Beccehamians Eclectics 17 Moles 53
Former GRFC 1st XV skippers make Moles work for deserved result
On a truly glorious ‘Indian summer’ of a day for rugby, the Moles rolled their wagons westwards to take on the Beccehamians Eclectics at Sparrows Den.
Last season’s similarly billed fixture had proved controversial; when the only fixture of the day hosted by Beccahamians on a part frozen pitch, saw the Moles on the wrong end of a 62-10 scoreline with the Beccs’ side much stronger than had been discussed between the respective fixtures secretaries. However, thanks to former Gravesend 1st XV skipper and current Beccs’ mini and youth coach/parent, Rob ‘Bobjit’ Bardell, today’s sides were more befitting of a ‘social rugby’ match.
Alongside Bobjit, Beccs were also buoyed by the talents of another former GRFC 1st XV skipper in fly-half Mike Delay and alongside a few old heads from Sparrows Den, loan players from the Moles’ ranks in Peter Stone and Dan Wicks (thanks lads!!) and no less than four coaches and dads from their mini and youth section for whom this would be their first game of rugby. Indeed, receiving the ball from the kick off, the Eclectics clearly demonstrated that they were not just here for the sake of making the ‘rugby the winner’; but to compete hard and this purpose led to them effectively working the ball through the phases and dominating the breakdown in the early exchanges in the contact area.
The Moles were much happier at the set piece where at scrum time, its experienced front row of Elvis Michael Murray, Heinz Neil Martin and Pierre du Toit managed and contain the ‘not to ever be underestimated’ threat of an opposing front row containing a Bobjit. Heinz had brought his throwing arm to the line out where Velcro Adrian Perret and Sam Holden were winning ball. Similarly the Moles were much more comfortable keeping the ball alive in open play and some useful offloads (no doubt a product of Judge Forbes’ recent Wednesday night training foci) led to wing, ‘Skid’ Marks powering over the line for his first Moles’ try which was successfully converted by Swanley Lee Evans.
However, as previously mentioned the Beccs were here to play rugby and after what was described by pitchside ‘Whatsapp’ commentator, Shotgun, as ‘Keystone Cops’ rugby from the Moles, they were quickly back in the game at 5-7.
Frustratingly; the Moles’ comedy rugby continued and after 20 minutes or so they found themselves trailing 10-7. Lack of discipline at a ruck in their half led to the Moles conceding a penalty which was moved forward a further ten metres when Velcro decided to show off a little trick, which he’d probably picked up at the Emirates watching the Arsenal, in allegedly holding onto the ball as the Moles attempted to retreat the initial ten metres from where the infringement occurred. This moment of indiscipline had an unintended consequence as poor/uncommitted Moley defending saw Mike Delay break over the line two phases or so after the advanced penalty. A harsh lesson in ‘If you’re going to cheat, don’t do it in front of the ref’!
Following the score, all 15 Moles seemingly trudged independently to assemble behind the posts with, if heads not down, certainly with their shoulders slumped. Noting a potential lack of team cohesion, skipper Elvis called the Moles in tight. There was no talking apart from a well-intended supportive and rallying call from Velcro. Unfortunately, Elvis was still dwelling on being sent back ten metres a minute or two earlier and verbally showed Velcro a Donna Karan handbag leading to Velcro respond with his latest Jimmy Choo verbal number. While Vice-Skipper, ‘G’ Gareth Moore pacified Velcro and urged him to put his anger and frustration into his rugby, Elvis ironically, but very seriously, called for more discipline, composure and passion from his Moles. A quick response to this setback was needed.
And a quick response was indeed delivered with more flowing rugby and desire to keep the ball alive leading to birthday boy and opposite wing, Gerrard Keenan crossing the line. When was the last time both Moles’ wings scored in the same game? Another conversion for inside-half Swanley followed. 14-10.
The Moles didn’t really look back from this point for the remainder of the game. Strong Moles scrummaging from ten or so metres out and a rare mistake from the home-supplied referee led to a third Moles’ try, when hooker Heinz dropped on the ball over the line in the top left hand corner. However, if this was an example of a ‘pushover try’ it should not have stood as the laws allegedly state that the front row must stay bound in such incidences. One can only assume that the referee, who had a great game all afternoon, saw things differently. After so many weeks of seemingly leaving his boots in the clubhouse, Swanley delightfully added the additional two points from a tight angle – at Moles’ level rugby anyway!!
Like with the end of the first, the start of the second half also saw Moles’ scrum shaping the points tally. A pre-arranged call from No.8 Elbo BRIAN WILLIAMS was executed effectively to see him pick and go open side to touch down behind the posts. Swanley’s credit on his boots had run out though and hence the score crept up only 5 points this time. 10-26.
Elbo's next piece of actions was to restrain the Eclectics’ scrum half while fellow paramedic, Peter Stone, pulled a very badly dislocated (based on the Monsters Inc. style scream decibel levels) finger back into place.
Despite the points drying up off the boot, take off about 70 or so kilos, you might have been forgiven for thinking that Swanley Lee Evans had morphed into Danny Care as his quick thinking at scrum half added another five points to the Moles account after which, of course, he went on to miss adding a further two. 10-31
As Beccs began to tire, the Moles’ greater fitness levels (has that ever been written before?) began to come to the fore and more great interplay between Sicknote Neil Miller, on for Brian Rayner at full back, and Elbo BRIAN WILLIAMS saw the big fella cross the line for the second time in the match. To keep things consistent, Swanley of course missed the conversion kick. 10-36
From the restart, Velcro made immediate amends for spilling the previous high ball, by catching, carrying, protecting and presenting the ball exquisitely. From the resulting ruck, Elvis, assisted by Sam Holden, took the ‘leech’ ball a few metres beyond the gain line before recycling to open side flanker, Garrick Cruise-Smith, to spot a gap in the Eclectics defensive line and impressively run the ball home from some 60/70 metres; a score that represents a mere token of the fantastic all-round performance that he enjoyed today. Reader, you’ll be surprised hear now that Swanley did make the following kick! 10-43
As ever, after playing so well and being so dominant, the Moles allowed complacency to kick in and while Beccs worked hard to establish a platform to score, the final execution was made easier by some statuesque Moles defending. A good try overall for the Eclectics which was expertly converted by Delay. 17-43.
“They’re not getting any more; Moleys!” cried Elvis behind the posts this time and the Moles’ body-language was much more congruent with a winning mentality than it had been on the 20 minute mark.
Soon afterwards, the usual ‘port and Guinness’ flavour of Moles rugby turned into champagne as new boy Chris Blackman, Q and Sicknote combined down the left wing for Cutie Pie Carl Sells to catch a looping pass and carry home. Jamie Rayner had taken Swanley’s shirt when replacing him at 9 but there was no need to borrow his boots as well!! 17-48.
Q’s involvement in this try was just one contribution to the Moles’ success on the day. Despite now comfortably into his seventh decade, the GRFC treasurer put his money where his mouth was rugby-wise and seemingly went around looking for the smash (usually on his own though, to be fair) all afternoon. 'Occasional' players who find themselves getting cold out on the wing this winter can learn a lot from Q's example today.
On the subject of old Moles, Heinz Neil Martin (now 58) scored the final Moley try (and his second) of the afternoon by running more than half of the pitch to, in Shotgun’s words, “step three with a combined younger age than Heinz” before touching down.
Final Score 17-53
The extent of the team performance is reflected in the fact that with a few exceptions, every player features in the above summary of the match. In need of a mention or more of a mention are G and Nick Ormes in the centres who, on a day when the glory went on up front and out wide, kept things tidy in the midfield. Sam Holden had his usual solid game in the less familiar second row position but add additional value on the leadership front; always saying the right thing at the right time. Similarly, Pierre was solid in the front row and efficient in the loose. His reward? A free hour on Monday morning when he thought he might have to be emailing Beccs and the RFU following another ‘stitch up’!
Finally, Lunch Russell Turley dished out his usual share of trademark ‘chop’ tackles on both Beccs and Gravesend players in lieu of the fact that he was called upon to help out the Beccs front row in the second half. Although he was initially reluctant to do this, when the Beccs’ skipper told Lunch that the after match meal involved plate pies and he could have two to himself, Lunch couldn't get the maroon, black and white on quick enough!
So, a good and well deserved win for the Moles. The result needs to be put into a bit of context in view of the ‘scratch’ nature of the Eclectics and it being their first game etc. but matches do not win themselves and it was encouraging to see that when the going did get a bit tough, the Moles responded positively. Also encouraging were the improved support running and lines.
There were a number of contenders of Mole of the Match including Elbo BRIAN WILLIAMS and Heinz Neil Martin with a brace of tries each, Swanley Lee Evans with an thirteen point tally and Skid capping a first try with another combative performance on the wing.
However, the standout performance amongst many fantastic performances all afternoon came from Garrick Cruise-Smith. Aside from his long distance try, Garrick’s use of available space during the match created many an opportunity for the Moles.
The Eclectics were well in this game during the first half and no doubt will provide an even stiffer opposition in the return match on December 2nd. Built from the same ‘Mini and Youth Dads and Coaches’ ingredients as the Moles were some twenty years ago, here’s hoping that the Eclectics establish themselves and go on and enjoy the same levels of longevity. Moles' rugby will certainly be all the richer given the presence of another suitable opponent playing social rugby in the right spirit.
Finally, although Skid missed out on MOTM, he was recognised in the Beccehamians’ clubhouse by being awarded the coveted Moles tie. As Elvis told the assembled Beccehamians’ members: Being a Mole isn’t just about playing rugby in the black shirt, it’s also about engagement with the broader GRFC cause/community through supporting social events, coaching mini and youth players and getting involved in charity or club fundraising activities and so on. Skid ticks all of these boxes and more; and all Moles and ‘wannabes’ congratulate him on his induction into the fraternity.
While Elvis went ‘out out’ to see Micky Flanagan at the O2, G led the Moles back to Rectory Field to drink the whip, eat cheese, wear lederhosen and enjoy each some sausage in a bit of a ‘flash’ ‘Oktoberfest’.
Proof once again, although it’s not necessary for me to provide any, that the Moles is something much much more than just a rugby team.