Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Saturday, 24 March 2012

On the road again...

So, I'm trying something new today...blogging on the bus! We're heading to Westcliff near Southend (or Saaaaafffend) in the glorious Saturday sun. Apologies in advance for any autocorrect mistakes!

The Game against Bracknell really took its toll on the squad. We were stunned by how rubbish we were. We didn't tackle, we didn't look after the ball, we were soft at the break down, all in all a bad day at the office. The only real positive was that we couldn't get any worse!

We worked hard in the week, determined to put in a big performance at home against London Irish. And we followed the script perfectly.

The first 20 minutes were perhaps the best we have ever played. We dominated in the forwards and looked sharp and dangerous in the backs. Papa Bear Lamden looked in imperious form and broke the line almost every time. The Mataei Express was in merciless mood as he Lomu-ed everyone in his path.

We took a 17-0 lead and looked untouchable. But Irish were not in mood to be steamrolled. They fought back, lead by influential Number 8 Sam McKinney. We stalled and seemed surprised they weren't lying down. We held onto a 17-14 lead at the half but the tide had turned.

The second half was a battle. Irish had the initiative and extended their lead. We battled to get back into the Game and pressured their line constantly but couldn't find the breakthrough.

The final score was a disappointing 27-20. It was a much better performance though and we registered a losing bonus point to keep us in touch with Civil Service.

Today we're away to Westcliff who have been enjoying something of a resurgence. We beat them comfortably at home but we're expecting a big test today.

We're all looking forward to a big bus trip home as well. 2 1/2 hours, a skinful of beer and Village People theme dress. Let's get the win and get the party started!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Fantastic season in danger of derailing's been a while (awkward tension). 

I apologise for not being more active but I have been distracted by a fairly major factor - all will be revealed in due course!

But what has happened in the meantime? Well, our glorious and magnificent season is in grave danger of becoming a train-wreck. A terrible string of results and uncharacteristically lackluster performances have lead to a debilitating tumble down the league table. And it all started with an away trip to the Herts/Essex border...

We approached the Bishops Stortford game with genuine optimism. Despite an embarrassing loss to Civil Service, we were convinced we could repeat our momentous away win to our Herts rivals. But things, inevitably, didn't go according to plan. For 20 minutes, we were in the game but then the tide turned...and apparently we forgot how to tackle.

Stortford deserved to win the game as we weren't at the races. But we weren't really allowed to be at the races. A truly baffling and inept refereeing performance meant we could not get a sniff at the breakdown area. As the defending team, we weren't allowed to even think about competing for the ball. If we did, instant yellow card. 

Frustration soon boiled over and we lost our cool. 45-10 the final score with three yellow cards and a red. This was a serious dent to our season but, more importantly, to our confidence and belief. 

And then the snow came. Our home fixture against Tonbridge was postponed due to the weather so we had two weeks of stewing and gym circuit training instead. When the ground finally thawed, we hosted Maximuscle's Staines.

The Rangers prepare for a scrum against Staines
We knew from previous games against the Middlesex side that they always push us to the limit. We were not expecting an easy game as their league position would naturally suggest. And we were not disappointed. They brought a fiery physicality and a desperate determination to push out of the bottom three. 

Despite going behind early, we managed to dominate large parts of the match. We were behind at half time but the tricky conditions meant we were still in with a shout. A tense but thrilling game was settled by a moment of genius from Scott Browne. A pin-perfect chip to the corner straight into the gleeful hands of Titch Roberts followed up by a crucial touchline conversion gave us the lead. The forwards kept Staines pinned down in Tring Corner until the final whistle blew. A tense 13-11 win to restore faith.

Just a week later, however, and we were faced with a problem. The home fixture against Tonbridge had been rearranged on a week that had been marked as free. This meant many people had already made plans and were unavailable so we were forced to field an under strength side. 

Now, to many this may seem like an arbitrary point - if there's a game you play as simple as that. But behind any amateur, semi or even full professional Rugby player is a long suffering partner. If plans have been made, it is very difficult/unfair to cancel them at the last minute - or risk spending the rest of the month sleeping in the dog house, which is no way to prepare for a game! I wasn't able to play in this game, but a 44-17 loss was all anyone needed to know. 

We had previously targeted the away fixture to Bracknell as a must/should win game. A match to rebuild our confidence and push on to triumphant unbeaten run to the end of the season. But last weekend was probably our lowest point. We totally capitulated. Our defence was weak. We coughed up the ball time and time again due to stupid and reckless offloads. And we were duly punished. 

We were taught a valuable lesson in Berkshire. For much of the game we dominated and played some excellent phases. The scrum was solid and our lineout was excellent. But we weren't nearly clinical enough. Like birds following a trawler (ooh I've gone all Cantona!), Bracknell lived off our scraps and made us pay.To be honest, we looked rusty and bereft of ideas under pressure. We were too flat and predictable in attack and too high and noncommittal in defence. 

A final score of 38-3 against a team we were expecting to beat shows we are a team at crisis point. It is easy to look for excuses - bad refs, illness, injuries and absentees - but we have to take ownership of these results and learn from the mistakes. We need to lick our wounds and regain some belief and confidence.

London Irish Amateur will be visiting Cow Lane this weekend and we know we are due a big performance. Or else face our season coming totally off the tracks. 

One final point, lamp-post impressionist David Shotton has decided to leave the club and start a new adventure in Australia. You never know, it might improve his chat! Good luck, mate.