Moles 12 Maidstone Vets 12
More discipline and composure needed for Moles to have secured the win
On another glorious day for rugby when the good Lord showed further favour to his favourite team sport by letting it rain all morning but stop in time for an early 1pm kick off, the Moles entertained their perennial foes, the Maidstone Vets, at Rectory Field.
With the Moles’ elders gathered for the annual GRFC captain’s day lunch; it was a more youthful Moles’ XV of mixed experience levels (well, 22) that had answered skipper Elvis’ call to arms during the week; including club steward Alison Nash’s son Matt, who was stepping over the white line for his first game of rugby.
Prior to a minute’s silence in remembrance of our country’s fallen heroes, Elvis had called for the Moles to “keep it simple; keep the ball moving forward and then let’s play rugby when we can their 22 and the try line”. Being a half back, Carl Sells (at 10) clearly had no time to listen to a fat, ginger prop and audaciously opened the score book by KICKING the ball, naturally causing the whole Moles pack to stop dead and simultaneously cry “Don’t f***ing kick it!” in genuine disgust, before then meeting his own delectable footwork to touch down in the Stone’s goal area. This led to the Moles’ eight ‘fat boys’ looking at each other as if to acknowledge, “What the f**k do we know?” while the backs congratulated Carl via their Pinterest pages! Honestly reader, if England had scored the same try against Argentina yesterday, it would have gone viral. A great score which Carl then duly converted to take the Moles into a deserved 7-0 lead.
Nonetheless, in true Moley fashion, despite a score to settle the nerves and provide fair reward for their upper hand in the proceedings so far, they were unable to fully seize the initiative and kick on (metaphorically speaking). Poor line out work and ill-discipline at breakdown were the primary causes of the Moles not converting possession, deep into Stones’ territory, into more points. In contrast, just before half-time, after the Moles had gallantly defended both a Maidstone scrum in their 22 and a penalty from the try line, further indiscipline ultimately saw a red and white hooped player touch down over the line and Moles’ prop Ralph in need of a wee rest after becoming somewhat dazed and confused. Subsequently, the teams went into their respective half time huddles with honours even.
Changes at half-time saw Gannet’s stalwart ‘Mayhem’ come into the second row, power lifter ‘Big Ben’ in at 6 for his sophomore outing on the rugby pitch, on one wing Mole elder and GRFC Treasurer ‘Q’ admirably discarding the Captain’s Day Lunch and getting his boots on and on the other, ‘Barman Matt’ for his first taste of competitive match. Other tweaks in the back 3 included Graham Harvey, still in his first season of rugby, moving into the full back position to bring more pace into an area that the Stones were regularly trying to exploit with the boot. A special first-half mention must go out to ‘Young Phil’ on the wing for whom today was his first game since school and he impressed with a number of very convincing carries and most probably the ‘tackle of the day’ which enthused Scotsman ‘Q’ on the side-line as much as the sight of a deep fried mars bar. Phil will be a welcome addition to the pool of senior players at GRFC.
Moles’ rugby history is littered with stories of how the plethora of changes needed to get everyone game time upset the balance of the team. However, the Moles adapted well to these changes and soon had the upper hand and forcing former GRFC 3rd team skipper, Toby Pearce to comment, “Since when did the Moles start playing expansive rugby?” Solid phase on phase progress down the right wing, started by an impressive first carry by ‘Barman Matt’, ultimately sucked in more and more Stones’ players into the contact area for the ball to then move out left and see Velcro make a daring, one handed and overhead Harlem Globetrotteresque pass to a marauding Oaf to carry over the line and take the Moles into a 12-7 lead.
Again the Moles should have pressed on and secured the game, but despite having the greater balance of play, they did everything but score.
Since Maidstone confirmed the fixture earlier in the week, Elvis had always known that he might have to lend them a couple of players to ensure the game happened. This was tricky when ‘the bench’ contained three players either new to, or returning to, the game. Thus, Elvis was forced to loan out two decent players in the aforementioned Toby Pearce and Swans’ regular, Dave Sargeant. Tobe filled in for Maidstone at hooker and was one of the best players on the park over the 80 minutes. In particular, Toby’s ball carrying was strong and the Stones were both dominant and effective on their lineout largely thanks to his consistently accurate throw in.
Dave Sargeant is a player who always gives 100% whatever shirt he is wearing and today was no exception with him causing trouble whenever the ball got out to him on the wing. With 10 minutes left on the clock, the Moles were valiantly stopping the Maidstone forwards’ attempts to crash the ball over the line. A change of tactic called by the scrum half, saw the ball move left through a succession of hands for Dave to quickly run on to and largely unopposed score a classic wing three-quarter try. Thanks Dave!
The scores were now level at 12-12. Elvis kept the talking to a minimum behind the posts, “We can moan about what did or didn’t happen there or we can go down the other end and score. Let’s go!”
And the Moles duly responded, turning over the ball over almost immediately from the restart and making progress pushing the Maidstone scrum back 20 or so metres. But ill-discipline again got the better of the Moles and territory was lost through the concession of penalties; decisions that caused Oaf to question the legitimacy of referee Dave Norman’s parentage.
There is only one highlight left to report. With the game in its final throes, Toby Pearce went on another of his plundering runs up field. Q was minding his own business close to Tobe’s running line and somehow manage to step into it, without any use of his arms and sending the Stones’ hooker for the day. tumbling towards the ground. Some Scottish canniness? An example of “taking one for the team (albeit 60 or so metres from the Moles’ try line)? Whatever it was, Toby did not appreciate it and thus physically asserted himself towards Q who was sporting a butter wouldn’t melt “What?” look across his pale Scots complexion. While Toby was angry and Q was trying to look innocent, Velcro was the happiest man on the pitch as finally, here was an opportunity to talk handbags. “Leave him alone, he’s 60 years old!” cried the mild-mannered estate agent (Sun-Fri only) in support of his team mate. Toby’s handbags record very much had him as the contender and Velcro, as ever, the pretender, so this potential bout was drawing a lot of curiosity on and off the pitch. However, the handbags weren’t out for long and smiles, handshakes and apologies restored order to what had always been a competitive game played in the right spirit. Final Score 12-12.
Today’s match was one the Moles should’ve won but they didn’t. They didn’t do much wrong aside from perhaps giving up the ball unnecessarily to often through a mix of penalties and poor decision making. If they continue to play like they did today with just a bit more discipline and composure at times, they’ll give any equivalent opposition a decent game. As ever, there were still a lot of positives to take from the game despite the disappointment of not winning. The majority have already been mentioned but ‘Big Ben’ at blindside flanker also warrants specific praise. Ben is as strong as an ox and quick and looks like he’s played more than the two games of rugby he has to date; sticking his head into places that some more experienced Moles could do with doing a bit more often. Ben is another great find to add to the Moles’ and Swans’ rosters.
Immediately after the game, players from both sides were fed from the Moles’ Springbok prop Pierre du Toit’s ‘braai’ featuring ‘bouries’ (boerewors (sausage) in a hot dog roll) garnished with peach chutney, all washed down with shots of mampoer (peach moonshine). A big thanks to Pierre for making this happen; it was much appreciated and thoroughly enjoyed by both sides.
Following their feed, players retired either to the clubhouse to join the Moles’ elders enjoying Captains’ Day to watch England overcome Argentina at Twickenham on TV or the terrace to see Gravesend 1st XV come second to Tottonians. Obviously one or two alcoholic beverages were enjoyed and Moles Tour supremo and former rugby skipper, Shotgun, used this as opportunity to get one or two reticent tourists to take the ‘King’s shilling’ and sign up for next May’s 20th anniversary Moles’ tour to that renowned party town of ermm…… Brussels! The Moles are known for coming back off tour with one or two souvenirs from here and there. So who knows? Maybe we can come back with a deal on Brexit?
There was no room for any attention seeking or indeed and need to interrupt any patrons’ drinking in a busy Captains’ day clubhouse (Q will certainly be busy ‘coonting thoose poonds’ swelling the GRFC coffers as a result) so Elvis and Moles’ vice Gareth Moore, having already deciding that democracy was not needed in terms of Mole of the Match, further decided to hold off its award until after next week’s away fixture at the Kings Cross Steelers.
Many a Mole made a night of it in the clubhouse and many will have been coaching our mini youth players or running the club the shop or counting the bar takings on the following Sunday morning with sore heads. Some Moles will have been completing other service within the local community. Not least former services personnel in Moles’ chairman Steve ‘Squeeksy’ Weeks and former Moles’ skipper Mick Terry, who have become very involved with the Gravesham and Ebbsfleet branch of the British Royal Legion. Mick had the honour of being the RBL standard bearer at the Remembrance Day commemorations at the war memorial on Windmill Hill. Well done Michael! Squeeksy organised the recent cycling tour to Ypres that raised money for the RBL and alongside Mick has arranged a music quiz on behalf of the RBL which to be held at the club on Saturday 16th December. No doubt this event will be grandly supported by all within the Moles’ fraternity as well as by those around the edges too.
Ongoing proof, which can never ever be denied, that the Moles is something much much more than just a rugby team!