U13 away vs Evesham
Lost narrowly but all winners
Breaking Through The Barricades. True Gold.
Sunday dawned and with it the formidable promise of a trip to our local rivals Evesham. Fortunately, the wind and rain of Saturday night had abated and I hoped that our luck with the weather, if not the rugby, continued.
Evesham locals can be identified by their inability to pronounce their own town correctly. Instead locals consider “Eeversham” their home. This habit dates from the 15th century when the local squire was given chattels from the King’s treasure chest. The quantity awarded was dependent upon the length of the town’s name multiplied by the numbers of “pure maidens” of marrying age residing in the town. Shortage of one often led to an exaggeration of the other. Hence the locals’ annunciation of Glaaawsteeerrrr & Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwlllantysiliogogogoch.
Following protracted contract negotiations, that have been slightly less complicated than the Brexit fiasco, & conducted with Ollie Nichols’ agent (or parents), I detoured to pick up Ollie in order that he could make his long-awaited return to Bredon colours. A further detour via PHHS followed, where I deposited my daughter & her friend for their own dramatic enterprises, before arriving fashionably early for the drama to unfold at Albert Road playing fields.
Unfortunately, the road to the car park & clubhouse was barricaded. Two men wearing fluorescent bibs were guarding the path. Fearing they may be protestors from Paris I manoeuvred into the adjacent sodden field, lost control twice before sliding the car to a halt. I asked the guards if perhaps I could park in the empty car park. No reply. I switched from French to local Eeversham & was informed that there was not much room in the large empty car park and all available spaces were reserved for the coaches. Despite my observations I didn’t see a single National Express vehicle all day.
Slightly dejected I trudged along the riverside path towards the clubhouse with Ollie and the Monkey shuffling along beside me. Parked along the driveway were several white vans. Beside each van stood a man holding a long rod; had they been wearing pointy hats they would have looked like a set of enormous garden gnomes. The fishermen were conspicuously adjacent to a large, menacing sign declaring emphatically “NO FISHING”.
The large small car park was predictably virtually empty as we continued into the clubhouse. The kitchen staff were at preparation stage, so I ordered the bacon & sausage combo bap in advance & waited in eager anticipation. When alerted by the serving lady, I smugly bypassed the growing refreshments queue to claim my breakfast, had a near miss with the brown sauce & devoured the necessary but unremarkable bap. The quest continues.
Players, team officials, supporters and parents of all shapes, sizes and ages were quickly filling the clubhouse. Mr. Abracadabra produced a shirt for Ollie out of thin air before the boys were ushered towards the changing room & treated to one of Will’s infamous team talks.
The tension was palpable as the game drew closer. Schoolmates galore were to be pitted against each other. Evesham have enjoyed bragging rights for several years so the Bredon boys had a point to prove. Evesham, on the other hand, may have been anticipating another comfortable win – some of the parents said as much during the preceding week.
As expected, we were directed to the furthest pitch from the facilities & made to wait for half an hour until the wind and rain swept in & the temperature plummeted to somewhere near zero.
With limited resources available the coaching staff made some unorthodox selections. Ben A was moved from tight head prop to the right wing & Sam moved to tight head from second row. Ben W moved from prop into the second row. In the absence of Euan, Alfie continued his apprenticeship at scrum half, with Morgan moving back from 12 to 10. After his sabbatical of two years Ollie partnered Josh in midfield.
The boys needed to start well and build on the confidence gained over the past couple of weeks. I needed to get some circulation into my fingers and toes as I started to lose feeling in my extremities. I checked the rest of the parents who were suffering in the wintry conditions. Once again Sharon seemed comfortable in her Yak hair under-things. Others were using Big Phil as a wind break and searching through kit bags for extra layers.
From the first whistle Bredon demonstrated a desire to win and played with an intensity that we haven’t seen before. It was too much for the home side who struggled to keep a rampant Bredon side at bay.
James was making inroads into the home defence time & again and was hungry for more work. The forwards operated much more as a unit which contributed to winning breakdown after breakdown, with Harry constantly making a nuisance of himself.
Both scrums were under pressure, but Alfie managed to move scrappy ball away more times than not & allowed Morgan to run & distribute well throughout the game. Both centres, James, Ben W, Ben P & Jimmy were all willing carriers as Bredon pressed. After another break from James, the forwards recycled the ball quickly allowing the backs to move it left with some deft handling, giving Benny enough space to squeeze over in the corner for the first score.
No matter how Evesham tried they couldn’t breach an inspired Bredon defence. There were a number of stand out hits put in among an inspired team effort. Josh and Ollie were devastating in the centre & Ben A enjoyed his opportunities to crunch anyone that crossed his path.
Bredon doubled their lead when James surged through home defence again & carried his would-be tacklers over the line to touch down.
Evesham hit back with a try but as the game moved into the second half Bredon still led. (Little) Phil revealed his Aboriginal background by walking across the pitch, perhaps covering Henry at full back, but un-noticed by the ref. Naughty boy Will, however, failed to escape the ref’s attention when he offered some words of advice. To be fair the ref even offered to let Will ref the game if he wanted. Will replied mischieviously, that he thought the ref was doing a fine job and should continue, but he would keep an eye on things and let the ref know if he missed anything.
The game was fiercely contested & was a credit to both teams. Evesham strengthened their line up and started to stretch a tiring Bredon defence. A questionable blocking allowed Evesham’s playmaker to set up an equalizing score but despite the endeavour of both sides the second half finished all square. All in all, a draw was a fair result. Like an ageing, tired 1980’s band, past their best, who can’t give up, the players were required to produce more.
Much to the visiting supporters’ surprise a third period was then played. I am unreliably informed that it was also a surprise to the Bredon players (but this may have been only to those who weren’t paying attention)!
By the start of the final third conditions were pretty grim. It was bitterly cold, blustery and wet, but the hail storm was probably the worst part. Handling errors were inevitable. Evesham were utilizing all their players whilst Bredon had lost James & later Sam to injuries. Sean & Andrew both came on to fill the vacancies and also did themselves proud in the unforgiving conditions.
With about 10 minutes left, Bredon couldn’t get out of their own territory & crucially spilled the ball & turned over possession, giving the Evesham wing a run into the corner. Ollie dragged him down inches short, but the winger turned and placed the ball on the line. Behind for the first time, the boys started to tire. Moments later, Evesham regained the ball from the kick off & launched another attack. A score seemed certain before Ollie put in another try saving tackle. The ref adjudged the tackle was too high & awarded a penalty 5 metres from the goal-line. I thought it was harsh at the time and Becky’s video replay suggests that the hit was around the chest. Alas no TMO was called for and quick thinking from the home side allowed them to run in a decisive try in the corner.
Despite this setback, Bredon demonstrated their resolve and hit back again. Henry, who had been as reliable and fearless as ever, fielded a wayward kick & counter attacked. The ball was moved to Ollie, who had little space to work in. He showed quick feet to get through a tackle and break from halfway, beating a number of defenders to score a great individual try. Time was nearly up as Bredon pressed the home defence but just couldn’t manufacture an opening to tie the game.
As the final whistle blew, the exhausted boys from both sides shook muddy hands & instantly became best mates again as they made their way off to the changing rooms. We all moved into the clubhouse to defrost & it was universally agreed that it had been a great game & a credit to all those involved. Bredon’s coaching staff agreed that this is what they have been working towards & that the boys performed as a team and took a big step forward in their rugby education.
We made our way towards the car dodging cars making their way out of the car park. I assume they were all leaving the coaches’ convention that must have taken place during the game.
The weather had been too much for the fishermen (& possibly the fish). The barricades were gone along with guards. The boys departed glowing with pride and full of hot dogs, fizzy pop & satisfaction, dreaming dreams of greater things to com