“After much beer, 4 male strippers and 7 dwarves we go and produce some of our best rugby this season! ”
Michael "Rhino" Whitfield
The Beast of the East was not kind to us. As it turned out by midday the pitch was perfectly playable a couple of weeks back but the game had already been called off and moved to last Saturday, the only "reserve weekend" left this season.
And, of course, it was last weekend when the players had no games the following day, with Saturday also being the culmination of the Six Nations, and Ireland's beckoning Grand Slam game against England at Twickers.
So the news that it would be that day when we would play our the cancelled game against Shelford at Barn Elms was greeted with as much enthusiasm as a smelly fart in a lift.
This weekend we send a battalion of Barnes RFC's finest across the water to take Guernsey by storm. It is the 1st and 2nd placed teams in London and South East Premier League in a clash of the Titans, and almost winner takes all (I say almost because if we win will still be 1 or 2 points behind the islanders!).
BUT - this is the big one, we must win this game, leave nothing in the tank, stiffen up the sinews summon up the blood, there is no prize for coming second in this game, all of our lads know this and I am sure all this week's our minds will be wandering at work, that little knot in stomach, it will get tighter all week the closer we get to boarding the plane, the closer we get to kick off - and that is just me so God knows what the players feel like.
Before looking at the game a bit more closely I want to reflect on what was a momentous week for us (yes, I know it was for Ireland too!).
Last Friday's Barnes RFC City Lunch was a brilliant affair with nearly 400 players, ex-players, supporters and sponsors of Barnes all coming together for one heck of a party. The 1st XV were on a strict beer curfew and respected that to a man, despite the no doubt huge temptation for the likes of Frank the Tank. But go home they did as the clock struck 6pm.
The day had gone quite splendidly with Jonathan "Jiffy" Davies a brilliant guest, both on and off the stage, a truly funny legend of both rugby codes. We had a troop of 7 wonderful dwarves, and 4 strapping butlers-in-the-buff, jokes by Barry Williams and your truly and grace by the 8th dwarf, our own junior All-Black, Martin Conway. In the auction we raised the best part of £10,000 for Ellie Edwards, one of our brilliant young players, who had a stroke after a game in February. There was not one person in the room last Friday who was not moved by Ellie's dreadful incident. For me, when the rugby family comes together to help one of their own it always, always, always epitomises all that is good about rugby and, in particular, the amazing club that Barnes RFC is today - that was definitely giving in the original spirit!
A massive thank you for those that supported Ellie from her, and all of us at Barnes RFC.
Then onto last Saturday. The Beast from the East's love-child returns to freeze the balls of a brass rhino...it is dry, freezing, with romantic flurries of snow. The crowd of 10 were in fine voice...for at least 2 minutes... until their lips froze together. How on earth the players played so brilliantly is beyond me, but they did. In fact, both teams flung the ball far and wide (probably in an attempt to ward off hypothermia!) and played hard and fast enterprising rugby. Just like Westcombe Park a couple of weeks ago, Shelford had a sprinkling of new players that improved their quality but Barnes were on a real mission, and were utterly ruthless in their pursuit of it.
After a sluggish start where we conceded 3 points early on, Barnes took the lead after 10 minutes with Robbie Martey's first try of the afternoon (he bagged four in all) following a cute offload from Tom O'Toole, Charlie Wicks converted the score and a further penalty and on 20 minutes we were leading 10-3. Shelford's direct approach reaped reward with a try on the half hour to even up the score at 10-10 but Rob Malaney immediately regained the lead for Barnes with a try, followed right on halftime by Robbie Martey's second try to make it 20-10 to Barnow at the break.
Almost immediately after the break, Robbie Martey completed an outstanding hatrick, and with a further Wicks penalty, Barnes were comfortably in control at 28-10 up with 20 minutes to go. With the pressure off, Barnes played some delicious rugby, Cizza driving hard, now back to full match fitness, quick hands through the backs to Robbie Martey who did the honours and scored his 4th try of the game. Wicksy converted from the touchline. The final score was created by a rampaging Rupert Crossland who took the cheap shot late tackle to offload to Fraser Carlisle for a simple run in. With another successful conversion, the final score was Barnes 42 - Shelford 10. Job done, and a truly heart-warming performance as we approach the two most important games of the season against Guernsey this weekend and then Tring.
So back to this weekend. It could not be bigger, But we like that pressure, I think it brings out the best in us. In the home game at Barnes we were at the height of our injury peak, and Guernsey outmuscled us in a 20 phase last power-play and won, right at the death. It was an awful feeling, and I am sure the boys will focus very much on the pain that loss caused them, and they will relish the level and pace that this game will be played at. I can’t wait, it is going to be a brilliant game, of that I have no doubt!
So what is happening this weekend?
Well actually the games start on Wednesday with the Vets playing Sutton and Epsom under lights and on Friday the 2's play Esher, also under lights whilst the Vets, Ladies and 1st XV make up an 80 strong team of players and supporters looking to take Guernsey by storm.
Here are the details:
Wednesday 21st March 2018
Friday 23rd March 2018
- Sutton & Epsom Vets v Barnes Vets - 7:30pm KO
On Saturday 24th March 2018
- Esher 2nd XV vs Barnes 2nd XV - 8pm KO
- Guernsey Ladies vs Barnes Ladies - 1pm KO
- Guernsey Vets vs Barnes Vets - 1pm KO
- Guernsey 1st XV vs Barnes 1st XV - 3pm KO
Here's to a brilliant week and weekend of rugby in London and Guernsey, and fingers crossed for a big Barnow win for the 1st XV - if that happens there had better be enough beer in Guernsey as we will drink it dry on Saturday night!
Onwards and Upwards, and let's play, as is our wont, in the original spirit!
Michael “Rhino” Whitfield
Updated 22:26 - 20 Mar 2018 by Michael Whitfield
Chairman – Barnes RFC