Easter holidays and the inevitable shortage of players meant a smaller than normal squad headed south to Wiltshire to face new opponents Marlborough. With a smaller squad and in prep for the Devon tour with luxurious coach we all tried fitting into the Samak van to save on the petrol money. 3 broken limbs later the squad was reduced further and we spread out into multiple vehicles and put pay to the reputation that Stroud is an Eco-Friendly town – sorry Vince Ecotricity needs to move out to another Brussel Sprout, home knitted woolly jumpers loving commune.
Marlborough common was our destination. An uppity down pitch with railings from the Aintree gallops, less boar damage than Cinderford, less banter and snow than Minch – but still an exposed pitch with the wind whipping over the common.
Jo stepped into ref the game. Would the biting wind affect his judgement of forward passes? Will, Billy, Big Mac had their concerns……. ;-)
Forwards: Bernie, Liam, Stoner, Callum, Laurie, Euan, Perys, Mr T
Backs: Hilly, Will, Dave, Keyan, Big Mac, James, Billy
Subs: Flash, Arthur
Marlborough kicked off deep and Stroud knocked on. Annoyed with their slippage the forwards won the scrum against the head and attacked right with Billy from full back making some good yardage. The ball came back left and Will kicked into space. A perfect bounce landed in Keyan’s hands and Stroud attacked again. Another kick to the wing was knocked on by Stroud and Marlborough went to attack back but Stoner’s crunching tackle stopped any chance of a counter attack so we came back for the scrum.
Marlborough won the scrum restart on halfway and also kicked into space and a cruel bounce meant they knocked on. Stroud immediately counter attacked back and Laurie crashed through the middle dragging 3 tacklers with him. Eventually he was toppled but alertly offloaded to Big Mac who made more good yardage but lost the ball in contact. Marlborough won the scrum and kicked over the top. Billy retreated to run the ball back but a good kick chase kept him in the 22. Good runs from Callum, Perys and Laurie made some yards but Stroud were penalised at the breakdown and Marlborough showing clear heads took the penalty kick option and coolly slotted it between the posts to take an early lead at 3-0. Would Stroud come back?
Stroud kicked off and the ball bounced into touch. Marlborough won their lineout on their 22 and showed more good kicking skills by kicking out to the Stroud 10 metre line. Stroud won the lineout and quickly moved the ball right through the backs to avoid the quick Marlborough press defense. The ball went to ground but play continued and Big Mac managed to squeeze down the right flank for the opening try – or so we thought. The TMO was called to check for the earlier knock-on. What TMO? Its junior rugby? Tired Mark ‘Obbling on the linesman duties was consulted and deemed it a knock-on.
Marlborough had a scrum restart on the Stroud 22 and the ball came out quickly and Hilly bravely dived on it to secure Stroud possession. Will released Dave who burst through the Marlborough defense. He was slowed up as he tried to run over the full back roadblock. Inside ball to Keyan and then quick pass out to James who made good distance and kept the ball alive well. The ball squirmed out of play off a Marlborough foot and Stroud had a lineout restart. Sure hands from Laurie and a good drive got Stroud onto the opponents try line but Marlborough held out valiantly. Stroud went aerial with a high diagonal kick but the Marlborough winger showed immense skill and bravery to control the ball when a try looked inevitable. A few phases later Marlborough knocked on in contact – another Stoner piledriver winning the day.
Stroud had a scrum on the 5 metre line. Mr T picked and went for the line. He was held out so the backs tried attacking left and right but Marlborough were defending valiantly, but an errant off-side gave Stroud a penalty. This time they went scrum and the ball came out to the backs and Dave crashed through a small gap to score under the posts. Wills good conversion gave Stroud the lead at 7-3. It had been a hard slog for 20 minutes with Marlborough playing well but now Stroud had edged in front and were looking to pull away.
Marlborough kicked off short so Stroud took the halfway line scrum restart which they duly won with a great shove from the Stoner-Liam-Bernie front row. Will kicked deep and the full back knocked on so Stroud had another scrum restart on the 22 which they won again. The improvised pack were playing great. Keyan smashed up inside and took about 6 tacklers with him. Liam then took on the attack but an accidental crossing gave Marlborough a penalty. Ref Jo was going deep into the rulebook to keep on top of this game. Marlborough won the scrum and kicked deep but Billy was waiting and caught it well and ran it back right. Big Mac took on the attack and the ball came back left. Will went right and left finding a few gaps to exploit. Keyan then punched through the line but lost the ball in contact which Marlborough exploited with a good run back that was looking threatening until Euan put in a great tackle. Marlborough then kicked for touch.
Laurie won the lineout on the Stroud 10 and the backs attacked right. Expert hands from Hilly, Will, Dave and Keyan gave speedster Big Mac a chance to work his magic. He lit the afterburners, side stepped the full back and scored in the corner. Almost a carbon copy of the previous try that had been marked off. Wait – the TMO was being consulted again. In this case lino Mark was 60 metres behind play – it’s the leg injury he blamed – and his eyesight at that distance couldn’t be trusted so the try stood. Will missed the difficult kick leaving the score at 12-3.
Flash was on kickoff duties this time and took the ball into contact. Good rucking from Euan and Bernie gave clean ball to the backs and they attacked right. Arthur set Billy away who then released Big Mac. Fearing the TMO - his failing eyesight, and his foot-in-touch flag waving prowess - Big Mac opted to avoid the whitewash and pass back inside to Arthur who was unlucky to knock-on when a great team try looked to be on. The game was halted for an injured Marlborough player who had a nasty gash on the knee. The call went out for medic Delia. Not here – couldn’t fit in the Samak bus.
Jenks stepped into the void ready to show his Cub Scout First Aid badge was fully deserved. The sequence went as follows: Day Glo medic bag, blue gloves, 4m of bandages and 3kg of cotton wool, 2 blood transfusion bags, a failed attempt at applying Bostik superglue and then builder Jim’s staple gun. Blood still gushing – getting worse. 3 more blood bags, a plastercast, and 30m of clingfilm later the blood had been stemmed enough to allow the patient to be medevaced away into a field ambulance – aka parents 4x4. Good job our armed services were so well trained. NHS just a bit more efficient with time – and equipment. Jenks came bouncing across beaming that he had been awarded a TV contract for Casualty for the medical drama he had created. 59 minutes later Jo restarted the game but Jenks had done his job within the “Golden Hour”.
Stroud won a scrum penalty and Will kicked for touch. Stroud knocked on the lineout and then compounded their error by giving away a penalty. Not sure what for but Jo was on page 74 of the refs guide so was determined to ref the game to the letter of the law. Marlborough went for touch but Will kept the ball alive and the backs attacked left. Flash swerved his way up the wing and well supporting Mr T and Perys won the clearout battle. The backs came right and Wills perfect short kick over the up-rushing defence gave Dave a chance. Would his poorly thumb help or hinder the ball recovery? Dave’s club of a hand scooped up the ball and he dived over for a try. Jenks had done a great job pre-match applying 2km of tape and plastercast to create a wheelie bin sized bucket for Dave to catch the ball into. Jo checked the refs booklet. Nothing in there – not even on page 311 – about application of medical equipment within a certain size so the try had to stand. The conversion was missed as the half time whistle blew.
Half Time: Marlborough 3 - 17 Stroud
Half time was taken and took quite a long time because the kids were queueing up for Jenks to make them a personalised medical assistance bucket to help catch the ball in the windy conditions.
Stroud kicked off and Marlborough returned it well until Billy forced a knock-on in the tackle. Stroud won the scrum on halfway and the backs went into full attack mode showing off their new moves. Will attacked right and a double dummy move to Dave and Keyan left a big gap and Will drifted a pass over to Big Mac but the refs whistle went for an errant forward pass. That’s regulation 1A on page 1 of the Laws he gleefully declared. Will wasn’t impressed.
Marlborough won the scrum, and then a penalty. A quick tap penalty to their monster prop was knocked on. Pinball ensued as no one wanted to claim the bar of soap. “Play the Bloody Ball” the impartial linesman shouted. Stroud won the scrum and attacked left. This time another pass drifted forward. Billy was 50m away before Jo blew the whistle. It must have been Ref’s Assessment day for the meticulous attention to detail he was showing. Captain Will was still not impressed…..
Marlborough won the halfway line scrum and kicked for touch. Laurie won the lineout and the forwards drove forward but Marlborough managed to force a turnover and attack themselves and kept the ball alive well in the forwards. Stroud forced a turnover with flanker Arthur the prime candidate for winning the turnover. Hilly on the wing did well to avoid the 1st tackle but was promptly shoved into touch. Marlborough knocked on their lineout so Stroud had a scrum restart on their 22. Good hands from Dave and Mr T and then onto Keyan released him to score a try from halfway under the posts. Easy kick for a 24-3 lead.
Perys caught the next kickoff and ran it back well. Marlborough went off-side to stifle the next attack. Will tapped the penalty quickly from his own 22 and outran the defence to score a try the length of the pitch. Ref Jo checked the rulebook. Page 237 stated that if a try was scored but the ref was still in the opposite half catching up with play the try can still stand. That’s a relief. Would have been a frosty atmosphere driving home if that try had been chalked off! Good kick for 31-3 lead.
Mr T caught the next kick-off. Laurie and Liam both had powerful runs. The backs attacked left. Another forward pass – this one definitely wind assisted. Ref blew his whistle again and quoted Regulation 1A again. Captain Will was getting frustrated. He reached into his sock and read the “Captains manual”. Regulation 1A said “respect the ref”. Biting his tongue he walked away ready to perfect the next pass!
The next few minutes was shared with Marlborough showing good attacking prowess with their backs and brave tackling from Euan, Bernie and Arthur. Marlborough missed a penalty kick to touch and Wil and Dave ran it back well. Dangerously isolated Dave went to ground but clearout master Hilly was first there – now that’s a surprise – and as he was now in his winger position he went fully barrelled into the ruck and took his opponent 5 yards backwards. “No 9” came the call from coach Samak not realising that Hilly had moved out to the wing. Flash – the 2nd half scrumhalf - was there promptly and seeing a gap set Keyan off down the left flank. As a try seemed inevitable the ball was knocked on deep in the Marlborough half. They won their scrum restart and their powerful #8 went on a rumble – but only as far as Euan and Bernie waiting to drag him down. Marlborough recycled the ball quickly to their pacy backs and attacked down the left wing but forced into touch by James. Laurie claimed the lineout on halfway and the ball came out to Will. He had lined up his ruler and protractor perfectly and his inch perfect pass to Dave released the centre to run in a try untouched. “Captains Manual” Rule 1B states let your skills do the talking – and boy had that worked a treat. Good kick and the lead now at 38-3
Arthur returned the next kick-off into contact. Llama ball to Stoner went like clockwork. 30 yards later he was still making tough yards until dragged to ground. Liam was supporting well and carried on the attack but eventually Marlborough forced a turnover. Perys put in a strong tackle but Marlborough did well to keep the ball alive and out to their pacy backs. A try looked to be a well deserved present but Big Mac was having none of that and forced them into touch deep in the Stroud half. Laurie won the lineout on the 22 and the backs attacked left. Keyan was fed the perfect pass and ran the length of the pitch. A fantastic last ditch tackle caught him about 3 yards short of the line. He wasn’t sure if he was held so dived for the line and scored a try. We all looked at ref Jo waiting for the decision. Captain Will ran across and grabbed the refs whistle and correctly quoted Law 34, regulation 76, revision J on page 443 and awarded a penalty to Marlborough for an illegal 2nd move. Going to be frosty at school between Will and Keyan next week – oh its holiday for 2 weeks – that’s why Will did it ;-)
Marlborough kicked for touch and won their lineout on halfway. Expert tackling forced a turnover and Keyan found himself let loose with a precision pass and he ran up the middle to score his try. Captain Will and Ref Jo conferred and couldn’t find any reason to not award the try so it stood. Good conversion made it 45-3. “Full house” shouted the match reporter as he realised that every page of the refs manual had been read, and the law had been correctly applied, and Jo had passed his ref’s assessment course with a 100% score. Wayne Barnes is retiring, Nigel Owens is banned from Twickenham, and Brexit will stop French refs from coming over to work so Jo has to be a shoe-in to get given the Premiership final next season when his beloved Gloucester will be beating Exeter 52-3 through pure talent.
Marlborough kicked off and Liam got shot by a sniper on Salisbury Plain as he fell backwards untouched. In response Will sent in the artillery with a high bombarding mortar kick. The hiviz H&S guy managing the road crossing came sprinting onto the pitch to stop the Marlborough winger from catching the ball declaring that Rule 56 made it dangerous to catch live munitions on a rugby pitch. Jo was having none of this. Its Laws not Rules that define our game he glared at the pitch intruder. The high viz guy blushed and quickly retreated to the safety of the road and trying to control the 4x4 brigade zooming past at 40mph.
Marlborough knocked on their lineout and Stroud won the scrum restart. In a set move Mr T at #8 went left, drew the tackler and passed to Dave, he kept the move going left and passed to Big Mac who sprinted to the try line and scored under the posts. That’s me passing my GCSE PE exam he gabbled as he ran back to halfway smiling at the camera recording his exploits. Good kick to close out the game as the full time whistle went
Full Time: Marlborough 3 - 52 Stroud
Both teams congratulated each other and with the help of an apologetic high viz H&S man safely crossed the main road – was it a B road, the M4, or the A303 ? We didn’t have a clue where we were – all we knew we were south of Swindon.
Stroud had played an excellent last 40 minutes of the game and not given Marlborough a chance. It was our first game without conceding a try all season which was very satisfying as we know we can always try and outscore opponents but winning with almost perfect defense is also very satisfying.
The score did not reflect how good Marlborough were. They had good play in spurts and talented players – as the first 20 minutes showed - but Stroud just hadn’t let them play after that and ran up a big score. A come from behind victory after going 3-0 down and then scoring 52 points unanswered.
Wait – Jo was going back to his refs guide. He declared it a draw as Marlborough had been winning at one point, and then Stroud were winning for another point. Therefore as each team only led once it had to be a draw. Will brought out the “Captains manual” again. He turned to page 2 and declared that April Fools jokes had to be done on 1st April. Jo reluctantly agreed and for the sake of a peaceful drive home and 2 weeks of Will off school allowed the 52-3 result to stand.
Thanks to Marlborough for hosting us at such short notice and providing post match food for the kids. Best of luck for rest of season and hope your player recovers from his knee injury. Next time we’ll bring a RFU and NHS qualified medic with us. In all seriousness well done Jenks for an excellent job on the First Aid.