Exiles squad came close to beating GWR for the first time in many matches, but sadly lost as GWR were awarded and successfully kicked a penalty in the last play of the game. Gutted Nick Greenhalgh reports from the back row.
Probably the worst effort in timeliness of the season by the Exiles, seems many Exiles are completely unable to read a time from an email and realise that it means what it says. At 2:00pm the due KO time we probably had about 10 players. Fortunately for us so did GWR. Both sides were thankful of the ref delaying KO by about 20 mins while we awaited those menacing stragglers.
We kicked off and entered about 15 minutes of brutal rugby where we were very much on the back foot and would typically have let several tries in. I had to leave the pitch for a few minutes after my ribs took a pounding from a tackle that I am not sure was in any acceptable law book. However, I am probably just moaning as my ribs are still giving me grief this morning. We managed to stave off the GWR attacks until about 15 mins in when one of their blunder buses got some momentum and fired through a ruck to and then continued another ten yards or so avoiding Exile defence to score a nice try.
Exiles heads did not drop, the tackling and our own attacks started to gain in strength. When we maintained possession things were looking good and we were making territory. Several phases of forward attacks took us close to their try line, where thankfully white line fever didn’t set in and we did manage to set up a final clean phase which saw Steve Richards getting the ball down for our first try. Sadly the kick was missed and we found ourselves at 5 – 7 down.
The fast paced play continued and the forwards found themselves getting more ball that usual as our scrum half of the day Alex K had recently returned from a 4 or may be 5 week holiday in NZ where fitness improvement may not have been the main goal. Several rucks ensued with no scrummy present. Though when Alex was there the backs did get some good ball, don’t want you all thinking he did a bad job now. Greg L took full advantage of not letting the backs get the ball from these rucks, putting in some nice crash moves on the open and blind areas of there rucks. The second half saw a tactical move of getting the youthful fitter Joe S into the no.9 slot where he too had fun in Stef’s absence.
The next try came in from the oppo despite valiant attempts by several Exiles to hold it up. Sadly the ref and indeed some Exiles saw it was a valid try. Others didn’t and Fabio took his frustrations out on the ball, hoofing it into the local council estate where it will no doubt spend the rest of it’s days. He will be providing a replacement in the very near future and will endeavour to be more controlled, won’t you Fabio! GWR failed to convert the try, and thankfully didn’t moan about any illegal ball changes! So things were still within reach.
We nearly conceded another try as an opportunistic GWR player managed to put in a series of down pitch kicks and chases that were only just thwarted by the pace of Andy M and Joe S who tore after it and him. The ball thankfully was kicked over the deadball line and we took a 22. James H spotted an empty area about 15 yards out from their line and did a masterful kick to bring us right back into their red zone, cracking kick. Then the usual suspect Jareth managed to make sure his try counter kept ticking by falling over the try line with a ball Joe selflessly passed out when he could quite easily have scored himself. Such a gentleman! Jareth’s rendition of his try deviated from this somewhat, but then again it would, wouldn’t it . James H earned his money this afternoon by slotting this conversion through the uprights.
At 12 – 12 with the clock winding down several of the team were being affected by the feeling the ref was seemingly allowing the oppo far more creeping offside and more lee way in the rucks. Tempers were shortening. This did us no favours. You can’t change the way the ref is going to ref the match by loosing your temper. You need to just put more effort into what you can do, and do that better. To be fair GWR were the more dominant in the loose and legally turned over a great deal of our loose ball. They were typically in pairs at each breakdown before we had support and it seems their training actually pays dividends as they were ripping plenty of ball of us.
As the final whistle was about to blow someone gave away a kick-able penalty and yup they kicked it! As it passed through the uprights full time was blown and we lost the game. A truly gutting result. Exiles defence was pretty strong for the most part of the game. Good to have Eff and Alex back from their World Cup jollies. Several backs ran some good lines under pressure, and caught all the high kicks the oppo tried to stuff down their necks in open play. Yet again though we failed to catch most of the restarts, which is as ever loosing us way too much territory! Frustrations here and there in the latter part of the second half of the game, I believe led us to this disappointing conclusion. The one positive is that I know we can do better, and I am looking forward to our next local derby with the boys from GWR, when hopefully for the first time in many matches we might end up with more points than them.
FYI – uploaded some days gone by Exiles albums where you’ll see many of this Saturday’s squad back in 2002 and 2003, we haven’t changed a bit!
Team and roughly remembered positions:
James Hitchcock (15)
Andy Madden (11)
Greg Life (1)
David Morgan (6)
Joe Southwart (13/9)
Alex Kruczkowski (9/14)
Anthony Lynch (4)
Barry Cousins (2)
Clive Lungley (12)
Fabio Krasniqi (2)
Jareth Keenan (10)
Julian Sweeny (8)
Marc Hubbard (5)
Neal Craig (13)
Nick Greenhalgh (7)
Steve Richards (3)
Peter Rank (6)