Exiles come to form finally on the Duke’s Meadow plains of Chiswick, recording a season high score against a side who beat us 33-0 back in October, taking the Exiles into the fluffy comfort of the mid table in the Middlesex Merit Table Division 5, still safe from being drawn into the play offs for promotion but still able to compete! After licking our wounds and working on anger management issues from last week we returned with heart, up for a tempestuous run out, and boy did we deliver.
The drive to Quintin’s pitches at the old Civil Service sports club was a daunting one. We’d just received a battering from Hammersmith and Fulham IV’s, the capable hands and skills of Toolan senior and Richards even more senior had had to back out of the game. A prop on loan from the Vets failed to make it to the club house. It was my birthday game, I’d be obliged to play hooker for this honour, no back row glory for me today! However, on arriving at Chiswick a few extras had crawled out of the woodwork. The starting scrum would have the Moore/Lynch 2nd row power house, Jareth at no.8, the mighty Gautier and MacSweeny propping up old Greenhalgh as hooker flanked by Fabio and Ciaran. The line was also not looking too shabby either Steven Jones‘s cousin (Spike) as scrum half Joost van der Westhuizen‘s cousin (Brandon), as fly half, yeah we thought we’d play them the wrong way round. Outside them Manus and Dave Morgan, wrapping them on the wings were Mark R and Adrian H on loan from the Vets , with the dangerous Madden slotting in as safe hands the full back.
On the subs bench we also weren’t looking too bad with Alun, Neal, T, John’s no.8 playing mate Jonathan, Tom, Afe, Alister.
The game started fast and furious and pretty much stayed that way all the way through. The Exiles pack was very dominant almost getting a push over try early on from 10 yards out, though sadly our no.8 had different plans by breaking early, much to the disgust of the front five, Jareth was penalised later on and made to play prop for the oppo!
Though the terrible discipline cancer that riddled the team last week did not raise it’s malignant head we still managed to give away way too many penalties and one of the usual suspects was on a last warning for various misdemeanors, still he committed his crimes with a very much more level head than last and so some praise is due and he did manage 80 mins of rugby! I’d had a word with Fabio before the game, discussing a safe word I could use to signify I wanted him to calm the hell down and desist from all illegal aggressive behaviour. He said "just say ‘You F@#&ing Albainan #@#!’ to me and that will calm me right down". As I say thankfully I didn’t have to and the difference in team play showed how well we can play without this aspect blighting our performance!
Quintin showed early promise by getting on the score sheet first with a simple penalty on their 22, the fly half threw a long pass to a chap with a long black ponytail, and he manged to sprint almost the whole of the pitch length without being troubled by the Exiles. As we lost by a heap of point to the hands of a fast back line last week this brought back bad memories. Thankfully the fighting spirit was strong and we got straight back in the game and started our own scoring spree.
Manus was first up with a well worked blindside move, setup by Dave Morgan, who believes he should get most of the credit, and rightly so. The next few came from the forwards with the front five touching down a staggering 5 tries, not bad for the mob normally responsible only for bumbling around between scrums and lineouts trying not to get in the way of the backs. These tries mainly came from offloading in the forwards and fast ball to second phase carriers. As top try scorer of the day and match report monopolist I must talk you through one of my tries, now are you sitting comfortably with a nice single malt on your favorite old leather chair? Good, then I’ll begin. Loitering a few yards of the back of a ruck Spike cleanly drew the ball back and fired it to me 22 yards out. I darted left out smarting the first man, then darted right and beat the next for a fine sprint over the line unimpeded. Yes that’s right a left and right side step, I didn’t know I had it in me. The other try was a more typical ball popped from 5 yards out smash over job between the posts. Then there would have been my third try near the end of the game. Though selfless as ever I allowed the last defender to tackle me as I popped it out to Eff who’s gut wrenching cry of "Nick" will haunt me to the grave. For some reason Eff thought I’d not pass, I think he though I was Reuben Butcher re-born as a 40 year old Yorkshire man! He was right to think that, passing is not my strong point, but today was his lucky day, and Eff finished the job with some gusto. The other three forwards tries also had my aging hookers finger prints on them last as I passed out to John Moore, Ciaran and Dave Mac, but I won’t go on and on about it. As Stef said "Jeez Nick you should turn 40 every week!" Barry turns 50 in April and so will have to show us all how it is really done. Did I also mention I was man of the match. Sorry I really will stop now.
As the half time whistle blew we were a little over 20 points over 7 and feeling very strong. With much anxiety wholesale changes were made to allow all the subs who wanted a game on the pitch, I think 5 or six changes made! This is the way the Exiles do it, though as captain on the day I had to say to Alex and Barry that they’d need to make the changes as I couldn’t bare it! Our last good win was a distant memory and we were doing very well, changing the team seemed a potential liability. How wrong was I to doubt the strength of the Exiles in the second half? Very! We actually scored more points in the second half than the first!
Back to the rest of the game. Afe made the scorers list with quite an entry, his try came from a line out turnover from Dave Mac which Spike managed to get hold of and attempted a Robert Jones type pass that came off to Brandon who put out a miss pass to Dave Morgan who passed to Afe who beat about 4 – 5 defenders for a great wingers try!
Congratulations are also needed for Alister who pinned his ears back and showed some stunning pace on the wing. The try was from the back line putting quick ball wide (when did this start !! ) and he cut inside his marker and used his gas to hit the space and scored another great wing try. Typically we use the Exiles wingers to enable easier communication with off pitch coaches to arrange things for the other plays, as Spike points out "we might have to start using them as wingers". It can be a lonely life on the Exiles wing, but not this weekend!
Quintin did manage to find a hole in our defences after a long siege on the Exiles line and scored their second try near the end of the match. But besides that the Exiles played with great heart and determination, I am pretty sure everyone had a some ball handling fun. T put in some more strong runs. Tom arrived with a black leather waistcoat, tie and large silver crucifix and also had a good game once he stopped this awful growling nonsense, he seemed to think it scared the oppo, as hooker I could feel he was sputting as much effort into his 2nd row driving as he was his growling, pushing his weight well. Though later in the game he sent himself off due to exhaustion and nausea, and on all fours retching on the sideline more resembled the transformation stage in American Werewolf in London, rather than nice young well dressed Catholic boy in Chiswick.
New player Brandon we hope to see again, his solid skills as fly half steadied the ship and worked well in giving the backs good ball from the solid pack.
Another couple of quotes from Spike further emphaisze this:
"The awesome forward pack who destroyed Quintin at the scrum and in the general contact area was the platform for all 15 players to get their hands on the ball, also the ball carrying forwards were looking for space rather than contact."
"Also big mention on discipline, massive improvement though still giving away pens due to lack of knowledge at breakdown, (staying on feet, not coming through the gate, punching scrum half etc), and Brandon’s 80 meter clearance kick CLASS"
Alun’s day however wasn’t the best as he sadly had to pop to hospital and would seem to have roken a rib or two, so best wishes for a swift recovery to Alun.
Great day for the Exiles, great day for me on my birthday match, great platform for the evening which saw my birthday celebrations continued at the Plough in Northfields until the early hours of Sunday with many Exiles old and new in attendance. My gratitude to you all for making my day awesome! Big thanks as usual to Quintin who as ever were great hosts and good fun during and after the match. We typically take it in turns to win against each other over the years, and thankfully it was our turn!
You’ll note the score at the top of the email reads 53 with 49 in brackets. We think that somehow the ref managed to confuse himself at some point and addition error took place. We think this occurred when one of Spike’s kicks went just under the cross bar, one player out his hand up and the two touches judges had their hands down, he initially gave us the 2 points and then a few seconds later took em away, and perhaps in this way somehow upset the scoring system he had. We tallied 9 tries and 4 conversions. The merit table points read 49 as that is what the ref stated, before we had presence of mind to question this and run through the card, hence the report states what we counted 53 with 49 in brackets.
Mark Davies (Spike) (4)
Brandon van der Westhuizen
Gautam Tamang (‘T’)
Mark Davies (Spike)
Jonathan (Sleepy’s mate)