Donkeys & Raindeer
By Rich Fenech
But which has scored more.......
Loyal faithful ones you have five minutes to crack open the Malbec, lock the Missus in the bathroom and sit the kids in front of The Shinning; they will love the tricycle scene!
Done…? All present and orderly….? Good
Right lots to cover off here as it’s been a while!
Forgive my silence in recent weeks, but I have been busy in Whitehall helping Teresa with her current leadership issues, so by way of an insight…….
Across the way in Richmond our dear friends the Heavies have an established, fair and transparent system for selecting their new Vets Skipper each year, undertaken with an annual Captains end of season lunch and a simple vote of preference – final, definitive and then executed. Now, I told Teresa about the Heavies method, but then explained to her the Harrodian Vets system; of autocratic self appointment a sprinkling of dictatorship, (Maltese Mafia etc…) and subliminal messages of inclusivity, all ensuring at least a term of 6-8 years; her face lit up with joy like all her Christmases have come at once!!
On which point Morgs face also lit up, but in his case it was because one of the Cobham oppo broke his nose. Sadly this has led to a deep division within the Vets! More on that later!!!
So welcome Green & Gold junkies.....the proper type, seeing that SA and OZ just don’t quite have what it takes anymore! It’s undoubtedly been a while since I wrote where absence from the playing fields was due to the Autumn International indulgence which certainly provided something for everyone.
To dust off cobwebs, on Friday 23rd we popped down the A3 for a friendly fixture with only 15 in the squad to take on Cobham ‘All Stars’ in a relaxed floodlit affair before slipping off for a curry, at least that was the plan! Instead two minutes before KO as we tossed a coin in to the dark I find out that Cobham thought it was a Cup Fixture and were fielding a strong squad of at least 24 and were ready to give us a good thumping. We clarified that it most certainly was not a cup fixture as we are not even in the same cup competition and that they would lend us a player if we needed it!
If that was a Friday night friendly then the UN should use it as a template for a Saudi/Yemen get-together shindig, Camel racing and all! Cobham were powerful and strong in attack, so much so that within ten minutes Morgs was caught in a nasty collision and as it transpired broke his nose. On the face of it all the forwards thought he had just left the pitch momentarily for a bit of Vaseline treatment and would be back, so we played on with only 14! At half-time we were still only 14 and Morgs had already checked in to the local Nuffield having text Mrs Morgs “Darling I’m injured but don’t worry about me as the Nurses here are utterly amazing and really looking after me – give the kids a kiss and I will see you Sunday”!
We have not seen Morgs since despite the three critical league fixtures to be played and the rift that has formed within the camp is one were the forwards don’t see how a broken nose keeps you off the pitch for 3minutes, let alone 3 weeks! Whilst the backs just couldn’t come to terms that they would have to let Si Curran play in the backs. Never in my time as skipper have I had so many requests from players for Gundog to be selected; Skips had to dig deep and juggle this fragile situation!!
Meanwhile back at Cobham under floodlights a defiant Harrodian 14 players absorbed Cobham at their best and pushed them hard to find the scores we needed for a much deserved win, (33:36) . A win offered up to Donald Carlin who was laid to rest earlier that day. Our team spirit was brilliant that night and epitomises why ‘rugby’ and ‘family’ live in the same sentence with great ease and yet understandable co-dependency. Players that night who stood out were definitely Mike Croft at 9 (whose lift back to Clapham briskly after the match with the Physio was cruelly hijacked by Monty…LOL!!!). Chris Codo was electric and so too was James Harris.
The following week we were away to Esher in our first league encounter, though sadly Esher have simply struggled to find players, an increasing challenge for so many Vets sides, so we loaned them three players. What makes Esher great is no matter the score margin; they don’t go away and lie down, in fact they displayed huge character in not letting their heads drop and better still were great hosts in the Club Bar afterwards – Thank you Esher. (7:67)
Stand out player was Rory from the Occies who I reckon relished his day with us and the other Occie who played for Esher and gave them as best possible platform to play from was Huw, a huge thanks to the Occies guys for helping them out. In fact how brilliant is that for Barnes that guys will juggle plans to make sure sides get a fixture on, which takes me nicely to the serious end of the league……GUILDFORD!
For the last three years the Guildford encounter somehow Tony Price, managed to fall on the last playing weekend Tony Price of December and no matter what Tony Price did it was always AWAY to Guildford!!! But times have changed and Trump is the 45th US President so anything is possible and thus Guildford were coming to us!
We wanted to have a real Christmas theme to welcome them and thought of a real life size nativity scene, but couldn’t get one in time, but we did manage to find a Donkey, but that then too let us down so instead we turned to Si Curran – perfect – he will do!!! Eugene even was up for playing having heard about what happened to Morgs!!
Guildford looked organised from the off so much so that some mucking around with the KO time set the scene for a game of wit and dark arts! But we had the ‘Donkey’! Si Curran somehow was passed the ball within the opening minutes, of which an investigation is still undergoing, ran gingerly along the touch line and scored the opening try; we were as stunned as Guildford!! From that point on we eliminated all previous Guildford encounters and just rampaged around the park, suffocating them of any ball. We had parity in the scrums, fiercely contested their lineout which they were bloody good at, but just snuffed out any of their attacks! Even their efficient rolling maul fizzled out like a Catherine Wheel on a damp Primary School Guy Fawkes night!
At the rucks we tore up the middle and created quick ball for the backs to dance with, we simply played with such conviction and belief the contest was a bitter ‘shut up and get out of here’ to a well respected Guildford. Our weakness and stubborn failing is we give too many pens away and it’s something we must work hard at.
ALL the side played brilliantly, but very special mention to Pete Norvill at loose head who stomped his authority all over the park and in the set piece. Codo was again invincible and Mike Duggan impresses me, but Jacko – take a bow. New into the Vets this season Jacko brings a frightening raising of the bar in terms of fitness and match awareness and has made a huge difference to our back row formation. Slot in James H and all of a sudden my dear friend and club legend Si Givens may have to run out for the Occies instead – now Si, we can’t have that in the public domain can we…..!!! Sort it!
We won 23:5 Tries – Jacko, Jose, Ed Beck, Donkey and one con from Ed!
And bringing you smoothly and deliciously up to speed like Emily Maitlis delivering European Politics, I bring you our own ‘backstop’ and yes as I am qualified in the smooth and delicious department!
Our final fixture of 2018 and third league encounter was away to London Irish Vets for a 4pm KO under lights. Our first problem was to field a side which was now carrying real injuries, (not aesthetically pleasing nose jobs), and the usual rush to get younger families away from London! Somehow, with immense thanks to Gus, we picked up a couple more players right at the last moment and so could turn up with a squad of 18. Our second problem was the weather!
It was FECKING SHITE and it was an adversary in obvious equal measure to both sides, even the ref was looking for an opt out!
However, we sort of kicked off or blew off and so began the must arduous and bitterly freezing game I can recall in years, passing let alone catching became a skill to be developed, but we quickly acclimatised. There was almost a unspoken sense that if we play really quickly we might get to go in early! It fecking poured – SIDEWAYS – and it froze, but we ploughed on and tries started to come.
In the scrum we ploughed through them thanks to the engine room in Jonno and Mark Harrison – these boys were excellent as was step-in hooker Mozza, just such a hardy player who got on with it. But again it was the back three which included Jacko again and Dean and Butch who were all over Irish. By half time shivering and soaked we were comfortably up and I think Irish had scored one try; the water was settling creating puddles like Lake Como and so Skips was half expecting the Irish to give way to a nice hot Irish Coffee and a good old chuckle – wishful thinking!
Second half came and brought with it problem number three; Irish wanted to play hard contested rugby, and they die and they scored and then they scored again. For a phase that felt like 60 minutes we just seemed to give pens away galore and let them right back in the game.
We fought back and found some structure in the worst possible conditions ever, but these boys knew a Win was all we deserved and the likes of Theo were awesome in making an impact, Scatts, Lewis and Sherman were brilliant as if they had been playing all season – they hadn’t, this was their first game for us in 18/19!! Put simply Harrodian Vets dug so deep and played with utter determination, but my stand out players were Beans at Loose head, Mace and Jacko again and such hard work form Marek – take a bow Gents!
Never have I seen players run so fast after a match for the sanctuary of the showers that was about 5:15 pm…..I think our fingers started tingling with sensation at about 7:15pm! Irish hospitality was second to none – smooth Guinness and yup you guessed……, delicious lasagne just like the way I make it!!
We won 17:36 – Tries – Jose, Jacko, Mace, Jonno, Lewis and Butch plus 3 cons from Mace.
So it’s been a cracking start to the first half of the season, but I sense we will be upping our game next year as there are many more fixtures to cram in; I will be sure to write about many of them!
For now, I bid you all a peaceful and restful festive period with your loved ones. I am privileged to lead such a wonderful group of players and equally privileged to be part of a uniquely amazing Club which plays its rugby across all age groups in the most Original Spirit!