All appeared well at Park Lane, until the realisation that it was a referee free zone and then administrative panic set in. Fortunately, in the bar [minding his own business and watching England struggle against Italy], was the afternoon’s unassuming star – Jonathan ‘JD’ Burton, Junior Chair…and recently crowned 2nd XV hero. JD left his pint, dashed home to get kit and returned to oversee what became a very entertaining victory for ORs. Steve Jenner, AXV roving reporter, whose opinions on refereeing decisions is, on most occasion, not quoted in the match reports because of deleted expletives, was heard to comment ‘Bloody marvellous!’ Thank-you, Mr Burton – here’s hoping we can call on you again.
So, to the action. From kick off, Joe Jenner collected the ball, and took off like a rhinoceros that had been stung by a hornet, leaving several battered Ironsides behind him, and laying the foundation for his man of the match performance – awesome both in attack and defence!
Once Battersea had gained possession there was tackling to be done and all stepped up – Tom Woodford thwarting a promising attack; Rob Cheal and Jacob Job making robust hits; Nat Keynon, Ed Bartlett and Lewis Freeman, likewise, defending the fringes more than efficiently.
ORs were definitely in the ascendence, and it was not long before the ball found its way to the alert Chris Chalder, whose forward roll, en route to the opposition 22, did not stop him off loading to the supporting Toby Brann, who crossed the line to give Lucas Stephens the kick in front of the posts. There were further attacks: Kern Bush Nelson dominant at 10, and the backs looking in fine form, with Tom and Toby’s effective pairing and Lucas linking from full back, moving ball to allow both Chris and Patch White opportunity to take on their opposite numbers.
At scrum half, Harry Smith kept forwards in check and 3/4s moving, but also varied play with strong clearance kicking to relieve pressure when needed. He came close to increasing our lead but his break from behind the scrum was unluckily lost forward as he went over the tryline.
Although Battersea were making a tough game of it, it just had the feeling of being a Reigatian day – confidence from last week’s victory adding a spring to the players’ step, belief in each other a growing strength and hard work being the unwritten rule for all in green and blue.
After further pressure [Woody putting a clever kick through and Branny dancing past defenders], we found our way across the whitewash – a thoroughly deserved farewell try for Jacob, after a quick tap penalty by Ed, giving a twelve-point lead.
As stated, our opponents were playing rugby and worked their way back into attack. Reigatian defence, still solid [Jude McRobbie, as ever, working at 110%], needed to be, but we were giving away too many penalties, which put undue pressure on. Harry again relieved the situation with a long clearance, and a textbook lineout, a few minutes later, saw Nat direct the forwards straight on; clean hands through the middle gave extra man, Chris, the chance to throw a great dummy and increase the lead – a powerful conversion took the score to 19-0. As half time beckoned there were still moments to cherish – Adam Mendoza stealing line out ball, Patch creating an important turn over and Jude and Joe knocking a runner very firmly backwards.
The second shift started with more quick hands from the boys, replacements Dan Jones, John Blenkinsop, George Mitchell and George Croucher slotting into the play seamlessly, but it was Ironsides who took the first points of the half with a spectacular 75 metre sprint to outstrip our cover [19-7]. Coach Steve Pilgrim referenced the ‘Ed Bartlett Effect’ [his substitution coinciding with the guests’ solo score – Ed, however, was unavailable for comment as to whether he would have caught the Battersea sprinter, if he had still been on the field].
ORs continued to play good rugby – both in attack and when deterring our opponents’ forays forward [George C and Dan, in particular], Kern clearing well when needed, to relieve our position, and then Jude sealed victory with a step and a try under the posts [his Dad was pleased that he got it between the sticks this time!], which Lucas finished with the extra two points. There were other moments of excitement to come, including further breaks from Adam, Rob and Joe, as well as delightful interplay from Lucas and Woody to set Chris off on a dash to the line – he was hauled down inches from his target by a great last-ditch tackle.
Summing up afterwards, focused on the improvements, but still gave rise to more development that will take the squad further forward. A winning attitude and this growing belief in teammates are both proving major assets, as the season progresses, and there is a feel of OR sides from yesteryear, when there may just have been a Brann, a Jones, a Woodford, a Cheal and a Jenner [with a Bridges and a Forsyth] also on the team sheet.
The team captain’s role has changed over time – it appears that a wonderful kitbag of Reigatian mementoes had been packed for Jacob to take back to Oz, courtesy of Messrs. Pilgrim and O’Hara. However, the souvenir presented to Jacob [which had been carted around by Rob for most of the evening] held within it Lewis’s dirty paraphernalia from the afternoon’s exertions…the real gift secreted away with Owen elsewhere in town. Rob is available [at a very reasonable rate] to carry fellow players’ kit on a Saturday night and can be contacted on the Club’s usual social media channels to book this option.