Star winger Ian Thynne reports the Exiles’ trip to Regent’s Park.
Saturday’s game saw the Exiles make the trip to Regent’s Park to play Belsize Park II. The previous game in the season showed the Exiles in brilliant defensive form against a well-drilled Belsize team: the result was a close encounter with Belsize’s attack edging past the Exiles 0-14.
This game was to go slightly differently. Having struggled much of the season, the Exiles once again failed to find a consistent team selection meaning more disruption to the starting line up. It is safe to say that if the Exiles had managed to get a consistent team together this season, we would be winning the league. It is safe to say that, because it did not happen and so no one can prove me wrong.
So in the complete antithesis to professional rugby, and probably Belsize rugby, the Exiles adopted a wait-and-see approach to team selection: the first 15 to arrive were starting. Thanks to a couple of lads from SODAM for helping the Exiles reach a decent squad size and giving us a fighting chance.
The conditions were perfect for running rugby, which given the previous confrontation, would favour Belsize. The Exiles kicked off and immediately found a flaw in Belsize set-up: a flaw that we got to exploit several times over – not securing the kick off. But unfortunately that was about the only area where Belsize were weaker than us.
Once they found their feet, Belsize dominated. The Exiles were manful in defence and there was no lack of commitment. But it was Belsize who would open the scoring (if you saw the title of this article, you know it was not the Exiles to open the scoring). A scrum on the Exiles ten-metre line to Belsize was carefully wheeled, opening up the blind side. Their nippy scrum-half picked and raced into a gap. A simple pass inside saw their fly half cross for an easy score. From then on things went from bad to worse – arguably the worst moment and turning point in the game was the injury to Steve R, his withdrawal some 20 minutes in probably cost us the game…
The Exiles had their moments, but a lack of collectiveness and teamwork was costing us. We tried playing a game from the base of the rucks, with individual charges gaining ground but lacking support. The Exiles won plenty of turnover ball, but it took so many to do it that the next player would be isolated and also be turned-over.
French Nic, playing his last game for the Exiles before shipping out to Holland, was trying his best to get the Exiles going, but the opposition had a very well drilled outfit, and gaps were limited. Belsize scored another couple of tries, the most notable and telling was their third. The Exiles had a scrum deep in the Belsize 22 which they turned over and instead of a Delon Armitage-esque aimless punt downfield, they ran like the wind. A superb cover tackle by outside centre Steve took their winger into touch five metres from the Exiles try line – not a bad return from the Exiles scrum. From the ensuing lineout, Belsize stole the ball and rumbled over. From two Exiles set pieces, the first ten metres from their line, we were now stood behind the try line again.
In the second half we did not fare much better. Confusion reigned as only 14 took to the pitch at the restart. This was amateur rugby at its best. Finally up to 15, the Exiles continued in a similar vein to the first half. With great defence and attack from first play, the second phases generally resembled chaos. Time and again Belsize would be stopped initially with outstanding defence, but quick ball would find the defence lacking organisation. Nonetheless, the Exiles kept going until the end of the game, and never once stopped trying. If the Exiles could match organisation to their commitment then frankly we would be world-beaters – probably.
On a positive note, the Exiles had Belsize well beaten at the restarts thanks to some good drop-kicks. Sadly, the league does not measure teams on restarts.
Bon voyage to French Nic and best of luck.