Stowmarket 2nd XV 43 - 15 Mistley 1st XV
Spirit, Passion, Strength - It’s a hard knock rugby life, but Mistley put the mojo back into the motto
Stowmarket 2nd XV 43 - 15 Mistley 1st XV
Mistley Marauders 31 - 38 BSE 4th XV
Everybody who put on the Mistley shirt this past weekend can be proud of their attitude and performance. Irrespective of the final score-lines, each player embodied the motto which is embroidered below the Mistley badge: ‘Spirit, Passion, Strength’.
My report will focus on the 1st XV match away to Stowmarket 2nd XV, whilst I shall leave the Marauders report in the capable hands of ‘El Past It Presidente’ (his words, not mine), Willy Meston.
So, as you probably all know by now, I like to start my reports with a preamble which sometimes has a tenuous link to the game, but often doesn’t.
So, for this week’s report, I picked up Tam ‘The Fijian Tank’ from Colchester Barracks, and by the time we reached Stowmarket, I had learnt the following: The entire history of the Falklands; how (in theory) to perform a night-time parachute jump whilst being shot at by the enemy; and how to speak fluent Fijian.
Unfortunately, I didn’t suddenly metamorphosis into a human tank capable of smashing through an entire team’s defence, much to my chagrin.
In my view, this was going to be our toughest game of the season so far, and perhaps for the rest of the 2018/19 campaign. Stowmarket are a strong side, especially at home. Their 1st XV now reside in London North-East 2 - three leagues above Mistley - having gained promotion last season, so no doubt the 2nd XV had a wealth of first team experience to call upon amongst their ranks.
Undaunted, we prepared meticulously for the match in the warm-up. In comparison to the previous two weeks, it was good to see the positivity and constructive approach we had to the warm-up and we took this mentality into the match.
It was Stowmarket who struck first when one of their strong ball-carrying forwards broke through a couple of tackles and raced the final thirty metres to score under the posts. However, Mistley’s reply was instantaneous. After good attacking phases had seen us gain territory within Stowmarket’s half, the ball was quickly released into the backs. Having fended off a couple of Stowmarket players, a long chest pass from Tam was well held onto by Chowndog, who then offloaded in the tackle to a looping Ali Baggiony-Taylor. Baggiony then used his gazelle-like speed to prance past the carnivorous cover defence to score in the corner.
Stowmarket continued their onslaught via their physical forwards, but our line speed in defence harassed their fly-half into either kicking away possession, hesitating, or making hurried decisions. Thus, Stowmarket’s backs rarely had much room in which to perform their well rehearsed moves.
Our scrum also performed admirably - player/coach/legend, Bertie Baxter, delving into the Slytherin dark arts of the front row to help combat a large opposition pack. However, despite a solid scrum and courageous defence - a fantastic rearguard action by the likes of Jack Caldin, Fred Barrett, Will Vine and Ed Barrie - Stowmarket scored twice more.
Towards the end of the half, a brilliant opportunistic half-break by fly-half Matt Aspinall in our twenty-two saw him ghost into space to release Tam at full speed. After a couple of quick passes out to the right wing, the move was eventually brought down on Stowmarket’s forty metre line. However, the result was a penalty to us for one of Stowmarket’s players being off his feet at the ensuing breakdown.
A further penalty to us followed; this time thirty metres from the posts and further infield. Jack Tompkins made no mistake converting the penalty, the ball sliding through the posts like a knife through (peanut) butter. Smooth! I prefer mine crunchy, but that’s beside the point.
With half-time less than a minute away, and having soaked up more pressure from their forwards, it looked like the score would remain 19-8, especially when Mistley dominated a Stowmarket scrum. However, rather mystifying, the penalty was given to Stowmarket. Thus, from a quick tap and go which we were not prepared for, the ball was whipped out wide to their outside centre who ran a fast diagonal line to the corner, his momentum just taking him over the try-line despite the valiant cover tackle of full-back, Jamie Dove. The touch-line conversion was clinically dispatched by Stowmarket’s fly-half.
Half-time: Stowmarket 2nd XV 26 - 8 Mistley.
Injuries, work commitments and in the case of Bertie - a 40th birthday ballroom dancing date with his wife at Strictly Come Dancing’s prestigious Wicks Village Hall - meant both the forwards and backs were reshuffled during the second half.
In the forwards, Nick Moses and ‘Squirtle the Turtle’ (Ryan Knapton) replaced Navedog and Bertie at hooker and tight-head respectively; Elliot Hamilton came on in the second row and Suss moved to No. 8.
In the backs, Tam replaced Dicky ‘forever getting injured’ Johnson on the left wing and Matt Aspinall moved to full-back. Ed Barrie took up the fly-half mantle and continued to play with the same aplomb as he had done in the back row.
In the early stages of the second half - for the first time in the game - our scrum creaked a little bit, which, along with our faltering line-out, allowed Stowmarket to build momentum.
Off one such set piece on Mistley’s five metre line, they managed to wheel the scrum; their No. 8 picking up and diving over to score.
Soon after, Mistley conceded again. Having been told by the referee not to contest at the breakdown, one of Stowmarket’s forwards used the confusion to quickly squeeze through the melee of Mistley players to score.
From here on we could have capitulated, as we no doubt would have done in previous weeks. However, with renewed determination, we came back hard at Stowmarket. Through good carrying (particularly James Wares, Will Vine, Jack Caldin and Elliott Hamilton), commitment at the breakdown and superb off-loading, we were soon camped deep in Stowmarket’s twenty-two. With their defence being sucked in at every phase, JT - in typical scrum-half fashion - saw the smallest of gaps to wriggle through and pounced on the whitewash.
Despite the final try of the match going to Stowmarket, we played our best rugby in the last fifteen minutes as tired legs dictated resorting to an intelligent brand of rugby - not something you would usually associate with Mistley. Quick phases via the forwards, followed by attacking the wide channels through the backs - alongside skilful off-loading - saw Mistley breach Stowmarket’s defence several times.
The final play of the match exemplified our effort throughout the match. Turning over Stowmarket ball in our own twenty-two, Elliott Hamilton stormed upfield, bull-dozing his way through several tackles before eventually being dragged down. Quick support play and off-loading saw the action move further upfield until, unfortunately, a knock-on brought an end to proceedings.
The sense of positivity in the squad, both before and after the game, made for a refreshing change from the previous two weeks’ games; the attitude and aptitude of the whole team much improved.
I gleaned from the comments Stowmarket’s players made in the clubhouse afterwards that this had been their toughest game of the season so far. Therefore, it leaves me in little doubt that, should we perform to this level consistently, we should win the vast majority of our remaining games this season.
Man of the Match went to Will ‘not quite as good as his big brother’ Vine, who - as JT commented during the post-match beer presentation - is almost always first to the tackle or breakdown. I can vouch for this, as when the opposition’s winger leaves me flailing on the floor having done me with a side-step, I look back at him making the cover tackle despite seconds previously being in a scrum on the other side of the pitch.
D#*of the Day went to fellow flanker Freddie Barrett, who, despite having a very good game, would probably want to forget about the sliced clearance kick which went over his head and into the arms of a Stowmarket player on the Mistley try-line. Fortunately, the whistle had already blown for a Stowmarket infringement.
On the way home, Tam and I passed a silver pick-up truck which had broken down and was being attended to by the AA in a lay-by on the A12. On the side of the truck, written in large lettering, were the words ‘Richard Percival Engineering’. Shout-out to our President, Percy...hope you made it back home in time for tea.
(Ironically, I broke down just off the A12 on my way to work this morning, so I guess the joke’s now on me).
I also heard through the grapevine (WhatsApp) that Bertie’s 40th birthday party got evacuated when someone tripped the fire alarm. Maybe Craig Revel-Horwood disapproved of Bertie’s Pasodoble?!
1. Jack Caldin
2. Kevin Nave
3. Bertie Baxter
4. James Wares
6. Freddie Barrett
7. Will Vine
8. Ed Barrie
9. Jack Tompkins (Captain)
10. Matt Aspinall
11. Dicky Johnson
13. Ali Baggiony-Taylor
15. Jamie Dove
16. ‘Squirtle the Turtle’ (Ryan Knapton)
17. Nick Moses
18. Elliott Hamilton