report.
First league game of the season. It was obvious that most people had prepared hard for it. The wingers looked like centres, the centres looked like back rowers, the back rowers looked like props and the props looked like, well props – just a bit bigger. But this was just the start, by next May this will be a squad of athletes, just in time for the summer drinking.
London French seconds were the visiting team, and the Exiles were more than happy to welcome their fellow exiles from across the pond. It was glorious rugby weather, and the Exiles were unbeaten in league fixtures for more than 4 months, which counting the last game of last season was a run of 1. Last season was less than impressive in terms of results but with a full team each week and a commitment to fulfil fixtures, the Exiles were an honour to grass roots rugby.
The first game of the season is always an odd affair, everyone’s kit is clean, there is plenty of tape to go around and someone has nice shiny boots to show off. Frankly, its just downhill from here.
London French were already out and warming up whilst the Ealing boys finished up their pre-match Guinness. London French probably regretted this decision, as a late referee meant they had been out in the warm Ealing air for over an hour before kick off. Ealing, the astute professionals they are, left it to the last minute to practice their warm up; the forwards went through line out drills, and the backs practiced confusing themselves with dummy double miss switch moves.
The game got off to a rip roaring start with big Phil (number 8), running straight and hard. The first proper contact with the big number 8 saw two French players leave the field covered in claret. It was Agincourt all over again, and it set the tempo for a tight, forward focussed game. The Ealing forwards were dominating the loose ball, and in number 10 Liam, the Exiles had a defence splitting runner who ensured the forwards were hitting rucks well over the gain line. Eff (2nd Row) seemed to be enjoying being back out in the thick of things, and T (flank) supported admirably by Ben and Pete were clearing out tacklers, and presenting good quick ball for Ealings player of the season and scrum half Stef McCabe to supply Liam with go forward ball.
Steve Richards was all over London French line out, well supported by the lifters, whilst the whole forward pack dominated the scrum, winning a couple against the head. But it was inaccuracy and lack of cohesion between forwards and backs that stopped the scoring. The backs outside Liam struggled to get going, and Stef was often presented with a messy 9 / 10 channel clogged with forwards. Phases 1 and 2 have never been a problem for the Exiles, but after that the game gets deconstructed the shape and momentum is lost. That said, it was a thoroughly entertaining first half, despite being 0-0 for so long. It was young Liam at 10 who provided the magic and with feet quicker than Ricky Hatton on a Saturday Night, he shimmied through the previously solid French defence for a well deserved try. The French fought back and only the upright prevented them from landing on the score sheet in the first half.
The second half saw much the same, only this time the Exiles were getting into a higher gear. Nonetheless, the Exiles were still guilty of butchering scoring chances, and it was getting edgy as the brilliant defence from the French looked like preventing further scoring, and as tiredness sunk in, the French attack started to get going. But with the forwards making good yards with powerful running and good clearing out, the Exiles were always looking dangerous.
Ealing scored next following a bizarre up and under by Mark R on the wing, which was less Up and under and more long and flat – it appeared to be flying out of Ealing let alone over the deadball line but strangely bounced on the try line and flew 5 yards back and to the left to end in a French lineout 5 metres from their own line. Steve Richards stole it and from the resulting mass of sweaty nonsense (ruck) Stef Macabe sliced through the defence to score a Captains try.
The French fought back and once again the Exiles were exposed when the game became broken following a loose kick. The scattered defence couldn’t regroup in time and the French went over for a well deserved score that started in their own half. 12 – 5 and getting edgy.
In realty though, the Exiles were pretty much in control provided they kept it tight in the forwards and maintained a good defence. Which they did exceedingly well, and it was fitting that young Liam had the final word with another scything finish to round off proceedings.
A good start to the season, and if the Exiles backs matched the level of the forwards, and if Liam commuted from Kendal every week, then the Exiles would be unbeatable. But what is guaranteed is that the Exiles will fulfil their fixtures, and will be a tough opposition for any one in this league.
A big thanks to London French who played their part in a thoroughly enjoyable game, played in the spirit rugby should be.
Link to the opposition’s match report.
Team: Barry Cousins, Fabio Krasniqi,Steve Richards,John Moore,Antony Lynch,Tom Laishley,Gautam Tamang,Ash Spencer,Phil Jones,Stef McCabe,Liam ,Ian Thynne,Alex Adide,Alistair Barnston,Afe Ogun,Mark Rutherford,Huw Rhys,Gautier,Ghassan Matta,Ben,Peter Rank