I suppose you could call it our “Dunkirk” moment, where we take massive heart from a defeat. An hours’ drive, horrible weather, injuries and cry-offs, not to mention having to drive through Heswall, all pointed to a bad day. But then seeing a guy stood next to his newly crashed Ferrari Italia on the M56, it reminded me, the omens can be wrong sometimes…
1. Monty Weatherby
2. Christian Dolan
3. Joe Beckett
4. Jack Bayes
5. James Moore
6. James Parry
7. Cameron Beech
8. Freddie Godley
9. Callum Darlington
10. Luke Pickles
11. Alex Wardle
12. Josh Brookes ©
13. Oli Sorensen
14. George Morgan
15. Jordan Ravenscroft
Replacements: Alex Walker, Ollie Taylor, Harry Taylor, Tom Stock, Thomas Lea, Jake Meredith, Matt Reel
Scorer(s): Tries: Josh Brookes, Tom Stock Con(s): Luke Pickles 1
Possibly my favourite performance of the season so far, it has to run the Crewe game close. The lads showed maturity, spirit and heart today in abundance.
Omens are funny things, it’s about interpretation. Many cultures see the number 13 as a bad one, yet some see 13 as lucky. So on our 13th game of the season, we kicked off with an unfamiliar looking front row, as Joe Beckett tried his hand at prop, with Christian Dolan and Monty Weatherby his fellow cohorts. James Moore and Jack Bayes took over from Harry and Ollie Taylor in the second row, and James Parry, Cameron Beech and Freddie Godley made up the back row.
In the backs (seven of them!), Callum Darlington started at Scrum-half, Luke Pickles partnering him, with Josh Brookes and Oli Sorensen at Centres. On the wings Alex Wardle and George Morgan started with Jordan Ravenscroft at full-back. This left us with a strong bench, and an opportunity for some players to show their mettle.
Four leafed clovers, rabbit’s feet and heather, were all clutched tightly as we kicked off. Some prayed, some chanted, some simply closed their eyes, hoping previous defeats and injuries would not be inflicted once again.
We needn’t have worried, the lads showed their composure in the first 5 minutes by not conceding points or ground. In fact, we looked marginally the better side, as the forwards started to believe in their ability. Caldy struck first however, after a returned kick caught us off guard, with several of their players still loitering off-side, it was unclear who had come from deep, and a Caldy player scooped up to score. At 7-0 down, and conceding in such circumstances, I cursed our luck, and feared the worst.
The boys had other ideas. With belief boiling inside them, they charged back at Caldy. We were rocking them, and our boys could sense it. When the ball was fed to Josh Brookes, he optimized the feeling by heading straight for the heart of their defence. Beating 3 or 4 defenders with his 5 yard side step, he broke free to score under the posts. Our first try against Caldy for 3 years, since the penalty try on half a pitch. 7 points each, with them rocking like Vanessa Feltz in a dingy.
Credit to Caldy though, they regrouped, and their backs started to get some ball. We started to concede decisions and go backwards, but were again unlucky to lose another try as injuries and coldness started to creep in. Another conceded try before half-time, saw the score have a kind gloss that we didn’t really deserve. Our forwards had been dominating the rucks, but our counter-parts had showed us how to maul. We had at least achieved our objective, to score a try against the best in Cheshire, and things felt a little more relaxed, and confidence was beginning to blossom.
With changes to personnel on both sides at half-time, our back line started to feel the cold, and our handling wasn’t as crisp, but nonetheless we tried to take the game to Caldy. Again, injuries had forced a re-shuffle, and players were playing in unusual positions, and while we were settling back in, Caldy took advantage, running in a couple of tries. We were still competing, but again Caldy size showed, as we started to go backwards. Their flyers started to get ball, and with our backs, cold and in disarray, it was inevitable we would concede again, which we did with only five minutes remaining. With us down to the last fit 15, 7 off injured or blown, we shrugged our shoulders, and the team gave us the best 5 minutes of the season. James Parry, in at centre from Flanker, broke free with a trademark powerful run, and set the tone. Caldy were not happy, arguing amongst themselves, and showing a vulnerable side, as we tore into them.
The forwards rumbled forward, with a maul going 30 yards to an area just short of the line, through Monty Weatherby, Caldy stopped the rampage just in time, only to see Tom Stock, biding his time well, to finally pick and drive to go over the line, never higher than 6 inches from the deck, in the ideal finish from a yard.
There is no doubt Caldy were the better side, and play some great physical rugby, but we showed massive improvement, and ended the game on a high. It goes to show, bravery and heart are more important than luck in games like these.
Caldy’s coaches were full of praise for our players after the game, which is wonderful to hear, and the lads should be proud that for periods of the game today, we bettered the future Cheshire Cup Champions!
Players all over the pitch had wonderful games: James Moore worked tirelessly, Freddie Godley showed presence at number 8, and Joe Beckett coped well with his new position. James Parry actually scared Caldy at times, and Christian Dolan again took ball against the head, but the forwards’ Man of the Match went to Cameron Beech, playing in 3 different positions, he showed Cadly we are no longer the pushovers we once were.
In the backs, Jordan Ravenscroft again let very little past, and Luke Pickles worked his socks off, while Josh Brookes scored yet another wonder try and caused them problems the whole game, but Backs’ Man of the Match went to Callum Darlington, for an all-round performance, never letting Caldys back row intimidate him, and coping with all sorts of adversity.
Well done today, you made us all proud.