Moles 33 Kings Cross Steelers III 5
Another solid performance from the Moles against a team much stronger than the final scoreline might suggest
On one (finally) glorious spring day for rugby, the Moles entertained the Kings Cross Steelers’ 3rd XV at Rectory Field.
Moles’ skipper Elvis had assembled another very strong squad and in the first five minutes or so, his men responded strong defensively to withstand forceful Steelers’ pressure. These sorts of starts to matches would, as recently as at Maidstone this season, have previously seen the Moles standing behind their own posts, within the first five minutes, scratching their heads going, “What happened there then?”
However, when both teams’ forwards began to knock the ball on in order to get their breath back, the usually very strong Moles’ scrum began to impose itself on the match. And pretty much, after withstanding the Steelers’ strong start, as soon as the Moles found themselves with the put in at a scrum just outside the five metre line, number 8 and ‘Miami’ vice skipper Gareth Moore ‘picked and went’ down the blind side to open the Moles’ account; a score that was quickly followed up by the first of ‘1970s’ second row throwback’ punts at goal by ever-improving former footballer and ‘pivot+’ fly half, Carl Sells.
It didn’t take long for the Moles to extend their lead playing uphill towards the changing rooms. A sweeping move out wide on 12 minutes, after more solid forward work, saw Oaf link exquisitely with Steve Wootton on the wing, to double the Moles’ lead following another retro toe poke at goal by Sells.
The Moles dominated for much of the remainder of the half aside from the odd error and dodgy kick here and there. However, the Steelers’ defence was very strong all day. For example, everyone’s favourite comedy foul-mouthed Dubliner ‘Paddy’ Curran’s attempts at line breaks were as strong as ever, but ultimately thwarted by well-executed blue-shirted tackling technique time-and-time again. Subsequently, despite their relative dominance, the Moles had to wait until the very stroke of half-time for the ball to spray out wide again to that man Wootton to complete another ‘jug-avoiding’ brace of tries in the black shirt and to set up two more points off the boot of Sells.
Half Time: 21-0
The beginning of the second half was all about the changes made by both sides at, or shortly after, half time. Changes at half-back gave the Steelers more bite and purpose in attack and the (in context, much lower compared to the Moles’ ‘glory’ days of old) plethora of changes across the Moles’ ranks, saw the blues surge and men in black struggle to regain the shape they’d held in the first half. On balance, the Steelers perhaps had the upper hand in this phase of the game and it was somewhat against the run of play when Moles’ scrum half, Stuey ‘Cabin Boy’ Harrington, broke high and right towards the Gravesend Grammar School building to extend the Moles’ lead by a further five points; this time converted by retiring Gannets’ skipper Ben Baker. To celebrate the try, with his contribution to this match now firmly etched in the records, Cabin Boy asked to be replaced to allow others’ game time. A magnanimous gesture or an act of work-shyness? Reader, you be the judge! To be fair to Mr Harrington, he had had a fine game combining well with half back partner Mr Sells and communicating effectively to facilitate both a tight Moles’ defensive line and a fast, expansive attack.
However, despite this setback, the Steelers continued to have the general edge on second-half proceedings and scored a well-deserved try on the 55 minute mark. An enforced move to uncontested scrums further strengthened the visitors’ hand considering the now very wily Moles/Swans’ front row of Elvis, Heinz and Pierre, ably supported variously by a range of wily locks in Oaf, Big Bri and Hair Bear, were now enjoying considerable success up front at scrum time. With a much steadier platform and space to work with, the Steelers had the Moles working very hard in defence and their tenacity at the break down was causing the Moles' ball to slow down considerably.
Without the need for specialists in the uncontested scrums, the Moles began to 'box clever' to get maximum speed and hand skills into the back line and were soon containing the Steelers’ attack much more effectively. Ultimately, the Moles discipline, composure and nous was rewarded by ‘Miami Vice’ Gareth Moore grabbing his second try of the day with five minutes to play.
Final Score 33-5
This had been a great game to play in and according to the 10s of spectators watching from the sides of the ‘Banana’ pitch, a fine game to watch too. The Moles were good value for their win but within the dichotomy of also flattered by the scoreline as the Steelers played some excellent rugby and defended valiantly all afternoon.
After the game, Moles’ skipper Elvis reflected on how it been a real squad effort today and how every Mole deserved much praise and credit for their individual contributions. There were many contenders for Mole-of-the-Match including try scorers Miami, Wooton and the aforementioned Cabin Boy. With the majority of Moles playing regular rugby for the Swans or Gannets week-in-week-out, it is perhaps difficult for more ‘occasional’ players to get within the team groove. However, the likes of senior Moles such as Mick Terry and Nod slotted into proceedings seamlessly today in order to make their valuable contributions. Garry ‘Hair Bear’ Hodges is now more of an 'occasional' player but nonetheless, as ever, put in a ‘heart of a lion’ ball-carrying and hard-tackling performance and thus, just edged ahead in the skipper and vice’s minds for Mole of the Match.
Preceding Garry and his Steelers’ equivalent’s dirty pints, the Steelers’ tighthead prop made a short, but touching speech that reminisced about his debut for the Steelers in a match against the Moles some twenty years ago this month. Bearing in mind that the Moles are celebrating their twentieth anniversary this year, this fixture must have been one of the Moles’ first too. Our front-row friend went on to thank the Moles and other similarly-minded Vets’ teams for supporting the Steelers in arranging fixtures and thus helping to establish the Steelers as the major inclusive club that it now is; running five senior teams. This recognition would no doubt have pleased Moles’ founder Gary Theobald immensely as he was always an advocate of promoting inclusivity and community cohesion through the great game of rugby and its core values.
After the Steelers had bid their farewells and boarded their coach back to East London, the Moles prepared to drink beer, boogie and demolish the buffet at Mole Aidy Hamilton’s birthday bash in the Player’s bar. Many a last Mole was standing in the lounge come the stroke of midnight although only one, Michael Terry esquire, had a 45 mile cycle ride to negotiate the next day. Many more Moles rode the same distance with him to raise money for the Gravesend Rotary Club. Proof once again, as if it can ever be doubted, that the Moles is something much much more than just a rugby team!!!