it is hard to believe just how quickly this season has shot past, but here we are, entering the last weekend of Barnes rugby for the 2018-2019 season.
On Saturday, the 1st XV travel to their closest geographical rivals in National League 2, London Irish Wild Geese, safe in the knowledge that we are home and hosed for next season, nestling comfortably in 11th place in the league.
It is ironic to be playing the Geese, often our nemesis on the last game of the season, most recently two seasons ago when they upset the odds to beat then National 2 title hopefuls Chinnor 22-5 at Hazelwood Drive. They stayed up and we were relegated, by one point. Whilst it will be sad not to be playing them next season, it is with great relief that we can go out and play with confidence and flair, without the threat of relegation hanging over our heads.
That is not to say that either side will be taking it easy, far from it in fact. The Geese will be wanting to show the pride for which they are famous, and claim local bragging rights. Barnes, too, have a lot to play for. Depending on results at Worthing, Redruth and at Guernsey (who have 'visiting) we could finish in 8th, 9th or 10th so Saturday's result is important as we look to lay down a marker for next season.
It should be an absolute belter, with both sides going at it hammer and tongs, and much delicious Guinness being consumed before, during and after the contest!
Before Easter, Barnes played their last home game of the season against promotion hopefuls Canterbury on Saturday with both teams contributing to a high-tempo, high intensity and highly physical game for the big crowd to enjoy on a typical Spring day at Barn Ems. For 50 minutes Barnes were in control of this game but lost in the end to a gritty and determined City side 22-31
Canterbury came out of the traps hard and fast, and it took the green and gold to acclimatise to the pace and power of the Kent boys, who were clearly up for securing their play-off spot. The visitors scored after only eight minutes to go 0-5 up.
After weathering the first ten minutes of Kentish kitchen sinks being lobbed at us, Barnes settled into our own game plan, and matched Canterbury in every department. With pressure mounting in the Canterbury 22, Barnes scored first after fifteen minutes, the lively Jack Garrett the scorer, then after a brilliant Barnes rolling maul the outstanding Alex Hind scored to give Barnes a 12-5 half time lead, which was unexpected by many, but thoroughly deserved.
We started the second half much as we had the first, calm and in control, Tom O’Toole slotted a penalty, making it 15-5 to Barnes, and seemingly cruising.
Tom was playing his last home game for Barnes before hanging up his boots at the end of this season. Tom has been a force of nature in his last five years at Barnes, mercurial, innovative and a joy to have in our midst, things always happened when he was on the pitch. We shall miss him as a player but hopefully we can coax him and Kate down with their new baby, a Barnes Mini in the making.
Between the 50th and 60th minutes, the game turned on its head. We suffered two yellow cards inside three minutes, having not conceded any penalties in our own 22 previously in the half, one was careless, two…well seemed somewhat harsh when you look at the match video. With only thirteen players on the pitch, we went from 15-5 up to 15-19 down in the blink of an eye.
In the midst of the mayhem, and before Canterbury scored their brace, Barnes were awarded a penalty near the half way line and went on the attack, only for the player to be hauled down and the ball turned over from which the Kent side broke up the pitch and scored. I never whinge about getting the rub of the green but it is clear from the video that the tackler was less than 10 metres back from the ball and in another game that would have been a penalty against the City side and our penalty. On such things games are decided.
Sensing the game was theirs; Canterbury turned the screw and scored their fourth try in the 68th minute to lead 15-26 and their final score three minutes later to make it 15-31.
Barnes never gave up, and the final score was ours with the swash-buckling Rob Malaney rolling back the years to crash over from five yards out. Final score Barnes 22 - Canterbury 31.
It was a wholehearted, fully committed performance from Barnes, the boys can be proud of themselves. But is a and one we will look back on and know that we will need to do better in games like this next season to be sure of a top half finish, our minimum ambition.
Barnes have one game left after the Easter break, away to the relegated London Irish Wild Geese and we will be looking to sign off a good season back in National League 2 South with an emphatic win.
Fixtures on 27th April 2019
Other than the Barnes 1st XV game at London Irish Wild Geese with a 3pm kick off, the 2nd XV also have their final game of the Zoo Shield 1 league, against top of the table Amphill.
For those wishing to travel to London Irish for the 3pm kick off, here is the address:
In addition to these two brilliant games, we also have the world famous Barnes Ladies 7's tournament at Barn Elms on Saturday, kicking off at 10:20am and finishing around 6pm. With all the teams meeting up after their games, the clubhouse will be rocking that's for sure.
Please do come down and support your club on this last weekend of the season, both at London Irish and at Barn Elms, and see you for a beer afterwards!
Here's to a cracking last day of the season, and may all of the games be played in the original spirit that we hold so dear at Barnes RFC.
Onwards and Upwards!
Michael “Rhino” Whitfield - Chairman Barnes RFC