Saturday’s game saw the Exiles take on close neighbours Old Isleworthians. Arriving at the club in beautiful sunshine, the 9 Exiles to have turned up were making way through the pre-match guiness hoping that they would not have to play 15 aside with 9, but then the prospect of 7s even with two subs was equally unappealing. Then arrived the cavalry; in dribs and drabs, but each to a very warm welcome.
By game time, the Exiles were up to 4 subs, although with Andy Madden wearing the wrong contact lenses, it was difficult to count him as being fully there. Kick off was greeted by a downpour which hampered running rugby; but undetered, the Exiles set about their opposition in rip roaring form with strong running from Malik, Ed Moores, and encouraging (?) vocal support from backs coach Barry Cousins on the sidelines. The Exiles soon found themselves camped in the oppositions half with more possession than they knew what to do with – almost literally at times.
Steve Richards was a welcome addition to the pack alongside Dave McS who was providing an energy that the Exiles have missed at times during the season. It was infectious, and with Stef ‘World Player of Year’ McCabe playing at 9, but tackling like a flanker, Malik carrying hard, and Scot making yards at 10, the Exiles were all over the Isleworthians.
The rain meant handling was tricky and on the few times the ball was turned over, the Isleworth 10 was struggling to make yards with the kicks. Consequently much of the first half was spent in Isleworths 22.
Despite the pressure, the Isleworth defence did not buckle easy; they rarely missed a tackle and made it very difficult for the Exiles to get over the white wash. On top of that, the Exiles were guilty of butchering a couple of try scoring opportunities through an inability to work out what wingers are on the pitch for. In one particular phase a 4 man overlap was squandered on two occasions as the runner opted to run back inside to get hit as opposed to passing it along the line to score easy. Mark R on the right wing would be forgiven for taking a leaf out of the tube workers and going on strike.
Finally, Paul Toolan added some intelligence to the battering of the Isleworth line, by hitting the short side at speed and helped out by Afe’s weight, the two powered over the try line for well deserved score.
The second try was an opportunist’s try. Following more sustained pressure on the Isleworth line, a turnover led to Isleworth possession, and just at their 9 was about to clear the ball, Stef ‘Players playing player of the year’ McCabe ripped the ball clear and dotted down for a very well deserved try. Alex A converted.
The rain stopped for the second half and the Exiles carried on where they left off in the first. Steve Richards was ruling the lineout, Ed Moores was enjoying the forwards going forward and Malik was like an ox on heat in the loose. In one phase of play T epitomised the energy with a tank like drive putting the Exiles on the front foot; from the resulting ruck, T picked up and put in another barnstorming run – it’s not entirely clear how he managed to take it in and take it out, but it was bloody good to watch.
Despite all the good work, the Exiles were still struggling to breach the last line of outstanding Isleworths defence. Spike was now on at 10 and conducting play like a glorious Welsh 10 from the 70s. Nonetheless, there was still a lack of precision in the 22. Forwards were still guilty of clogging up the backs and returning to the warm embraces of the opposition tacklers as opposed to letting the centres and wingers go round them. Consequently, with 15minutes left there was still no second half score but there was little threat to the Exiles line.
Finally from another sliced Isleworth clearance, Ian Thynne found some room in the five metre channel and a little chip ahead saw the beleaguered Isleworth forced into touch for a five metre lineout. Then there was one of those typical forward’s pile on which seems to lack sense to most people and Dave McS emerged from it smiling like a banker with a bonus. 5 points turned to 7 when Alex A nailed the tricky conversion.
More Exiles possession saw the game to a close, with couple of further lost opportunities to get the ball wide but with every other facet of the game commanding a 10/10; except Barry’s shouting, that just about reached 3/10 at its peak.
A very good performance from the Exiles with everyone playing their part. A 19-0 score line didn’t reflect the amount of possession the Exiles had, nor the territory. That said, the Old Isleworthian defence was very impressive all day, and there was nothing soft about any of the tries conceded.
Finally, a special mention to the referee who went the whole game unnoticed – there is no greater compliment.
Well done to the lads. Onwards and upwards.
Tries: Paul Toolan, Legend McGabe, Dave Mac Sweeney
Conversions: Alex Adide