Saturday saw the Exiles travel to the pastures of Willesden to take on Kilburn Cosmos II. Nick Greenhalgh reports.
On paper the Exiles were looking like a reasonable side with all positions covered and a reasonable two substitutes, unlike last weekend where we actually fielded 27 different players much to the detriment of quality and consistency.
We arrived in good time and were able to warm up and pass the ball around for an unusually long pre-match period. Best of all, the teamsheet contained the name of long-missed hairy-palmed Exiles’ captain, Barry Cousins. Barry had been out of action having had an operation on his palm which required a skin graft from a hairier part of his body! Only Dave MacS arrived late, and as he is training for the Marathon des Sables he ought to be fined by having to run from home to our next match.
The scrum had a front row of Barry, Peter and Steve R (the Elder Statesman), a powerhouse Julian and Eff in the second row, with Chester and Stef flanking and me (Nick) at number 8. Out in the backs, the line comprised James O’B (9), Spike (10), Ainsley (12), Paul T (13), Michael T (11), Fabio (14) and Alun (15). The bench held Dave MacS (later played 7, with Chester moving to prop and Barry taking a break) and Marsh (second-half flanker; James O’B came off and Stef took the scrum-half slot).
The boys were pretty psyched up for the game for kick off and the game started at a frantic rate. Early on the opposition managed to get a scrum near our 22 and after a quick pick-up sent it wide to the wing where they managed to evade Fabio and run in a nice try (though they thankfully failed to convert it).
Shortly after this, Cosmos scored another try, this time passing it out wide to their winger whose pace again allowed him to evade many an Exile. The conversion was missed again and the Exiles were 0-10 down with about ten minutes played.
Barry left the field at this point and Dave MacS came on. This resulted in Chester getting an opportunity to continue to work on his propping skills (something I am sure he will miss once he leaves the fine West London boroughs and heads to Australia with his far better-half, Lou, at the end of the month). As is typical this resulted in many fracas with his opposite number, but which also managed to instil some more fight into the rest of the team. The scrum morphed into quite a force, allowing us to drive Cosmos back with reasonable ferocity on several occasions.
However, like a wounded animal fighting for life, the opposition struck back with a similar venom. I can attest to this as, at number 8, I attempted to pick up the ball, and just as my fingers reached it the opposition coordinated a massive shove which resulted in both packs trundling over my flattened body. Luckily my nose managed to protect me from serious harm. More luckily, Luton was not there to capture it on film this weekend.
So the Exiles engine room started to boil and the backs raised their game. Ainsley and Paul were running some good lines and making good in-roads. After switching ends, we had the benefit of the wind and slope. The Exiles took control of the game and started to shut the opposition down nicely. They managed to make hardly any breaks in the latter sixty minutes of the game. However, they did defend well, and we missed out on several overlap opportunities.
Finally after camping out on their tryline for several phases, Chester managed to get the Exiles on the scoreboard with a neat pick-up from the back of a ruck and a strong dive for the line: he was not going to be stopped from there! We missed the kick but felt things were on the up.
After a few more passages of play Ainsley managed to jump and skip and sprint his way through to the try line where he was felled just short, but with a fine long reach he planted that ball bang on the white line! The conversion was just a little shy of the uprights; well, according to Barry, who as ever in his impartiality, decided not to allow the kick despite the opposition’s touch judge raising his flag. You might think that if one raises and the other does not, we should get one point!
The Exiles now stood on the wrong side of a 13-10 scoreline but the scent of victory was in the air and it was palpable! Not long to go, though with the opposition fighting for survival, surely today would be the day the Exiles won their first league game of the 09/10 campaign?
Working hard again as a team, there were several breaks from the backs and some strong runs from the forwards, as well as several conversations between the referee, me, the opposition’s captain, Chester and his sparring partner. Steve R almost managed to cross the line but did not quite manage it, and time was fast running out. Cosmos then gave away a penalty not far from their 22 and the referee informed us that we had no time even for a line out. This was it, the last chance!
Offering the run to Eff, who declined, led to me taking the ball in hand on the first charge. I managed to hammer into the opposition and lay it back ready for the next pod to fire into the Cosmos defense. This went well, until I managed to get hold of the ball again and take it back into the opposition. I heard Paul T crying for the ball, turned and popped it to him. Sadly this was not the best pop nor the best catch, and the ball was knocked on for the final whistle to then be blown and put an end to what we felt would surely have been a great Exiles win. Defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory!
Having said that, the Exiles showed that they are getting there. We are having a hard time in these league matches but the quality of play on Saturday shows things are getting better! We should be proud of what we achieved, and not dwell too hard on our failure – the Exiles season is long! Bring it on!
After the match the Exiles were welcomed back to the Cosmos clubhouse where we were well fed and then beaten again in a boat race. They stitched our front runner (Pete) with fizzy lager! Dave MacS and I, with our warm Guinness, had no chance to put things right. Mind you they all had lager – I guess these Kilburn fellas are a different breed!
Even later that day, Chester and Lou put on a splendid do in Chiswick to celebrate the time they have had in the UK with their friends. As previously mentioned they shortly leave the country and head back to the hemisphere whence they came. I would like to give Chester a big Exiles thank you for all his work over the years with the Exiles, on and off the pitch. A mine of entertaining stories, some more self-deprecating than others, we will miss the big man but be thankful that the price of chicken will surely drop by many percentage points! Cheers, Chester!
|Kilburn Cosmos II 13||Ealing Exiles 10|