Exiles set the record straight against OI IIs in a game of many scrums and some cracking runs! Nick Greenhalgh reports from the open side flank and the front row.
Thanks to a delayed KO, the Exiles had a good 20 to 25 minutes warm-up which was well led by the sergeant major Danny, who did an excellent job of ensuring we started the match firing on all cylinders.
We started strongly and maintained much of the possession. Scrums were rife, too rife, as were injuries to our props. Within 15 minutes we had lost Greg to a damaged rib and then Ghassan to a back injury. Luckily it was my birthday match so I got the honour of playing hooker and Fabio manned up to shuffling to loose head prop. The expert scrum tactician Eff tinkered with the second row configuration to provide us a stable platform.
After ten minutes of battle we were awarded a penalty within easy reach of James H’s boot, and as it was a league match and as we lost last time against these fellas I took the decision to kick for the three points and settle us into a lead early on. James found his target! Barry was out of the country in Brussels drinking funny lagers so I knew I’d be safe, though I am sure I will face the wrath of his disappointment when he hears we kicked for points!
Shortly after the restart we struck again, this time with an awe-inspiring try orchestrated by the backs. From a ruck on our ten yard line Danny passed the ball to Paul T who started a back move that saw the ball go through three pairs of hands to Jez on the left wing. After making some ground Jez off-loaded back to Paul T who had come all the way over to the left wing in support. Paul T gained another 20 metres whilst miraculously avoiding stepping into touch whilst fending off a defender. Eventually the ball was spilled backwards and Alex K was in support to scoop it up, smash through the remaining defender and have an easy run in for the last 20 metres, with plenty of time to celebrate and then ground the ball under the posts. A successful conversion from James H and it was ten points to nil!
A couple of minor changes took place at half-time with Jez moving to number 9 and Danny taking a well earned rest. Chandra came in on the wing and proved a safe pair of hands under several kicks from the opposition number 10. However, early on the opposition took advantage of sloppy Exiles play and also kicked a penalty bringing us to 10-3. We responded pretty much straight away thanks to a cracking snaffle of the ball on the halfway line by back row Jonathan who popped it to elder statesman Steve R to make a few more hard yards before he in turn handed it on to Eff who used his 127 kg to drag several OIs over the line.
Up to 15-3 now, still not out of sight but getting there, then the opposition got another penalty and we were 15-6, looking more fragile… But not for long again. Poor OIs’ line-outs were a disaster: they seemed to lose all their put-ins. Sadly for them one line-out was on their five yard line and it got fumbled to ground in the channel close to touch where an ever eager scavanging Exile hooker in the form of Fabio made short shrift of nursing it over the line to bring us to 20-6.
After a few more scrums, seemingly we could not have too many this day, the game was closing down and the final glory run came in from Jonathan who whooped and bucked like a crazy horse charging in the final try of the match.
Great win for the Exiles, no cards awarded to us. A yellow was received by one of the OIs for punching Craigy in front of the ref, not the smartest move. The ref, Hugh, policed the game well, and unlike the disappointing game we had back in November we all left the pitch smiling and satisfied. Big thanks to OIs for giving us a good game.
We’re now 3rd in the MMT Division 5 league with 1st and 2nd place not being an unassailable number of points ahead of us!
Tries: Alex Kruczkowski, Fabio Krasniqi, Antony ‘Eff’ Lynch, Jonathan McKeogh
Conversions: James Hitchcock
Penalty: James Hitchcock