Do not think that the score line represents a runaway bonus point win in this Middlesex Vets League match. This was brutal, physical rugby at its best; there is no need for a Rev Sudworth military, euphemistic tank-filled eulological match report. A proper derby atmosphere hung over the Grasshoppers’ Sky coveted pitches, which were looking pristine in the late February floodlit crisp evening light. However, it was the Evergreens that flew out of the blocks after an intense Ninja Jacko led warm-up allowed us to dominate the kick-off with a sweeping backs attack down the left flank. Domenico nearly completed the job in the corner but was cover tackled well. His misinterpreted post-tackle phlegm-clearing activities (meant to be benign) led to an early exchange of handbags & a cause of consternation amongst the home crowd.
It was not long before we registered our first score though as recycled ball from forward activity in the right hand corner was spun left with Damian side stepping the advancing defence to score a self-converted try. Subsequently clean line out ball won by Pup was driven strongly forward and spun to Steenie who, although he didn’t quite have the legs to finish, performed a pristine switch to gasman Mike Whitehead touching down between the posts for a simple converted try. 14-0 at half time did not mean a relaxed halftime talk, with focus on sustaining the high first-up tackling quality and continuing the simple but effective game plan.
Early in the second half the BA-delayed Beck demonstrated his continuing on-field value to the team by punching the ball up the middle of the park and putting in some important cover tackles. Added to this was our jackling back row trio lead by Mayo, a constant thorn in the home side’s side. In the meantime, Jacko was doing a passing representation of a flailing ballerina under the high ball for a second time, air-shotting the ball rather than using the simpler catch technique so favoured by other fullbacks.
Grasshoppers’ strength was certainly in their front five and a stolen Evergreens scrum on the Ealing line allowed a hefty blindside attack at Fingers who was unable to prevent a try but the conversion bounced off the crossbar. The Evergreens responded well with a Pat try resulting from a quick penalty tap that was majestically converted, Farrell-style, by our eventual MOM Fingers. Another score by skipper Jake followed after sustained “fire & ice” defence allowed a passage of open pop passing play. Jake stayed strong to the line, bringing his flailing defender along for the ride. Farrell then deserted Fingers as he sliced his conversion; 26-5. Our last try came from an unfortunate drop by the Hoppers centres, with Pup scooping up the ball and putting Eddie over in the corner, no conversion but a satisfying 31-5 victory.
Hats off to the Grasshoppers Vets team who remained strong throughout and were unlucky not to register more points were it not for poor decision-making in the red zone. Perhaps the post match “monkey brain” was in place before the DOD presentation (well done shoeless & hamstrung debutant Dave Budge)? We are now top of the table so next up will be a home play-off semi against Uxbridge or Fullerians on the 17th of March, with a possible final on 7th April. Mark your diaries and let’s see if our Italian stallion (Giovanni) can be repatriated with a title unlikely to be bestowed on his professional countrymen anytime soon.