Run, Bertie, Run: Last orders at The Stranger’s Home
By William Meston
Mistley 1st XV 67 - 0 Sudbury 3rd XV
Run, Bertie, Run: Last orders at The Stranger’s Home
Mistley 1st XV 67 - 0 Sudbury 3rd XV
Although I don’t much enjoy playing on the wing, it does have its advantages. Firstly, you can watch the action unfold while rarely needing to get involved in the actual game, which is handy when writing match reports.
Secondly, you get a great cardio workout running back and forth without ever receiving the ball.
Finally, and most importantly, you can admire Simon Carter’s outstanding pitch-marking skills; I have never seen such straight lines on a pitch other than a professional one.
To be honest, I could just talk about Bertie’s sensational wonder try for the entirety of this report. However, there is so much to report from this match, that it would be a disservice to devote all my words to the man, although completely merited.
First of all, I’d like to mention that this match almost didn’t take place due to the brain malfunction of a certain Mistley stalwart (no names, Suss!). Basically, he thought Sudbury 3rd XV had pulled out of the league at the beginning of the season. Thus, arrangements were made to bring forward the following week’s Marauders game against Maldon 2nd XV.
However, he had confused Sudbury Tigers with Stowmarket 3rd XV, who had pulled out of the Marauders league. Hasty ‘rearrangements’ were then made to the ‘rearranged’ Maldon match in order to accommodate the Sudbury game.
Just imagine Sudbury turning up to find an empty clubhouse - thus earning an away walkover win - as we were playing down in the capital of sea salt. There may well be a very dirty pint awaiting Suss at the end of season awards presentation.
Anyway, to the actual match itself. Strattz, Moses and Thorpey selflessly offered/were made to play for Sudbury to make up their numbers. We kicked off and soon had Sudbury pinned in their own twenty-two.
Our set piece play was clinical from the outset of the match. The scrums were well anchored by props, Angus Bissett and James Wares, who often propelled them forward in order to win both our ball and Sudbury’s ball. However, it was the line-out - much improved from previous games - which impressed the most. Navedog (hooker), Freddie Barrett (line-out jumper) and line-out lifters (James Wares and Suss) worked together in glorious harmony to provide good ball for our attack.
Indeed, it was from a line-out fifteen metres out that we mauled towards the line, Big G (Gary Booker) peeling off down the blindside to trundle in the first try.
Unfortunately, this was to be pretty much Gary’s last participation in the match, for soon after he suffered a back spasm. Watching him try to walk after the game reminded me of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
At this moment in time, if we were to have a bench-lifting competition, I would wage good money on me beating him. We had actually arranged to have a bench-lifting competition the previous evening, but alas I was stuck in traffic on the A12 for over two hours and had to relieve myself in my recently purchased water bottle. It is surprisingly difficult to wee into a water bottle while driving along at 2mph and constantly stop-starting the car in traffic.
Almost immediately we were back deep in Sudbury territory after Ali B Taylor sliced through the defence and cleverly kicked ahead. The covering defender was soon surrounded by several Mistley vultures and was duly penalised for not releasing in the tackle. From the resulting scrum, scrum-half Will Vine elected not to pass as per usual, instead seeing a gap in the defence to scamper through and score.
The majority of this early domination was due to two players in particular. Jack Tompkins - back at his original position of fly-half - had himself a masterful game, dictating match-play with authority. Ed Barrie, at inside centre, was also influential throughout the game; silky passes mixed in with powerful, straight running. On a couple of occasions, his slick passing allowed Ali B Taylor and Jamie Dove - running great lines - to breach the stretched defence at pace, almost resulting in tries.
However, this is the last nice thing I’ll write about Ed this season as he called me a ‘mug’ for dropping - and subsequently knocking on - his perfectly weighted cross-field kick early in the second half; after the referee had played advantage to us.
(Barrie...I hope your recovery from being Sudbury’s human tackle bag in the second half is going well).
Soon after Vine’s score, quick champagne rugby featuring several superb off-loads and passes, followed by a tantalising looping pass by JT just over the outstretched arms of a roaming Sudbury player nestled into the lap of Ant - “I have twelve Artic lorries full of chicken sh#t, so if you ever need fertiliser for your allotment, Chown?” - Wares to saunter in to score in the corner.
I now bitterly regret giving him the option of which wing he wanted to play on as I’m desperate to add to my one and a half try tally in just over three seasons. If you want to know where the half-try comes from, it’s when - with victory within our grasp against Saffron Walden 2nd XV last season - I over-ran the try area.
This situation I blame entirely on their groundsman, who seemingly hadn’t been bothered to cut the grass or mark the pitch for several weeks.
Elliot ‘ET’ Hamilton, who replaced Big G in the second row, soon had a huge impact on the game with his hard carries in the loose. He often used his incredible strength to knock holes through Sudbury’s midfield defence. One such instance in open play saw him bull-doze his way like a human pinball machine through several Sudbury players to score near the posts.
Midway through the first half, forward momentum had seen us quickly move upfield to Sudbury’s five metre line. However, Sudbury did well to slow the ruck down. Thus, with play having stalled, JT dropped back into the pocket to nail a twenty metre drop goal.
Indeed, JT was putting on a kicking clinic. Seven conversions, often from out wide, sailed through the posts, another unluckily hitting a post.
Towards the end of the half, Hamilton again charged down the right touch-line like a raging bull towards a matador, to put us within reach of the Sudbury try-line. There then followed too many phases as the forwards tried to bludgeon their way over when all it called for was a quick outlet to the backs. Fortunately though, Hamilton, who was quickly back into the fray, was able to offload it to an on-rushing Ali B Taylor to score.
The half-time whistle came when Sudbury’s burly No. 8 was ushered into touch by Chowndog’s nose. Given my propensity to get bopped on the nose this season, I don’t think it’ll be long until I end up looking like Mike Tindall. Still, Zara Phillips. Swings and roundabouts.
Although we went into half-time with an unassailable 34-0 lead, it was stressed by the coaches not to get greedy with ‘white line fever’. Several try-scoring opportunities had been needlessly butchered by impatient lunges at the line. Instead, we should have been working the overlaps, which had opened up as a result of the Sudbury defence being sucked in time and time again.
The Mistley players - having taken this advice on board - played with renewed vigour in the second half (apart from Barrie), and, at times showed glimpses of top quality rugby.
After a crunching tackle by Navedog (who is now all hench from his Arnie-sque gym sessions down at Busybodys), Will Vine scooped up the loose ball and stormed sixty metres up the pitch to score.
This was shortly followed by one of the best team-oriented tries ever seen at Furze Hill. From within our own half, the ball was quickly swung out left, before being quickly recycled a couple of times through abrasive rucking and pick n’ go’s. Then, reversing play to the right, swift passing down the line saw Ali Taylor swoop through a gap to score. It was a try which Dai Kenyon - our tactics coach - said he had waited five years to witness.
To their credit Sudbury never gave up despite the score-line. During a ten minute spell they dominated territory and possession, often being camped deep in our twenty-two.
A potential try was well held up over the line by the likes of Chown, Vine, Meston etc (not Barrie though) and excellent defending off Sudbury scrums by blindside flanker Dougall Meston prevented their big No. 8 from making ground.
Thus, we never relinquished any points to Sudbury and a big clearance kick into touch by Tompkins relieved the pressure. A hat-trick try for Ali B Taylor shortly followed.
Then a searing run by full-back Jamie Dove was cut just short of the try-line. However, he was able to stay on his feet in the tackle and after a quick maul and a short pop pass, JT jinxed inside the discombobulated Sudbury defence to score.
Now to the defining moment of the match. On our forty metre line, Strattz - playing for Sudbury - went into contact and was double tackled. As he went down, Chowndog was able to prize the ball loose. All I remember then was Strattz calling us a bunch of (insert female genitalia here) and looking up to see the most unfathomable sight I have ever seen; Bertie Baxter sprinting at full steam towards the try-line.
Rumour has it that he set the record for Manningtree School’s fastest 100 metres; a record which still stands to this day.
So what happened to Bertie in the intervening twenty plus years, you may ask? Well...his Father took over The Strangers Home in Bradfield in the mid-nineties, and once beer wetted Bertie’s lips for the first - and definitely not the last time - he transformed from a skinny whippet into how all props should look ie. none of this modern day pretty prop b*llocks.
A final desperate puff of the cold and crisp Autumn air while doggedly fending off the sole covering defender, saw him dive over the line with a mixture of jubilation and relief. Mainly relief though.
It was undoubtedly the try of the season so far. What is even better is that Knapton can no longer lay claim to having scored the greatest try by a Mistley prop; something we would be still hearing about from him when we are grandparents.
Man of the match was Freddie Barrett, whose all-action hero performance encompassed great line-out work, tireless support play and making valuable hard yards from Sudbury kick-offs. Fred is probably the most consistently excellent player for Mistley. Along with Will Vine and Ali B Taylor, he is the most likely recipient of the MOTM ‘dirty pint’. It is quite sickening really.
D#ck of the Day has to go to first aider/wannabe lollipop man, Trev (father of JT), who came up to Suss after the game and said to him: “I’m not being funny, but I reckon my son should get Man of the Match.”
Next week the 1st XV entertains Mersea 2nd XV (Rhinos) at home, while the Marauders travel to play Maldon 2nd XV in the ‘rearranged’ rearranged fixture. Suss has already volunteered to play in this match.
Chris ‘Council Workers Don’t Work In The Rain, Hence Why I’m Writing This Report’ Chown
1. Angus ‘Rhinoceros’ Bissett
2. Kevin ‘Arnie’ Nave
3. James ‘Big Bear’ Wares
4. Gary ‘Hunchback of Notre Dame’ Booker
5. Steve ‘Sudbury Tigers are no longer in the league’ Betts
6. Dougall ‘Soon to be a Silverfox’ Meston
7. Jack ‘Shoulders’ Caldin
8. Freddie ‘Gadget Man’ Barrett
9. Will ‘I never pass’ Vine
10. Jack ‘I’m not being funny, but I reckon my son should get Man of the Match’ Tompkins (Captain)
11. ‘Your side-line reporter/winger’, Chowndog
12. Ed ‘Human Tackle Bag’ Barrie
13. Ali ‘Sex Pest’ Baggiony-Taylor
14. Ant ‘Chicken Wings’ Wares
15. Jamie ‘Bobby on the Beat’ Dove
16. Elliott ‘I’m named after Elliott from ET’ Hamilton
17. Dicky ‘Semi’ Johnson
18. Bertie ‘Manningtree School 100m champion’ Baxter