Ealing Exiles undeterred by sub zero temperatures keep rugby alive at the weekend with a 28 – 10 victory over SODAM.
Skipper Nick Greenhalgh reports from the blind side flank.
Odds on for our game taking place were poor. Originally we were due to play at home, yet early Friday afternoon pitch checks and forecasts of minus many overnight and Saturday lead to all games at Ealing being cancelled. Soft snow on top, but solid mud underneath. The game seemed doomed, and I informed the lads. Stef pipes up – why don’t we play at Sodam. So I called Pete from SODAM, a team as rugby hungry as the Exiles and he made some calls, we redirected the ref, he redirected his assessor, I redirected the players, second pitch check at 10:00am, more txts & calls – game on!
Kicked off around 13:30 having agreed on a 30 mins each way game. We received the ball from the kick, John McKeogh running it straight up the guts of the SODAM boys. Made good progress though the snow and ice made for a slippery experience and knock ons were rife. Our scrum proved to have the edge on this slippery pitch, Fabio managed to sneak a fair few against the head. The man mountain that is Marc Hubbard moved from second row to prop making his debut as tight head, where he took to the position like he’d been destined for the role. First try came from Eff after several phases of attack. SODAM were helping us out by giving away many penalties, hard to keep on your feet in these conditions. James H duly converted it. Felt like we were the team in control, but then shortly after the restart we cheated too and gave away a penalty within kickable range of SODAM boot and the scores got closer 3-7.
Stef then got himself on the score sheet shortly after giving us a comfortable lead. James H converted again with no issues. Exiles had much of the possession but were still finding it hard to make ground. Half time came and went quickly thankfully. Barry decided to stay on the side line as he felt he was watching some great rugby and we were doing fine without him, he must have pre-empted the France Ireland call off that was to happen a few hours later and just wanted to soak up the visually stunning performance without getting his hands dirty.
Shortly into the second half SODAM grew weary of our lead and started mounting a series of attacks culminating in the big Pete Nolan firing over our line after we gave away one penalty too many. However, SODAM also had the misfortune of a couple of yellow cards. One for persistent penalty offences that was slowing play more than the ref could take, and the other for a tackle that involved James H having his legs lifted above the horizontal without being assisted back to Earth. James was fine and it was very doubtful that the tackler intended to hurt him, however, when a ref has an assessor on the sideline there was only one way the SODAM player was going.
We took advantage of the man down and managed several phases of white line fever on and around their try line. Sadly these ended in a phase too many and a knock on. Need to work on better communication and availability of forward pods in our coming matches. However, there was a sliver lining. They had the put in on the scrum, and did not loose it against the head, but the mighty Exiles pack put on the pressure and shoved SODAM back towards their line as the scrum started to fracture and fail Steve R managed to stretch out his foot and niggle the ball to the right of their scrum half just as it rolled over their try line. As a sneaky blind side flanker I saw it roll onto that white line and knew it was now fair game and dived through the failing scrum stretched out both hand and touched it down right. After a few nervous seconds the ref blew for the try! Great effort by the Exiles scrum, good work fellas, a true forwards try. James H slotted it again, 3 from 3!
The final try came from a great run by Andy Johnston as fly half. Took the ball on between our 22 and 10 yard line, side stepped a couple of their backs, took it up another 30 yards, with one man to beat and Exiles men left and right he drew the full back to commit, then he rightly ignored Alex K’s cries and shipped it to James H to finish the job. James touched it down fairly far on the right but nailed it all the same with a low snipers kick giving him a 13 point haul for the game.
Final whistle blew 5 minutes later than advertised as Pete and I decided the boys weren’t tired enough and should play a 35 minute second half.
Fun game in the snow. No hand bags. Well ref’ed. Topped off with cheap Guinness and watching England almost loose to Italy. Another day in paradise for the Exiles! Big thanks to SODAM for making this game happen and for being a cracking oppo and hosts! Big thanks to Hadleigh the ref for putting up with ref’ing the Exiles for a fourth time this season. His accessors liked what he saw and is recommending he ref’s the higher rungs of rugby ladder in future (apparently there are a few rungs above our step!, hard to believe), so this may be the last we see of the big Kiwi, good for him, and we can only hope his replacements are as good! But like with Wayne Barnes who ref’ed us last year, you never know what level you may be ref’ing next weekend. Apologies for the lack of reports in the last few weeks, but you Exiles know what you need to do… let me score more 😉
Anthony Lynch (Eff)
James Hitchcock (4)
Team – and rough position played:
James Hitchcock 15
Greg Holdsworth 14
Barry Cousins bench
Jonathan McKeogh 5
Julian Sweeny 8
Anthony Lynch 4
Fabio Krasniqi 2
Andy Johnston 10
Stefan McCabe 9
Clive Lungley 12
Steve Richards 4
Kean Marden 14
Marc Hubbard 1
Tom Bignell 7
Alex Kruczkowski 13
Nick Greenhalgh 6 (skip)