When real men play rugby.
By Gerry Egan
Not since Bonaparte strolled back from Russia have so many men strolled about in the cold...
Sunday 22nd January 2017, a day after Sidcup 1st and 2nd XV were denied the opportunity to play rugby as it was deemed too hazardous in the icy conditions, Sidcup Vets headed to Horn Park, the home of Old Colfians RFC hoping that their game would also be off. Alas, the management team of Mark Watson and Martin Leamon were enthusiastic for the game to go ahead. Please note, both these gentlemen were injured in the previous fixture against Charlton Park and were obviously keen for more people to join them on the crocked list. Now, with Martin Leamon as head coach and Dicky Leamon playing there could be confusion in this report. Thus, henceforth, Martin Leamon shall be referred to as Holmes to avoid confusion.
Many former 1st XV centurions patrolled the pitch pre match, shaking their heads and all agreed Captain Oats would have declined “going out for a walk on it”. However, the evil Watson and Holmes were stating “we’re here now, we may as well get on with it”, though this was misheard as “we may as well get on it” and some subs starting drinking heavily. The game was further delayed by the lack of a referee (surely a sign form the Gods) a London Society ref happened to be in attendance and was cajoled into presiding by the evil Holmes. Thus, with the game delayed by fear and a lack of a referee, the squad were called together to name the starting team… based on relative youth, health, fitness levels and the inability to escape.
The brave few to start the game were: David Jones (Slouch), Iain Wilson, Danny Bowdith, Colin Cooper, Chrisitian McDermott, Steve Hancox, Tom Wicks (Maz) and Mark Whitford in the pack. Richard Leamon, Steve Berryman, Steve Amura, Richard Roddiss, Matteo Stamato, Ian Stephens and Jon Mitchell made up the back line. The sigh of relief from those not selected was heard on the moon. Holmes inspired his team before the kick off with the following words: “I have had a chat with the ref and at the first sign of a serious injury we’ll call the game off”. With these calming words still ringing in their ears, the players took to field whilst the subs stood still hugging each other both in celebration and in an effort to stay warm.
The game starts with Colfeians kicking off and after a bit of daring-do the ball ends up in touch. First line out to the visitors and a Sidcup catch and drive and gains 15 metres down the pitch. The ball is passed to the backs… Berryman puts in a lofted kick to the corner and Amura’s chase forces Old C’s to skew the ball into touch 5 metres out from their line. Another lineout to Sidcup! Wilson (with a 100% line out throw accuracy so far) throws the ball in the general direction of the players and much jumping, lifting and flaying of hands ensues resulting in the ref deciding Old C’s deserve a scrum 5m from their line. The first scrum of the game happens and the Sidcup pack demolish Old C’s forwards, both winning the ball against the head and driving them over their own line for Whitford to elegantly control the ball and score. Please note, with so many of this pack playing together through the years this was not an uncommon achievement, the main difference being that Legend Danny Mizen was unable to partake this time as he was on the side line quoting an outbreak of common sense was preventing him from playing. Berryman’s effort at the conversion was both noble and ineffective at the same time. Barely 5 minutes gone and Sidcup are 5 – 0 to the good.
Colfeians restart and Cooper fluffs an easy take but the pack recovers the ball and Dicky Leamon kicks a long clearance downfield. The chasing Mitchell is side-stepped “by a fat boy” and Old C’s are on the attack. With scant respect for the legacy of Vets’ rugby, Old C’s are putting together excellent attacking phases and moving the ball from one side of the field to the other, testing the Sidcup defensive resolve and general health of the front rows. Finally a gap appears and it seems like Colfeians are heading for the line but Mitchell atones for his early error and makes a try-saving tackle. The home side are recycling the ball well at the breakdown and eventually possibly Slouch is penalised for not rolling away (bit of optimistic, really, considering). Old C’s kick the penalty to touch and have a good attacking platform, 5 metres out from the Sidcup line. The ball is thrown in and like a Phoenix from the ashes, McDermott rises highest to disrupt the catcher and the threat is averted as Sidcup are awarded a defensive scrum.
Theoretically Sidcup are still in trouble, 5 metres from their line but another excellent scrum affords Steve Berryman the chance to clear! However, never being one to take the easy option, he kicks to the biggest Old C’s back who somehow fluffs it and is swamped by Sidcup chasers. Whitford emerges with the ball and sets off downfield like a gazelle on the hoof (albeit an arthritic gazelle with haemorrhoids) and after some 20 metres finds Amura with a delightful pass. Amura sprints forward making more good yardage before drawing the last defender and passing the ball to the supporting McDermott who crosses the whitewash to score for the second game in a row! Stamato takes over the kicking duties from Berryman and converts the try, much to the shock of all present. Try McDermott – Conversion Stamato have never been written before and will probably never be written again. With ten minutes gone, Amura leaves the field injured (or “minces off” according to some of his former teammates) and the delightful Suzie the physio asks if he needs a tampon or would he like to “man up” and continue. Steve Burke, foolishly standing way too close Holmes and Watson is called into action and celebrates with an outbreak of Tourette’s.
The legendary Dan Bowditch catches the restart, swerves past the first up chasers and sets off on a 20 metre rampage through the Old C’s pack. The ball is moved swiftly to the backs only for Burkey’s first touch to be Teflon -handed and the home side have a scrum on the half way line. The Sidcup defence is impressive with Slouch, Wilson, Maz Wicks, Roddis and Mitchell making notably big hits. The Sidcup scrum destroys their opponents on a number of occasions but the visitors are conceding a number of penalties: Bowditch is pinged for not releasing the ball (but in fairness he may have just been clutching his head), Leamon is often adjudged e offside line and gives too much backchat and generally the Sidcup forwards are being treated harshly at the breakdown… (Possibly retribution for the 80 year English judiciary practise of “transporting” miscreants to Australia started in the late 1700’s)
Old C’s are in the ascendancy and somehow have a scrum 5 metres out from the Sidcup line. The ball is moved quickly and after Mitchell et all drag an attacker down inches short of the line another fat boy (affectionate term for a forward) picks up and score from one inch out, no mean feat as this involves being able to touch your toes and move forward shortly thereafter.
From the restart, Sidcup are beginning to put together some phases themselves. A rare Sidcup attack from a scrum in enemy territory goes array as the once much-feared combination of Whitford and Leamon fluff their lines and waste the opportunity. Berryman, Amura and Roddis are working hard in the midfield (Burke was removed as soon as possible) and the Sidcup pack are still winning the battle in the scrum. Again, Whitford and Leamon try to cobble together a few moves of old down the blindside but either ignore each other and or pass to the invisible man. Towards the end of the half, fatigue (with an emphasis on the first syllable) begins to affect both sides and the option of backs kicking the ball back and forth to each other whilst the forwards rest in between is taken. The highlight of one such kick was wing-forward Hanky catching the ball and then stacking it right in front of the Sidcup support. After some relative apathy the ref blows for half time and Sidcup are 12 – 7 in the lead. There are no major injuries on either side and Amura has recovered well from both injury and the abuse received thereafter.
Holmes and Watson call the squad together and some of the subs enthusiastically run on to the pitch… others walk with beer in hand. The half time speech is inspirational and it was noted that with the importance of the game some subs may not get on… a spontaneous outburst of Morris dancing occurs but James Evans celebrates too soon and is called upon to replace Maz Wicks. Maz, ever enthusiastic states he does not want to cool down in case his services are called upon again. The educationalist that is Spennie Bennett helpfully suggests he goes for a run: Mr Wicks replies with what seems to be a Russian surname. Having been granted a pass on the game, your writer sets about earnestly consuming Guinness and God bless Sam Carmen for his help in this matter. Thus, as the Guinness kicks in some of the facts in the second half may be even less based on fact than those of the first.
James Evans makes an immediate impact from the kick off and wipes out the Old C’s catcher. The Sidcup defensive line speed is ferocious and Old C’s are forced to kick down field which gives Stephens, Stamato and Mitchell the chance to meet in the middle of the field and watch the ball bounce about for a while before doing anything with it. Old C’s are once again working through the phases but Sidcup are still holding firm, with J Evans, Hanky and Leamon putting in some great hits. The ‘Cup have an attacking lineout but unfortunately Berryman (taking a lead from Watson and Holmes) drops a sitter of a pass and the opportunity is once again lost. Stamato collects a Colfeians box kick in his own half and immediately replies with a great diagonal kick to the corner deep into the home side’s territory. The Old C’s winger collects but is immediately under pressure from the surprisingly sprightly Mitchell and in the ensuing tussle Amura steals the ball and drives over to score in the corner. From out wide, Stamato is unlucky with the conversion. 17 – 7 to Sidcup.
Cooper catches the restart (hurrah) bur after a brief spell of possession, Sidcup are pinned in their 22. Stout defence (and some slim defence too) forces Old C’s to concede a penalty and whilst nearly everyone else is catching their brief, flanker Hancox seizes the opportunity and takes a quick one. Catching the home side flat-footed, he hares up to half way (make your own hair gag) draws the cover defence and passes to Roddis who strides in to score under the posts! The crowd goes wild! Well, they move about a bit more but realistically it was too damn cold to risk anything too energetic. Hancox offers to take the conversion and slots the kick with aplomb (all the real kickers where at the other end of the pitch still having a breather). Ten minutes into the second half and Sidcup are 24 -7 up (hurrah again!)
Holmes and Watson ring the changes: Stamato and Stephens are off, Hanky goes to wing, Dean Cuomo to fullback, Spencer Bennett enters the fray and Simon Evans once again appears on the wing after his try scoring efforts last time out. The game ebbs and flows: Colfeians are still in fine form at the breakdown, the visitor’s pack is still dominant in the set piece and lots of running around is going on. Somehow, Colfeians finally find the breakthrough and a converted try means they are back within a converted try of the visitors.
Sidcup once again fire into life; good work from the pack and quick hands allows Amura to make a great break before foolishly passing the ball to Dean Cuomo (only slightly better sighted than Stevie Wonder) and the move breaks down. Leamon and Whitford are still looking to gain ground near the scrum and James Evans is throwing himself around the pitch as if auditioning to replace Daniel Craig in his spy role. The territorial battle is immense but both sides are struggling to get over the whitewash. A great run from Cooper comes to nothing and as he ignores the fleet-footed Roddis and passes the ball to McDermott instead
As the game enters the final ten minutes, Sidcup put some fine phases together and are back into Colfeians half. A penalty allows Sidcup to kick for a lineout ten metres from the home sides try line but the lineout is not straight (uncanny) and the home side chose the scrum. Now, if I had been stuffed in the previous 15 scrums, I may have been inclined to choose differently, but who are we to judge? Colfeians may have noticed the Sidcup pack are finally tiring from pushing such great distances in the scrum? However, the scrum occurs and under immense pressure Colfians are forced to ground ball behind their own line and concede a scrum to Sidcup. The pack, exhausted by their efforts are originally held at the put in, but the energizer-bunny that is Christian cDermott single-handedly holds the scrum together and uses his colossal strength to force the opposition back over their line and Evans flops on the ball to score. Berryman nonchalantly dropkicks the conversion the visitors are two scores ahead. The match ends shortly thereafter and Sidcup’s finish top of their league!
Plaudits to those brave hardly souls who started the game: Jones, Iain Wilson, Bowdith, Cooper, McDermott, Hancox, Wicks, Whitford, R Leamon, Berryman, Amura, Roddiss, Stamato, Stephens & Mitchell. Kudos to Messrs J. Evans, S.Evans, S McLean, S Burke and S. Bennet and O Dodd for coming on and subs. Well done to the eternally grateful Dave Price, Stuart Walker, Brian Whittaker and yours truly for turning up but not actually risking life and limb on the pitch! Good work Martin Leamon and Mark Watson for getting such a great set of guys together and finally thanks to Suzie the fizz for doing her bit for help-the-aged.
Now to the semis! After much pontification, Sidcup have been brawn away to Sevenoaks on Saturday 25th February, (don’t panic, England are playing Italy on the Sunday) kick off TBC. Sidcup last’s vets outing in the Evergreen cup started with a win over Sevenoaks so the hosts may well be out for revenge! Sidcup 2’s are also playing Sevenoaks that day and with the 1st XV playing Blackheath at Well Hall on the Friday night it could be a great day out for the Sidcup faithful watching two of our teams competing in the heart of Kent.