Chaucer may have wrote of a Pilgrimage to Canterbury, but our modern day heroes' travels on the road to re-affirmation took them to Medway on what was an uncharacteristically bright and sunny Saturday afternoon. The first item worth mentioning is how the adult male in his forties reverts to a boy-racer when giving the opportunity to travel in convoy to a destination. Once there, most of the chaps seemed in fine spirit waiting for the alleged stars to make a dramatic entrance sometime after the supposed meet. The next item of note is that the valuables bag of the vets seems to weigh a hell of a lot more than it did in our 1st XV days.
Alas, we were without Tom Ball and his whirling dervish of a camera for this game and thus, without pictorial evidence of the events things may be out of sync but I’ll try and describe the to and fro of the game in as good an order as I can. There was some consternation from the chaps as an overly keen outside centre enforced a warm up drill and some stretching; the idea of a brief handling drill to get the coordination and communication skills going soon descended in a keystone cop farce and the stretches seemed to bare an uncanny resemblance to a lama class for the amount of groaning that was evident. The things we men go through...
A few changes were made from the side that beat Sevenoaks; SIMON THOMAS debuted at fly half in place of the injured Steve Ivil (broken finger – tripped over Porky in the last match), Phil Davis moved to fullback in place of Kevin Humphrey who had a limp Quasimodo would be proud of thus allowing Paul O’Dea (pronounced O’D, like the dog in the Garfield cartoons) to move on to the right wing and OLLIE HOBBS moved to number 8 in place of the work-tied Whitford. Dave Tasker was again selected at hooker and was mocked heartily for being a less than three-minute-wonder last time out.
And there were some new old faces on the subs bench. The ghosts of games past turned up in the shape of Murray Skillman and Sean Leak; MARK AYTON returned to the fray and ANDY COONEY made himself available, possibly because the game kicked off at noon and thus he would only miss a few hours of opening time. From the kick off, Sidcup were encamped in the Medway 22” and stayed there for 95% of the first half. Some mean-spirited supporters have suggested that only 30 minutes a half was played, but I can assure it felt like a heck of a lot more. Sidcup showed they were a well-mannered bunch, by apologising to each other for knock-ons, loose passes and giving away penalties, which took up most of the first half. Of the selection of penalties that were conceded coming in from the side was quite prevalent and a tad harsh given the effect of age on the peripheral vision, plus not releasing the ball on the floor which seems to suggest abandonment issues and the personal favourite “not rolling away” which is a bit like asking a Weeble to do a headstand. Anyhow, Sidcup got plenty of practice at their scrummaging technique and were even allowed one put in the half themselves.
The lineout worked as smoothly as it did in the Sevenoaks game which has given us cause to research if a “no man lineout” is illegal. Getting fourteen blokes to stand 20 metres and lobbing a ball in the middle sounds a far more fun way of restarting the game, maybe with the hooker even shouting “scramble” to kick matters off. Despite these irrefutable facts, Sidcup had a plethora of possession which was distributed either willy-nilly or in the least viable direction, but all in good fun. Thomas at fly half linked well with NEIL WATKINS at inside centre, even shouting coded messages at the rest of the back line, none of which meant anything to them. On occasion the ball got out to the three quarter line it was more through misfortune than planning. One particular pass from Thomas to his supporting wing and centre lead people to believe he has an imaginary ten foot friend called Whiskers who he thought was running along outside them. When is a miss pass not a miss pass? When there's is no one on the end of it. Little is known of Neil; it is believed that he played either hooker or flanker for a West Country (-ish) side called Chippenham, which is derived from the more familiar English phrase, Ham N Chips. Of his youth, we now nothing but it is suspected he is an only child as he is not very good at sharing the ball.
On the first occasion Medway ran the ball out of their 22”, they made it to their 10 metre line before getting thumped by the Sidcup back line. Occasional clearance kicks where either effectively run back at the goal line or made little ground; one such kick landed in the hands of Phil Davis who produced a spectacular hand off that took his opponent clean off his feet and thereafter to the sideline from where he watched the rest of the game . After 25 minutes pressing for a try and getting inches from the line, the Sidcup pack gathered themselves on the Medway 22’ and begin a rolling maul of Olympian effort, moving the point of attack swiftly from left to right as though one great osscilating mass. The ball eventually fell into the hands of the ever present Dicky (Nooooooo, I do look good in this jacket) Leamon who choose to do an over dramatic dive from 2 inches out to score. Davis, resuming his kicking duties, missed a sitter from no distance at all.
Enlivened by finally getting over the line, the half time tactical team talk (say that quickly several times at eleven o’clock on a Saturday night) consisted of the usual “we can do this – who wants a breather.” Super wings Cooney and Skillman took over the winging duties from O’D and Chris Orford, Tasker received a round of applause for making it to half time and was replaced by the equally ever youthful Sean Leak. Former Vet MARK AYTON returned to the field of play for the first time in some years and had an immediate effect on the scrum and also won the award for the most tanned Sidcup player on the pitch. Sidcup went straight back on the attack from the kick off and after a reasonable period of time, Leamon scooted over for his second try of the match, all entirely due to the hard work of the pack. Davis carried on where he had left off from the first half. This may or may not have been after ANDY COONEY scored with a bullocking run from a Leamon break down the blindside of a ruck. This also may or may not have been after Andy had been held up over the line by the smallest man on the pitch. Either way, it was definitely before he left the pitch claiming to have broken a toe or, as most suspect, having suffered a sudden case of exercise-induced gout. Further changes where enforced when Phil Davis, energetically and rather foolishly chasing his own kick up a long way up field was suddenly noticed pole-axed at the Medway end of the pitch several minutes later clutching the back of thigh and claiming to have discovered his hamstrings (a word long since confined to history in the playing careers of his team mates and thus considered a dubious claim to the point of heresy). A quick bye-election was held and former openside flanker, now daring-do outside centre Egan was the only one idiot enough to be willing to stand at the back of everyone else. Mr Skillman’s turn of phrase in declining the position cannot be printed in these pages.
From this vantage point, Mr Egan merrily watched the game, occasionally doing a little jig to pass the time and cheering on his team mates in the distance. It was noticed that skipper Paul “Porky” Britten was harshly penalised by the referee for jumping into his opposite number at a lineout, when in truth it was the only time he had jumped straight all day. However, he redeemed himself sometime later when popping up in support to crash over for the fourth try of the game from some considerable distance out; the distance to be considered being approximately five yards. With Davis being off the pitch, most of the team legged it away from the ball leaving Dangerous Dave the man closest and thus in charge of hoofing duties. To be fair, he missed but by no more than Phil. Another notable effort at scoring included Nick King suffering the same indignity as Cooney by being held up over the line by the shortest player on the pitch.
Other highlights of the game include newbie fullback Egan monitoring the game from entirely the wrong field position, watching a high ball bounce ten yards in front of him, collecting the aforementioned kick just prior to the Medway chaps getting there and then proceeding to kick the back both backwards and sideways, thus catching all of his teammates offside and giving away a penalty. In truth, the only thing he caught all day was the sun. In the final ten minutes of the game, Medway formed an attack from just outside the Sidcup 22”, somehow confusing the first line of defence and catching Egan woefully out of position again. The foot race to the line was won by the Medway player, though if Egan hadn’t sworn repeatedly before starting his run, he may have caught the attacker before he crossed the line.
The final whistle blew and the Vets Class of 2012 had won their second fixture of the new era. Plaudits to all who played and even those that came to watch, even if they laughed cruelly through out (Anderson and Price, as club officials you really should be ashamed of yourselves) There were no doubt other mentionable moments and I apologise for missing anything that happened, but it is nigh on one in the morning and I am only doing it now to prevent another Porky bout of Yoda-speak. He thinks syntax in something they charge in Amsterdam. Anyway, good work all who were there and played; great bunch of guys and a privilege to be part of it. Hopefully, when we hear from the chaps who organise the competition, we’ll ask what round we are in next time and who else is in the competition.
NEWSFLASH - NEWFLASH - NEWSFLASH.
You couldn't make it up; it has now be confirmed that the vets were victorious by 25 - 5. so, if anyone can remember scoring a try on saturday, can they let me know. Only in the vets would you have to write that.