Footscray XV 21 Moles 14
Never turn your backs Moles!
On a final glorious day for rugby in the 2017/18 season, the Moles made their now customary end-of-season ‘sharra-bang’ trip westwards to New Eltham and the hospitality of those friendliest of foes, the ‘Olds and Bolds’ of Footscray RFC.
As usual for this fixture, players who have long since declared ‘missing in action’ in terms of selection, posted their availability from every dark corner of cyberspace; ultimately leaving skipper Elvis overwhelmed with no less than 28 players meeting the ‘tie, tourist or 17/18 loyalist’ criteria set out in his ‘call to arms’.
Joking aside, it was great for Moles rugby to have so many returning faces in the changing room including, with his season of competitive lunching concluded at the previous week’s GRFC Vice Presidents’ event, Mole Lunch. Being the gentleman pie-eater and not a fighter that he is, Lunch preached a sermon of “no fighting” in the pre-match changing room as the question was mumbled by many: “Who the hell picked these shirt sizes for these shirt numbers?” Elvis diplomatically acknowledged Lunch as being absolutely right and immediately but pragmatically contradicted himself by adding, “Look, it always goes off a bit in this one. Just none of you get caught or carded! OK?”
However, as is frequently the case, Elvis was wrong and the game, while being as physical as ever, was played in a great spirit without any incidents of disrepute. Well, except perhaps for the ‘returning from injury’ ringer from Brockleans’ 1st XV (allegedly) whose physicality notably wrote out another prescription for Sicknote’s back trouble, dumped tackled Ralph which is now mean feat and now a mooted ‘World’s Strongest Man’ event and also proved time travel is possible without a TARDIS, by clearing Elvis so far back out of a ruck that when the ginger prop got up off the floor, the huge Moles’ travelling support were all wearing flares and kipper ties! But hey, that’s rugby; you play what’s put in front of you.
With the game split into four, twenty minute ‘halves’ (it’s a good job that the writer of these reports doesn’t teach Maths eh?) the ‘Men in Black’ were put under pressure by Footscray ‘early doors’ in the first quarter but nonetheless held up well with a strong defence, which apart from one ‘blip’ that will be discussed later, continued in the same vein throughout the match. After the riding the initial storm, the Moles composed themselves to enjoy probably the greater balance of possession. However, ‘Cray were similarly strong in defence and suitably contained the Moles from turning possession into points.
Ultimately, it was the home side who apparently scored first on the 19 minute mark. However, for what would prove not to be the first time during the afternoon, the referee saw things differently and declared the ball as being ‘held up’; seemingly influenced by ‘59-this-week’ Moles’ hooker Heinz’s hands also being on the ball and his innocent, blue-eyed, boyish looking, “Yes Sir, it was held up. Honest Sir!” face. However from the subsequent five metre scrum, despite the Moles pack not letting their heavier opposition out-muscle them in any way either on this occasion or throughout the game, Footscray were able to secure a platform that enabled them to spread the ball quickly wide and score on the opposite side of the pitch. It was a disappointing end to the first period of play for the Moles but the rhetoric from Elvis and ‘Miami’ vice-skipper Gareth Moore, was that the Moles were not doing much wrong and through maintaining their discipline and composure, which has become more of a feature of Moles’ rugby over this season, points will inevitably come.
Before the game Elvis had called for a 28 man team effort and the Moles to a man, delivered on this. The numerous replacements made at the end of each ‘half’ were handled as seamlessly as could be hoped for. What happened to those Moley days of it all going to ratchet when multiple changes were made?
The introduction of Big Bob, Lunch and Moles’ Chairman Squeeksy for the second period, gave the Moles some extra ‘punch’ that saw the gain line being more frequently broken and the contact area attracting more yellow/blue shirts and thus yielding more space to exploit. Continued Moles’ dominance in terms of possession led to replacement stand-off Cabin Boy, touching the ball down twice over the home team’s try line, only for the referee to claim that he hadn’t seen either of these attempts. Sir was reportedly struggling in the heat so perhaps his reputed poor vision was a product of this? Who knows?
Half Time 7-0
Shortly into the second half came the aforementioned defensive ‘blip’. After an infringement no more than 10 metres from their own try line, the resulting quickly taken penalty found some Moles with their backs turned and others facing the right way but caught off-guard, as the Footscray scrum half sniped over the line. “Basic stuff lads” rightly moaned blind-side flanker Ork in his signature nasal drawl.
But the Moles pressed on and were soon rewarded when a Footscray player got in the way of fly half Carl Sells as he chased his own delicate ‘grubber’ kick. The outcome of this was the Moles being awarded a penalty try.
Back within a score, the gauntlet was down for the Moles to continue their comeback but unfortunately it was ‘Cray who were to strike again next. From a reset scrum, a quick ball saw the opposition 10 draw one Moles’ defender, then step the next to place the ball down between the posts.
Nonetheless the Moles kept fighting and even when in the final quarter, after scrum half Swanley exquisitely found touch on the five metre line with from a penalty kick and the referee called ‘final play’, the Moles were still in full unity and looking to score. A very positive feature of Moles play throughout the match was the maul, particularly when set up from a Heinz throw to the second pod in the Moles’ line out formation. A final and yet another, almost perfect, execution of the ‘catch and drive’ saw Predator go over the line to boost the Moles’ account. While this purposeful final surge was commendable and despite the defeat, a great way to finish the regular season, it was arguably not as commendable is Swanley’s perfect conversion, that sailed beautifully between the posts while 29+ other blokes and the referee were trying to shake each other’s’ hand right in front of him!
Final Score 21-14
Overall, the Moles were philosophical in defeat and accepting of what was on balance, a fair result. Lots of possession, good set pieces, mostly excellent defence and the pack making great progress in the maul situation; there were so many positives. However, on reflection perhaps the difference between first and second place was just a disallowed try and defensive lapse in concentration.
Every Mole gave 110% today, but those particularly mentioned in dispatches were:
Miami vice-captain – hates playing in the centres but brings so much bite in attack and defence across the midfield and a great partner to Elvis in the on-field leadership stakes.
Graham Harvey Weinstein – another convincing performance at full back to complete his first full season of senior rugby after rediscovering the game for the first time since school. A former squaddie and with young kids to introduce to the GRFC M&Y section, Weinstein’s Moley credentials look strong! Also, Weiny impressed the traditionalist Moles’ factions, by wearing a collar and tie under his bike leathers!
Heinz – Some hookers who are ‘no spring chickens’ excite Wayne Rooney; others excite on the rugby field. Where does this man get his energy and strength from? Heinz literally gives blood (or is it ketchup?) for the Moles or Swans cause week in, week out. More often than not, a contender for Mole of the match and even more so today, as he remembered to pack his throwing arm in his bag.
Nod – After a season or so break from Moles’ rugby, Nod has been tempted back to the fray over recent weeks. It’s a tough gig coming back into the spine of the team at scrum half, alongside so many players who are used to playing with one another week in, week out. However, Nod played a big part in helping the Moles retain so much possession today with quick, smart decision making and distribution at the breakdown.
Posty – Another reliable and solid performance from the Moles’ and Swans’ wing forward and smiling ‘assassin’. If there’s a breakdown, Posty will be there putting his body on the line and it was no different when he was on the park all day, today.
Pierre – The Moles’ South African prop, as ever, lent his wiliness, expert technique and nous up front to ensure the scrum stayed solid and largely with the edge on proceedings.
Skid – Late on parade due to morning parenting requirements, the Moles’ Jurgen Klopp-alike winger weighed into proceedings with a couple of awesome hits.
However, the Mole of the match tee-shirt this time went to the returning wrecking ball that is ‘Big Bobby Butler’. Although this was partly a ruse to tempt Bob into touring to ensure that the tour hymn book at least contains his ‘Ernie – The Fastest Milkman in the West’ party piece in addition to Mick Terry’s constant ukulele drone of ‘The Winkers Song (misprint)’, Bobby’s introduction into the afternoon’s proceedings made a big difference to the Moley attacking threat. Coupled with the odd pint or two, Bob fell for the ruse ‘hook, line and sinker’ albeit not before dragging that mild-mannered and quiet tourist, ‘Market’ Day onto the tour bus with him. Two top tourists for the price of one! Excellent!
And so, after the Moles had waited out in the SE9 sunshine for Elvis to stop sweating and to enjoy a post-match ale and a steak sarnie, it was all back to HQ for the imminent Moles’ tour roomies draw. This was hosted by Shotgun, following his return to rugby after a two or so year break painting his toenails purple, with the aforementioned Sir Robert Butler of Bigness in support and making the typically poor ‘Shitgun’ organisation look as if it was all part of the act.
In a vain attempt to smooth things over, Elvis demonstrated his uncanny knack of, albeit unintentionally, offending pretty much everyone within a 100 mile radius. Some say it’s a 'ginger thing', but utility Moles’ back Ben Baker was also present and he’s one of the nicest men in the world ever. Fortunately, unlike in other Moley tight spots, Lunch didn’t chip in at this point to make sure that anyone who was not already offended didn’t miss out! Apologies ensued, beer flowed and Amazon Prime was overwhelmed with orders for ear plugs by those who bagged a fat drunken snoring Mole in the room draw; which was pretty much every tourist.
As the sun set on the last regular Moles rugby day of the season, the sun soon rose on another glorious day for rugby at GRFC in the guise of the Kent Under 12s Finals; co-hosted with neighbours, Old Gravesendians. Moles Skid, Lunch, Keenan, Big Bri and Sells were all a part of the organising committee that planned and delivered this outstanding and very successful event, with Hair Bear, Q, Squeeksy and Elvis all helping out on the day. Elsewhere, Shotgun and Sicknote were coaching the Under 16s in their Plate final against Old Colfeans down at Ashford and Moles Bruce and Dadson were at Medway supporting the Under 18s in bringing silverware to Rectory Field.
Proof once again, for anyone who might still not ‘get it’, the Moles is something much much more than just a rugby team!