Brilliance takes on many forms……….
By Rich Fenech
I am sure you will agree!
However, as far as I am concerned, its true definition was the 22 players who stepped up to take on Henley Vultures last Saturday.
We have never played Henley before at Vets level, but knew full well to expect an incredibly imposing opposition. Indeed, I was reliably informed by their coach later that afternoon that the side that came down to play us was a much stronger side than the one that had only lost marginally to Richmond Heavies a few weeks earlier.
We did, admittedly, prepare for this fixture and took it with all the seriousness it deserved as; indeed, the Vultures are an exceptionally good side and had remained unbeaten up until their encounter with the Heavies, though we were not going to take this for granted. Putting out our very best side was imperative.
I would like to use these few words to thank those players who worked so gallantly in what proved to be a defensive spectacle, snuffing out almost every attempt Henley may have had in crossing our line.
The score line flatters us and does not do justice to just how hard we had to work. I know without a shadow of a doubt that Henley had the greater percentage of ball in play, but when we did have the ball, we were scintillating with it, giving Henley little opportunity and stretching them considerably. The one try they did deservedly score came about as a result of a number of their players and our players being distracted with a minor fracas!
So, who were the people that stepped up? I hear you ask.
A front row made up of myself, Rich Beney and James Carlin.
JC has put up with considerable injuries throughout the season, mainly brought on by being a year older than me and having stuck at it consistently. His work rate on Saturday was exceptional.
Beans, again, proved to be dominant in his new position upfront though was tested by a both experienced and wily tighthead who made life difficult for him. He, however, stuck at it.
The engine room saw the power of Dean Pye and Paul Spencer work effortlessly together in unison.
Dean (Horse) not only worked formidably in the scrums but around the park – His tackle rate, I’m sure, is one of the highest and he is ever imposing in presence.
And how fantastic to have Spence back on the park after almost a whole season since he’s put on a vets shirt? He played with unconditional passion and it was fantastic to have him in the row. Yes, perhaps a few pens were given away, but only to be expected from such a gnarly player.
And then, of course, the back row of James Harris, Chris Codo and Andrew Jackson (Jacko). The three of these guys dominate the field when they play together - James, again, scored two tries and continues to push the boundaries of possibilities.
Their collective ability to compete at the ruck, carry ball, orchestrate the lineout with precision and make the scrums work; always makes them a collective man of the match when playing together. Gents, you were, as expected, outstanding.
Then, moving on to the flare, both Mike Croft and Gareth Stone shared the 9 role, and did so perfectly, creating speed at the time we needed it, making intelligent breaks and carefully planted box kicks – both of them exceptional on the day.
10 saw our usual maestro in Marek, who not only got over for a try but jackals the ball in the tackle so well for one of our smaller players, his lines of running constantly creating challenges for Henley.
And then the backs of Chis Pini, Rich Mayson, Nick Morgans, Jose Fernandez and, not least, Colin Osborne (Ozzie) as fullback. These guys made it almost impossible for the larger and heavier – and, possibly slightly older – Vultures to move around the park. Opening up and going wide, we tested them considerably - Pin’s line of running and speed continues to challenge most of our opposition and Richy Mason was just utterly brilliant, both in the capacity of being the most vocal vice-captain and immense support to me, but also ruthless in his tackle. Morgs, Jose and Ozzie, the Welsh trio, blitzed the ball as and when they got it.
And them, of course, there was the bench of Dean Stanford, Nicky Bellis, Tim Williams, Bocco, Lewis and Ed Beck. They were all brilliant; Ed running lines and with awesome power; Lewis, again, moving the ball wide alongside Bocco; Tim Williams displaying frightening skills; and, not least, Dean and Nicky B just putting in that no holdback commitment at the breakdown and in the tight.
Every single man played with undeniable passion and conviction and we defended ferociously, which according to feedback from the crowd (of which there were many!), was pure brilliance.
Below, Scoop, Peter Boyd, who normally writes on the first team games, has captured a much more analytical summary of the passage of play.
All we now have to do now is keep that the same form into our closing game with the Heavies this coming Saturday in order to hopefully see out a clean sweep – a league win and a simultaneous cup win.
There will be a different side playing on Saturday (though the same ethos sits with all those players in the determined approach) to take on an immensely successful Heavies side, whom we have much affection, warmth and respect for and will, indeed, warmly welcome to Barn Elms on Saturday 30th.
Skips/Finche/Rich and bloody PROUD too!!
It was the defence what won it.
The visitors' kick-off resulted in an error gave them possession back. With it and a series of penalties they put Barnes' defence under pressure in the early minutes. They got close to Barnes' line but could not get over. After about 7 minutes Barnes were able to work their way into the other half and finished their first attack with a try. This an individual effort with an arcing run from 15 metres out to the corner by WING #14 who then came in to make the conversion easier for CENTRE #12 after 11 minutes.
A penalty at the restart took Henley to their line-out 17 metres out; they went wide from that but Barnes defence was again good and they were soon advancing into the opposition half. Henley stopped that attack then a free-kick at a scrum started another that took Barnes to 5 metres out. The defence held then a sequence of penalties got the visitors out of their half and they benefited from some good retention with wide ball before the game settled into a period of no advantage for either side. A penalty for Henley then two turnovers in quick succession preceded their next attack that was halted by their forward pass 14 metres out. Barnes then worked their way out of their half despite being under pressure in scrums. Penalties against the visitors helped the home team to get to 13 metres out before the halftime whistle.
Henley started the first attacks of the second half after the restart then the first penalty enabled Barnes to push them back. The visitors' third attack started from a turnover; very good retention and a penalty got them to their line-out 5 metres out at 6 minutes. Their drive was stopped but Barnes got a yellow card for it. Their defence held the next attempt at a drive and forced Henley into touch. The visitors stole the line-out and kept the ball close and got another penalty and tried another drive from a close line-out. The attacks were ended by a turnover at the line then Barnes moved up field with two penalties. The second was run strongly before a kick into the opposition 22. Henley started to run back then a dropped ball was hacked into touch 20 metres into the visitors' half by Barnes. Henley went wide from the line-out and were almost intercepted before Barnes forced a runner into touch a few metres back. The line-out was adjudged to have been thrown not-straight then Barnes were awarded a free-kick which they ran and a pass sent FLANKER #7 to the line not far from the posts at 17 minutes. The conversion was good.
CENTRE #12 ran off with the restart then two recycles resulted in a penalty for Barnes 20 metres from the visitors' line just before the end of the third quarter and he kicked for a 17 point lead.
Barnes kicked back the restart long; Henley ran back wide and got a penalty that they ran. After recycling three times then a switch of play, two more recycles and recovering from an error they advanced to their scrum put-in 15 metres out. This time they were forced back a bit then Barnes forced a turnover. They kicked long for territory then Henley ran the ball back breaking through and a pass sent their WING #14 to the posts after 25 minutes and their scrumhalf added.
The restart bounced into touch; Henley ran the ball wide from the line-out and after advancing 25 metres with a couple more phases passed forward at the opposition 10 metre line. Barnes ran a free-kick awarded at the scrum well into the other half where they got the next line-out 18 metres past halfway. From that they soon chipped ahead to the line, resulting in a 22 drop-out. An error by the visitors gave Barnes a scrum at the 22. They got the ball out under pressure but were soon turned over. Henley broke out and ran their next penalty but not far. Barnes stole an opposition line-out 3 near halfway and kept the ball close to get a penalty. They ran that and a pass sent FLANKER #7 to the corner after the half hour. The conversion missed.
The restart resulted in an unplayable ruck; from their scrum 18 metres inside their half Barnes broke blind and recycled close 4 times advancing 14 metres to their penalty. They ran this to the opposition 22; 3 recycles put the ball into the hands of fly-half Przychocki who stepped and went to the posts. CENTRE # 12 kicked his fourth before the final whistle