8 - 5
From the moment I walked into the changing room, I knew this week was going to be BIG! Things built slowly from some treats from Matty (Thanks buddy) to DJ Mikey introducing us to Stormzy. The warm up was the best we have had this season, with a quiet intensity which has often been missing. Our set moves practiced and polished, we took to the pitch with a confidence that you could see in the eyes of every player. The huge crowd was buzzing (Who let Swadders on the mike?) and the ref blew to start the fourth and final meeting of G’s vs Hellingly in this the 16/17 season.
It was soon obvious that this was a very different Hellingly to any we had yet faced. They are always a big side but these guys were massive and played with a passion and ferocity that hit us like a freight train. After a bright start we found ourselves pinned in our 22 with scrum after scrum to defend. The Loonies support were calling “Take them for a walk” but they had not counted on the grit of our pack. I would love to know what the weight difference was, but somehow we kept them out time after time. We were teetering on the edge anyway, but when prop Mick Unsworth was yellow carded for slowing the ball down, we were in proper trouble on our 5 meter line. Tom Halligey stepped up from 8 to 3 and centre Baston pushed at 8. “Crouch, Bind, Set.....” It creaked, wobbled... and held. A strike like a cobra and Tom Kiernan sneaked it against the head, Jordan spun it flat to Marriott who made a few precious yards before quick ball led to a huge clearing kick. We had survived everything Hellingly could throw at us, under the most intense of pressure, with no loss of points and I have never been prouder to wear the five ferns. Awesome!
Determined not to let the Loonies get a toehold in our 22 again, we started to play some rugger. Ben Gray played some lovely territory from the boot and our structure started to work, dents were made and ground was taken. A sizzling break from Bapo down the right saw the speedy winger beat two but was scragged by the full back in the Hellingly red zone. No panic as we went through our phases with the ubiquitous Jordan delivering great service across the park until Charlie Lear found himself in the wide channels with the ball in hand. Thundering towards the line he waited until he had drawn the cover before laying the ball off to the supporting Marriott who went through the gap to score the first points of the game. We perhaps should have scored more in this period as Hellingly heads started to drop but it wasn’t until the last play of the half that Gray slotted a penalty to leave us 8 - 0 at the break.
The half time Haribo (Haribo Smurfs - How good?) tasted great and precious air was gathered into aching lungs as we prepared for the most important 40 minutes of the season so far. Any thoughts we might have had that the oppo were a broken animal were quickly put to bed as a great line break from the back of a scrum saw Hellingly rip into our half, quick ball led to the ball going wide left for the winger to score in the corner. 8 - 5. The rest of the half was a bit of a blur as the game see-sawed up and down the pitch. Will Blackledge and Tom Kiernan were making some great breaks and only the final pass was letting us down, Will DLH, Tom Keeley and Matt Brooke came on and gave us some much needed energy, Dodge and Aaron were rocklike in defence - nothing came through their channel all game and they were having to stop men twice their size. Another searing break from Baptist saw him so nearly clear, but his final nudge ahead was well fielded.
Into the final 10, and an injury gave us a few moments to compose ourselves as Hellingly prepared to have one last all out assault. They were pushing us back and defence became more desperate and mistakes were made. The pressure on our exit’s meant we just couldn’t get away, and like the first quarter, we found ourselves just where we didn’t want to be! This time it was our lineout that was to be tested... Our lineout had been pretty poor all game compared to our own high standards, so it was with great relief that not once but twice, Tom Kiernan again somehow emerged with the ball against the head. The ref blew the whistle and somehow we had done it!!!
I have loved our tussles with Hellingly this season, and this game was by far the most competitive. It really could have gone either way and I just want to say what a great bunch of lads they are. Thank you Loonies! MOM could have gone to any of our heros from 1 - 18. Tom Kiernan had a complete game, Halligey played in the front, second and back row during the afternoon and I don’t know what we would have done without him, but I have given it to Richard Dodgson who is such a great bloke and team mate and who played with such bravery - It is a pleasure to share a pitch with you mate!
Our cup final will be against Haywards Heath 2’s who comfortably beat Worthing. This will be the very last match of the season for the entire club, so please put the 29th April in your Diary’s. It will be played at Uckfield rfc. Our next game is Pulborough 2’s away in the promotion playoffs on April fools day.