Bannockburn, Stirling, La Rochelle, Orleans and Dunkirk- all English defeats where we went down fighting to the end, eventually winning the war!
1. Monty Weatherby
2. Joe Beckett
3. David Hanson-Isasi
4. Ollie Taylor
5. Jack Bayes
6. Tom Stock
7. Freddie Godley
8. James Parry
9. Callum Darlington
10. Thomas Lea
11. Harry Taylor
12. Cameron Beech
13. James Finucane
14. Matt Reel
15. Jordan Ravenscroft
Replacements: Cieran Leigh, Alex Wardle, Alex Walker, Archie Irlam-Mowbray
As with most military defeats, armies have usually been starved, battered and out manoeuvred before they capitulate, and this game mostly fell into that bracket. Our injury list certainly looked like a roll of honour: Jake Meredith, Christian Dolan, Josh Brookes, Oli Sorensen, George Morgan, James Moore and Luke Pickles, with Archie Irlam-Mowbray added before kick-off, and it would certainly effect most sides, especially before a local derby, but undaunted we headed once more into the breach.
Morale was high, call it our Dunkirk spirit, and the great thing about missing players, is that others get their chance to show what they can do, and today several players were looking to impress.
Crewe have learnt lessons from our last game, and brought in re-enforcements from foreign fields, adding size and pace to their line-up to hit us where it hurts. From the kick-off, their intentions were plain to see, to blast us off the pitch with power plays. Caught a little unawares, we missed a couple of tackles and conceded early on. This first attack was no feint, and before we could regroup properly, we conceded a second try, albeit with an air of fortune, as confusion reigned after a kick forward from Crewe in open play, and Crewe’s dangerman scooped up to score again.
Finally, we started to shape up, and we pressed forward, finally getting a foothold in the game. Cameron Beech and James Finucane started to make in-roads into the Crewe defence only to be thwarted by some great tackling. We took on more damage though, as Thomas Lea deputising for Luke Pickles went off before half-time, and this disrupted our shape and rhythm slightly as we were just getting into the game. Jordan Ravenscroft moved into fly-half, and Matt Reel to full-back to well and truly give us an unfamiliar look.
Crewe took advantage of our shuffle, to score a slightly soft try against the run of play to take the wind out of sails slightly. There were some plusses though, Harry Taylor was doing well on the wing and Matt Reel was cleaning up nicely behind our backs aswell as getting into the attacking line. The forwards had a job on their hands, but Tom Stock and Joe Beckett were leading the way, along with David Hanson-Isasi who was fearsome. We struggled in the line-outs with their big jumper at 1, cutting everything out, but Ollie Taylor and Jack Bayes did everything they could to stop him running the show.
Going into half-time, we still were in bright spirits and felt if we scored an early try, we would have them on the back foot. Monty Weatherby took the battle to Crewe, with a barn-storming run, and there were memories of Caldy, when we rolled a maul up the pitch in similar style. Well and truly in command, we played some great rugby, showing skill that will eventually come into its own in a few years, when size advantage won’t be the be all and end all. James Finucane was thwarted in sight of their line, with his trademark run, and James Parry, again majestic at No.8, peeled off a scrum and was also stopped by a wonderful Crewe defence. We were however, as so often happens in these situations, sucker-punched. Missing our big tacklers, Crewe broke free yet again to score, to make the score 0-26, leaving us to play for a bit of pride.
Ollie Taylor left the field to a rib injury, and left us licking our wounds. Our heads never dropped, to our credit, and there were no signs of any evacuation. Again, we showed some great rugby, but again were met with a well drilled defence. A measure of how committed we were, showed when Jack Bayes was yellow carded for an altercation with his opposite number, who was also yellow carded. With both sides down to 14, there was more space, which Crewe took advantage of, to score yet again, giving the score a more than generous look at 0-31.
Assured of victory, Crewe now looked to avenge the defeat earlier in the season. With our army on its knees, they capitalised with the last play of the game to give the score a tilted 0-38.
Many will look at this defeat in the future and see a one sided affair, but I was proud of the lads. They all gave 100%, and showed tremendous spirit and determination. The game didn’t go quite the way we had hoped, but we again played some great rugby, with many players out of position and using different skill sets than usual, underlining our overall ability compared to other sides that just use massive kids to hit it up. We missed tackles, we dropped passes, but we never stopped trying, which is the signature of a developing squad.
Remember, winning or losing a battle, may not end a war.
It was very difficult to choose Men of the Match this week, but eventually I went for the 2 players who both had heart, leadership, and had Crewe mostly on the back foot, namely Jordan Ravenscroft and Cameron Beech, but many others deserve medals too!