Exiles brave efforts in MMT Div 5 Semis obtained best result of the season v GWR, but not enough to secure a place in this years final.
Nick Greenhalgh reports.
The fact that the Exiles reached the Semi finals of our MMT division deserves congratulations on its own. We only secured our place there through the win in our last league table fixture last weekend. The first half of the league season saw us loose 5 games and notch up 2 wins. We were well down the table. But then we started to improve and managed 5 wins to 2 losses in the second half of the league table fixtures and did a lot better against the teams we got thrashed by. e.g. Chiswick Chiefs beat us 63-7 in October yet we lost only 16-0 in February! In our third game versus GWR we held them to 17-0 and really ought to have got on the score sheet. However, GWR are playing well and consistent this season having lost only 1 league fixture this season. GWR skipper Paul informed me our match was the toughest of the season. Last week international ref Wayne Barnes said he’d seen some great rugby from us. So we may have lost but I’m proud of how we have done in the closing months of this season. We’ve ended on the MMT Div 5 season on a positive note as far as I am concerned. We won 7 games out of the 14 league table games, compared with last season’s 1 win from 10 games!
Back to the game …….
The league semis bring with them a higher level of rules. For once we were restricted to picking a max of 20 players including 5 front row. The Exiles are not used to having to invoke any form of selection, other than not allowing those who have not played and are not at playing level on the pitch. Some players turned up in the changing room oblivious to this and having not read my emails stating the starting line-up and restrictions. Others called in late on Friday or very early Sat morning. All making my job more and more complicated. So apologies to the few who did not get a game, and thanks to those who played out of position and not for a full game etc.. We were very backrow heavy. Big thanks to Ed Moores, T and Ciaran for doing time on the wing and Jareth for stepping upto prop after Ghassan took a well earned rest.
The game was fast and intense. Big hits coming in from both sides. Testament to this is Andy Madden’s cracked sternum! We started reasonably containing the GWR threat, and often making advances. However, we had discipline issues again and a ref who was not keen on rucking illegalities as such we gave away a lot of penalties. Some folk just seem to forget what a entering from the back foot is, or that they need to at least feign to roll away after the tackle ( Messrs Tom Tom, T, Fabio take note!). We went a try down probably mid way though the first half, and still felt in contention. However, we were not breaking through the GWR defences and in the rucks and loose play GWR’s sizeable mass difference was paying them big dividends. Several players heads were far from calm and this was also hurting the team performance. As skipper, and as I’ve stated many times we need to not get wound up by any of the oppositions actions. When this takes place we let ourselves down, we lose structure and skippers have to spend way too much time in discussions with the ref, as opposed to being able to concentrate on the game. Next season I’d appreciate it if this was cut out. So we entered half time with a yellow card as a certain hot headed centre pushed the ref’s patience too far.
On the restart we came out on all cylinders desperate to get on the score sheet. We had some good breaks, the half time stoppage giving us a bit more energy. However, yet again we couldn’t quite break through all the way to the try line. In defense we still kept them a bay though. Everyone was keeping the pressure up.
Probably the best Exiles play of the day was from Mike Salmon who indeed leapt like a salmon to take a high ball at speed under great pressure from a considerably larger GWR opposer. Both sides were gob smacked by this display! Special mention to Eff who also had a great game, putting in some great hits and making some hard yards, and pulling off the front of lineout ball thrown into the bread basket move, whose code name I will not divulge, for the second time of the season.
At the end of the match I think we lost partly due to discipline/temper issues, partly due to GWR being an uncompromising outfit, and partly due to not realising the ref was going to penalise all ruck misdemeanor. Poor Ciaran was yellow carded a little harshly IMO, in the last play of the game as he was wedged yet again at the bottom of a ruck with pretty much no ability to move away due to cracking GWR pressure, may be he shouldn’t have been smiling so much from down there in a "Chesteresque" manner. The previous week the ref was clearer in shouting ball lost black, or green, and in doing this the team that had lost would desist from getting the ball and play would flow more smoothly. I think a similar communication and attitude to the rucks would have made our game smoother. Suspect the end result would have been the same though, sadly!
Well done to GWR, you have had a cracking season, and we’ve enjoyed reducing our losses against you. Good luck in the final v Chiswick on April 9th! Lets hope their 1’s and 2’s are playing at the same time and you get a fair crack at them. If you lose, we look fwd to trying to reverse our result against you next season!
As per the starting paragraph! I’m proud to be an Exile, cracking season, let’s build on it next season and ideally be of a quality ready to move up a league. We are not there yet, but we are getting ever closer!
Players and positions played:
- Steve Richards – 1
- Fabio Kransniqi – 2
- Ghassan Matta -3
- Anthony Lynch – 4
- Thomas Laishley – 5
- John Moore – 5
- Jareth Keenan – 6,3
- Gautam Tamang – 7, 11
- Alex Adide – 15
- Nick Greenhalgh – 8 – Skipper
- Stef McCabe – 9
- Mitch O’Callaghan – 10
- Scott O’Callaghan – 12
- Neal Craig – 13 + yellow card
- Andy Madden – 15, 13
- Mike Salmon – 14
- Ed Moores – 11
- Ciaran Doyle – 14, 7 + yellow card
- Jonathan McKeogh – 6
- Chandra Sekar – bench (sorry we didn’t get you on!)