Moles Stopped by Daly Delay
By Michael Murray
Moles come second, but a splendid time was had by all....
On a glorious 24°C autumn day for rugby, the Moles welcomed the Beccehamians Eclectics to Rectory Field for what turned out to be a great game of social rugby played in nothing but the very best of spirits.
With the ‘domino effect’ of gaps in the Gravesend 2s, 3s and 4s squads plundering Moles #74 Brian Williams and #75 Lloydy as well as regular ‘wannabes’ in Mick Woodbine and Welshy from skipper #73 Elvis’s resources; the Moles squad had its own eclectic feel today with Elvis tapping into all his rugby contacts for players.
The Beccs’ team had a familiar look to it with former GRFC 1st team captains Rob Bardell and Mike Delay in their ranks once again in view of their role as parents/coaches within Beccs’ M&Y section, as well as loaned Moles squad members in #84 Lunch, Stu Leaky and Matt ‘The Barman’ Daly. Additionally, Beccs enjoyed having GRFC legend John Beazer in their ranks; celebrating his 64th birthday and proving himself to be a very effective ‘nuisance’ all over the pitch throughout the match.
Having won the toss, Elvis elected to ‘play’ the ‘Gannets Pitch’ as God intended. This means by playing up the slope (and on the day, against the wind) in the first half. This choice brought gasps from one or two in the Moles backline. However despite the hard work that attacking uphill and defending downhill brings, it’s always easier to do this ‘fresh’ as opposed to with 40 minutes of rugby behind you.
Therefore, as expected, the Moles spent much of the first 20 minute period in their own half. A very strong Beccs’ scrum pushing downhill had the Moles consistently under pressure which continued for much of the game until Beccs tired a bit and the Moles made the odd adjustment here and there to be able to consistently ‘lock out’ if not get their own push on. Despite the Moles matching Beccs’ physicality and putting up a gallant defence, Beccs ultimately saw their dominance rewarded to take the lead at 7-0.
After a much needed drinks break on an extraordinarily warm day, the second twenty saw the ball find itself in hand and on or over the line, on no less than five occasions. Firstly, back in the Moles’ squad for the first time since being voted ‘Mole of the Match’ at Beccs last season, Garrick Cruise-Smith galloped down the line to appear to ground the ball on the line only for referee Ben Baker to declare it ‘held up’. Soon afterwards a Moles’ maul trundled forward for debutant prop Steve Magee, a proud Ulsterman who once worked out he was 74th or something in line to play for Ireland, to again ground the ball only for Mr Baker to again declare the ball as being ‘held up’.
A turnover by Beccs at the resulting scrum saw play switch rapidly to the other end of the field where shortly afterwards, Beccs also had what looked like a fair score, finding themselves shaking their heads as they set up for the five metre scrum that followed.
It’s probably appropriate at this point to complement relatively new referee and serial Moles’ tourist, Ben Baker on having a really good game with the whistle. While many might have disagreed at the time, Ben’s confidence in his decisions, by virtue that they invoked very little ‘chat back’ (to be fair though, #76 Velcro wasn’t playing though) seemingly inspired player confidence in his refereeing abilities. Ben knows this level of rugby well and in turn knows that if the ref blew for every indiscretion at the breakdown, it wouldn’t be much of a game. Many a more experienced ref could learn from Ben in terms of refereeing social rugby. It is most definitely not the Heineken Cup and many refs at this level think it is. Well done Ben! You’re still the Moles’ favourite ginger!
Back to the aforementioned five-metre scrum; Beccs held their own ball and moved it left via Mike Delay at 10, who was Beccs’ deserved MotM, to loanee Matt ‘The Barman’ who crossed the line for the first of his three tries during the afternoon.
Moley heads did not drop though and more time was spent going uphill and gaining territory deep in the Beccs’ half. After some more typical Moles ‘leeching’ of the ball, which Beccs dealt with very effectively all afternoon, found Moles vice-captain and fly half #83 Carl Sells; now on for starting 10, Martin Abbott, who was off nursing a torn bicep. Carl moved the ball away from the contact area in the hard run of Saffer. Marco, who is a dad from the GRFC Under 6 section. There was no stopping our latest South African addition and he touched down to earn the Moles a much deserved and needed score.
Half Time 5-12
To be a converted try away from parity was a situation that Elvis would have taken before kick-off. Therefore, the half-time team talk was brief and along the lines of “Keep it up lads. We’ve got the slope; let’s keep the ball in the corner by the bowling green”
The Moles took advantage of the slope almost immediately; with ukulele maestro and plumber to the stars (so long as they have a DA12 postcode) #55 Mick Terry benefitting from the deft step and hands of another debutant, Adam Rowlinson, at centre to receive the ball on the wing, avoid knocking it on, and take it over the line to touch down behind the posts. This set up an easy two additional points from the boot of scrum half, #91 Swanley.
Shortly afterwards, with the scores now level, pretty much the same thing happened again. Rowlinson and Under 13s’ dad, Marcus combining to release Terry again down the ‘altitude’ wing and over the line to the jeers, horts and hoots of Mole ‘elders’ in the crowd: #5 Squeeks, #33 Gilham, #23 Suv, #2 Lord Jim, #62 Heinz et al.
The Moles were now ahead and a tired looking Beccs’ body language suggested that another Moles score could decide the game. However, despite the Moles gaining in confidence and looking good for that crucial try, a quality break orchestrated by their always-influential fly-half, Mike Delay, found the hands of Matt ‘The Barman’ again, who put his head and raced down the ‘sea-level’ wing quick enough to evade the back-peddling Moles’ defenders towards the line. “A try on the break lads. Against the run of play. What can you do? Let’s get back down the other end!” mused Elvis as the Moles gathered behind the posts for the conversion that saw the game draw level again at 19-19.
However, it was not to be the Moleys’ day when from the restart, the bounced amongst the Beccs players leaving Matt ‘The Barman’ to forget about his glories and execute the hackiest of fly hacks to propel the ball low and horizontally into Delay’s able hands. Delay once again broke fast, finding space down that flattish ‘sea-level’ wing and hat-trick hungry Matt ‘The Barman’ running the widest line. Delay drew a defender to set the young wing up for another 50 or so metre dash over the line.
It would’ve been difficult for the Moles not to have felt deflated by the sudden reversal of their fortunes and arguably, that blow manifested itself in the onset of fatigue and an increasing injury count; not least the loss of debutant prop Big John, which after the loss of Magee earlier in the half caused Elvis to request that scrums go uncontested and then have a ‘hissy fit’ when his backline were trying to tell him that the Moles were now down to 14 players. Fortunately, like the shopkeeper in 70s TV favourite ‘Mr Benn’, Lunch appeared from his loan to Beccs to even up the sides for the final minutes of the game.
Despite the easing of pressure at scrum time and plenty of ball, the Moles could not find the means to get back on terms and then claim victory with a converted try. And so, the game ended 19-24.
It’s funny reader, but it’s amazing that so few of the Moles’ forwards have been mentioned in dispatches. This is perhaps because as ever, they ‘quietly’ got on with their jobs matching the Beccs’ physicality and getting their hands well and truly dirty moving the ball forward, Those not already mentioned above: #94 Pierre Du Toit – a day out at hooker today but usual reliable performance: #66 Big Bob – another Mole of the Match performance, strong ball carrying and on pitch leadership: #70 Garry Hodges – usual ‘Heart of a Lion’ performance in both shirts today: #64 Posty – usual top quality performance from the Moles’ answer to James Bond, or at least the Milk Tray man anyway. Flattened at the bottom of ruck after ruck all afternoon. Brave as f…! Ned Harding: Another Moles’ debutant who has now played for every GRFC team from the Colts upwards. This pedigree showed and was very welcome: Kev Bailey - was a very late addition to proceedings and playing his first match in several years although he has done a bit of training with Moles in recent years. Mobile around the pitch was useful to have Kev come on when the starters’ energy levels were lagging. Finally, Big Respect to Big John – who gave it all until for 70 minutes until he had nothing left to give; talked about his take from a restart more than Mick Terry talked about his two tries!
Special mention for Moles’ Tourist/Wannabe, Stu Leaky who played the whole 80 minutes for Beccs without any fuss and played a blinder. Also to Lunch who didn’t hold back in dishing out his legendary chop tackle on his usual team mates.
As for the backs: Martin Abbott - has a great boot, great hands and likes to play rugby in the Mole #32 John Forbes’ ethos. Must be frustrating playing with ‘up the jumper’ merchants and perhaps this showed when Martin came back on after his bicep injury and made some very effective hard hitting carries around the pitch: Rich Annable- had a major impact on his debut for the Moles at Maidstone last season when his quick thinking ignited a famous Moley fightback. A bit quieter today but his rugby experience was clearly evident not least as he barked important instructions, information and advice from the full back position. #53 Brian Rayner – Perhaps not one of Brian’s ‘stellar’ outings in a Moles’ shirt but he has a lot to live up to considering how many times he has saved our skins with match winning an try saving tackles over the years: #93 Skid – as ever, body put on the line for the cause. Has there ever been a better convert from hockey to rugby in their late 40s?: Callum – another Moles’ debutant. Allegedly a teacher of Classics so blended in well with the ancient Moles. Didn’t get much ball today but looked threatening when he did. Told the Moles about all the space on the sea-level side of the Gannets pitch and typically they took no notice. Please don’t take it personally Callum. We are admittedly clueless when it comes to doing anything right in rugby!
Up on the chairs after the match (on the patio, as a 21st birthday function necessitated kicking the players out of the players bar at 5:30pm!!!!!) for the Moles where Martin Abbott for sartorial misdemeanours, Bobby Butler for yet another deserved Mole of the Match award and last but not least, Matt ‘The Barman’ Daly for his hat-trick of tries against his mates, sartorial errors, jug avoidance and so on…..
So as the Beccs rode their wagons back to south east London, the Moles’ party moved inside and double try scorer Mick Terry got his ukulele out as well as a small guitar with only 4 strings. It was like the good old Moley days; with Mick showing his musical dexterity once again by, ably assisted by Big Bobby Butler, leading the singing of numerous popular songs (including ‘When I’m 64’ for birthday boy John Beazer) over the same four chords featured in ‘The Winkers Song (Misprint’) and funnily enough in exactly the same order.
One of today’s debutants, Ned Harding, smiled and sang along heartily well into the evening clearly realising that the Moles is something much much more than just a rugby team (…if you like Chas n’Dave and Ivor Biggun anyway)