Exiles claw back a lead from 0 – 13 deficit only to lose in the final minutes by a point, in an enjoyable physical game v Uxbridge playing props in the fly half shirt and centres stuffed with flankers. Nick Greenhalgh reports from the back of the scrum!
After a dismal and disappointing game last weekend several Exiles were a bit down beat about donning the boots and getting back on the rugby horse, some didn’t even put on their Chaps! However, others were just plain up for a good run out as they were lucky enough not to play the weekend before. We slowly got to critical mass as the clock edged toward kick off. Thanks for that boys! Thing is we were very depleted in the backs category. Heaps of flankers and several fists full of front five. What to do! No one with fly half experience. Hmm we have this new prop who played for Oxford, hmmm he must be a confident fella I thought.. yeah he’ll do. Tom C didn’t shy away from the assignment and outside him I put a couple of flankers Joe S and Jonathan McK. Tom C wasn’t used to the pace of this role but played admirably putting in some nice straight runs, very much fitting the new crash fly-half mold the Exiles have been working on ever since Spikey started knocking on the door of 15 stones and scored our first crash no. 10 try against Newbury a few weeks back. As props were tiring and Jareth (normally backrow/prop/fullback!) finally made an appearance, Jareth put on the number 10 shirt and Tom C found himself in the more familiar front row territory.
The first half saw the oppo have several goes at goal from various penalties, sadly one of them succeeded, yet thankfully many failed. Also saw them miss a few tries with fortunate knock-ons and other errors. However, they did get a couple of tries past, and the Exiles found themselves 13-0 down at half time. The scrums never really stabolised for us, leading to Stef having his work cut out as I failed to control the ball for any length of time if at all, as it frequently squirted out at all angles from an often backward shifting platform. A few changes were made and somehow our fitness seemed amazingly to be better than theirs, or perhaps it was a better use of the unlimited rolling subs arrangement. We found we were able to make good progress keeping the ball in hand. Their defenses were still stubborn yet we finally got over the line from a no.8 pick up I managed to start which became a mutated scrum ruck as I never really managed to get out of the back of the scrum, T did a good job of talking me into releasing my grasp of the ball to let him manipulate it to the back of the ruck where a certain Peter Rank got hold of it and noticed there were no oppo between him and that lovely white line. He scored so quickly the ref didn’t see. But thankfully before the oppo tried to lift him up the ref saw it and blew the whistle with his arm in the air. Direct between the posts new goal kicker John McK missed with a drop attempt, sigh! But that said no one was volunteerng and have a complete dirth of anyone with no. 10 experience at least Jonathan stepped up.
The next try came in with a move in which Joe S showed he was a flanker well worthy of a centres shirt. He must have run 40 metres before getting caught just shy of the try line but thankfully Jareth was there in a great supporting role and finished the job. We were now at 10-13! With about 12 minutes to go. Another restart and another bounce! We were loosing heaps of territory due to certain players not manning up to catch the balls from kick off. This is an area several Exiles need to look at improving on. If the kick from a restart is not caught it allows the oppo to get right down our throats and make way more territory than they deserve. We need to attempt the catch, even if you knock it on, it’s got to be done boys, it’s killing me.
The third try cam in shortly after and as it was on the touchline, I am led to believe Jareth scored this too! Though without TMO we’ll never really know, really who scored this last try seems to be a matter of hearsay…. I was not expecting Jonathan McK to get it through, given his miss right in front of the posts, but with that ball on a tee he gave it an almighty hoof which must have been 40 feet up through the middle of the uprights. The kindly Uxbridge touch judge swung his flag low, but the ref had none of it and we moved to 17-13 up with 10 minutes to go. Fantastic kick!
However, both teams knew the clock was running down now and the tempo increased. Attacks were coming thick and fast. Some cracking runs and good defense. However, as time was running out the oppo scrum half I believe tore through a small ruck and managed to evade my grasp and that of anyone else bringing the oppo up to 17-18 with 2 minutes to go. We tried in vain to mount a counter attack but time was not our friend as the ball went out of play and the ref whistled an end to our hopes.
Exiles showed great spirit in this match coming back from 0 to almost win in the final twenty minutes. Not to mention fielding a back line with only 3 specialist backs (Stef, Alex N and Dan). Lots of good runs, especially from Dan A. Even saw Barry firing a lovely straight line into their backs. Though, not quite enough support was present as Dave Mac pointed out succinctly (probably a fitness issue we need to work on), no where near enough balls in catching the ball from a restart! We would have won for sure if only Chandra had not overrun a pass from Jonathan McK as this lovely flanker/hooker combo out in the outside centre / wing position failed to make the linkage. Just kidding. There were hundreds of we would have won if only moments. Not to mention the hiding we could have had if they grounded the four tries they fluffed and kicked numerous penalty kicks they missed…
Those back-row and front-row boys playing in the backs showed you can pretty much interchange the Exiles forwards and backs with consummate ease such is the wonder of our versatility. Sad result after all our work, but a good afternoon at the office, followed importantly with some well earned Guinness, and some other liquids which Tom Tom, and Tom managed to imbibe in an almost intravenous fashion from what looked like a 3/4 inch copper pipe attached to a plumbers stop/go valve, a yard of pipe and a funnel. Big thanks to Uxbridge who hosted the game at short notice and provided us a quality oppo, cracking hospitality and some dubious pints! Looking forward to the return match where I hope we get the point in our favour!
Jareth Keenan (2)
Jonathan McKeogh (1)
Barry Cousins (skipper 1)
Nick Greenhalgh (sub skipper)