Exiles beat league leaders 25-5 in fantastic battle in Gunnersbury Park, putting the team well within reach of MMT5 semi-final playoffs!
Jeremy Inson reports from scrum half.
A trip away to Old Actonians had a number of Exiles’ stalwarts frothing at the mouth during the week as the desire to finally get one over our near-neighbours after two losses this season focused minds.
Quite how we lost twice previously was just one of the questions on everyone’s lips post-match after we controlled proceedings in impressive fashion and in tricky conditions to run out winners by five tries to one.
After the whole team went via the OA’s clubhouse, only to discover we were playing over the road at Gunnersbury Park, we were soon ready, onto the field and chomping at the bit. How much of that was to do with the frankly awful council changing ‘facilities’ and our desire to spend as little time as possible in them, can only be left to later generations to debate.
After chatty Danny got us thoroughly warmed up, it was indicative to see the OA’s slowly coming onto the field, so much so that kick off was pushed back by 15 minutes. Did they just not fancy the weather, or was a sign of a greater psychological malaise? Again, who knows and frankly who cares.
We kicked off with the familiar front row of Fabio squeezed between Marc and Steve Richards, with Eff and Julian in the boiler room. Captain Nick, T and the returning Pete Rank made up the back row.
Alex K moved into the flyhalf role, with Jez at scrumhalf. Neil, Mark, Paul and Clive made up the three-quarter line, with James H at fullback.
To say things didn’t start well would be a massive understatement. After OA’s retained possession from kick off, they kicked to the corner, where their young winger took advantage of James H’s and Clive’s confusion over where the touchline was and he scooted in to score in the corner.
It turned out that it was the young lads first ever rugby match and as such his first ever competitive touch of the rugby ball. Welcome to the great sport young man, but be aware that it won’t be that simple from now on.
In fact that was pretty much the young fellow’s final touch of the match as each and every Exile responded in the right way as we camped in the OA’s 22 for the rest of the half.
Most of the hard work was being carried out by the forward pack, with Marc and Nick relishing smashing the ball up in the close exchanges, while T and Pete Rank foraged like hungry moles to ensure we had plenty of quick ball to play with.
Fabio was held up over the line, but we were eventually rewarded with our first try of the afternoon when Steve Richards went over after the Exiles pack had been pounding OA’s line.
Steve R then turned provider when he popped the ball to the rampaging Eff from a line-out in the 22 and no-one was going to stop the big man on the hoof.
Halftime came and with it a number of changes, though with the scent of victory in the air Fabio decided that what he previously had to shoot off for could wait. It was indicative of the spirit coursing through the team in the sort of match that no-one wanted to walk away from.
At flyhalf chatty Danny came on for Alex K to provide one half of the chunkiest half-back pairing since Stuart Barnes and Dewi Morris were doing their thing nearly 20 years ago. In fact it was debateable which was the heavier, the half-backs or the front row. Again we shall leave history to ponder that conundrum.
With the pack unchanged it was much of the same. Whilst it wasn’t pretty it was highly effective and at no point did OA’s look as though they were going to breach our line.
When there were any balls over the top James H, Clive or Paul would clear up with aplomb. Despite the rain the backs had a fair bit of ball to play with and it was often their incisive running that put us into a position from which we capitalised with either territory or points.
Our third try came from yet another massive effort from our pack at the scrum to pinch their put in. T charged to the line, was stopped, but his pack swarmed around him, drove him on and when the ball went back Julian was on hand to dive over.
So tired, or emotionally drained was the big second rower that John Moore came on for him and duly went over for our fourth.
By now the backs were mixing it up as well and interchanging positions at will. It looked as though they were about to steal some of the limelight from the forwards when Paul had the line at his mercy, but he knocked on.
As the clock ticked on our dominance was total, even to the point that OA’s complained that we were pushing in the scrum (answers on a postcard please). Alex came back on for Paul, and as the pounding on Marc’s neck took its toll so Julian returned to the fray.
In fact it was the big man who had the final say as from yet more pick and goes close to the line it was he who eventually broke through to put the seal on a fine, spirited win on the final whistle.
Listening to the OA’s players in the bar, they talked about our off-loading and support play, so the more players who can make it to training on Tuesday or Thursday the better, because it appears that it is having a positive effect.
- Julian Sweeny (2)
- Eff 1
- Steve Richards
- John Moore
Team and positions played:
- Steve Richards – 1
- Peter Rank – 7,2
- Paul Havel – 14
- Nick Greenhalgh – 8,7
- Neal Craig – 13,10
- Mark Thompson – 12
- Marc Hubbard – 3
- Julian Sweeny – 5,6
- John Moore – 5
- Jeremy Inson – 9
- James Hitchcock – 15
- Gautam Tamang – 7,8
- Fabio Krasniqi – 2,3
- Danny Ford – 10,14
- Clive Lungley – 11
- Anthony Lynch – 4
- Alex Kruczkowski – 10,13