Moles 12 London Ambulance Service XV 17
Heroic Moles' effort in support of real heroes
On a glorious floodlit Friday night for rugby, accented by a howling wind and driving rain, the Moles welcomed their own #74, Brian ‘Elbo’ Williams’ London Ambulance Service XV to Rectory Field for a match to commemorate the centenary of the end of World War 1 and in turn, raise funds for the Royal British Legion; the latter effort ably co-ordinated by Mole #5 and Falklands’ veteran, Steve ‘Squeeksy’ Weeks.
With the Gravesend 1st XV’s national cup fixture at home to Chiswick cancelled for the following day, rumours that Brian had raided them for players proved to be greatly exaggerated. However, following his ‘two try-scoring’ elevation to the 2s on the previous weekend, Brian had called up one or two of his ‘new mates’ to swell his ranks of health professionals. “I’ve done a First Aid course!” was a poor justification of eligibility offered by Joe Tomlin.
Nonetheless, Moles’ skipper Elvis’s drinking career has frequently seen him frequent with rugby players of all persuasions and subsequently his ‘black army’ also featured some handy players; all of which had genuine Moley credentials: A Moles’ tie, a Moles’ tourist, a Moles’ ‘wannabe’, a M&Y dad/coach, is a relative of a Mole or, as #1 GT would approve of, is involved in youth rugby as a school teacher.
So, after Army veteran and former Moles’ skipper Mick Terry had marched the Moles behind two Ambulance Service personnel in #1s and two minutes silence of commemoration, everything was set up for a competitive contest. Therefore, to make things interesting, the Moles largely spent the first 20 minute quarter asleep, looking at the LAS backs thinking, “He’s quick innee?”. However, after quickly succumbing to a converted try, the Moles did begin to get their forwards dominated game working only for an inevitably slippy ball in view of the conditions halt progress as the ball moved away from the breakdown. Put another way though; the backs kept dropping it! Fortunately, the Moles dominated at scrum time from the outset; however, despite becoming more and more competitive, a breakaway LAS try saw the first quarter end with the Moles 0-12 in arrears and the decent crowd on a horrible evening weather-wise perhaps only seeing the result going one way.
The need to make multitudes of replacements has often been the Moles’ downfall. Not this time though, as the positives of the first quarter were capitalised on by the introduction of new blood: Former 1st team prop Ned Harding; hooker Heinz back from injury and his latest cruise; Matt ‘The Barman’ Daly on the wing; South African U6 coach pairing of Vaughan (no, not the Spartans’ one!) and Marco ‘Polo’ at 9 and 12; ‘younger than he looks’ former Trumpets’ back row Michael Walsh and last but not least, Spartans’ dad, Marcus 'Crystal' Gayle.
Not long into the second quarter, another scrum in LAS terrority saw the ball move quickly into the Moles’ back line and fantastic straight running lines and handling from fly-half and Moles’ vice-captain Carl Sells and half-back partner Vaughan saw the powerful Marco ‘Polo’ charging towards the tryline and unselfishly and delicately pass left for outside centre Marcus to touch down. Unfortunately, Carl followed up this outstanding try he had assisted so well to by ‘kicking’ the duffest of conversion attempts since William Webb Ellis decided that kicking was for really for girls in 1823. After the duff, like the footballer he truly is, Carl looked blamefully at the turf underneath where the ball/tee had been pre-duff with a ‘Beckhamesque’ expression. What a tart!
The Moles were well and truly back in this game and things were largely even until towards the end of the half when, despite gallant defence, Moles’ indiscipline at the breakdown saw them concede a penalty five metres from their line. Wing Mick Terry hadn’t been doing much, but nonetheless was grateful that his distinguished tours of duty in Northern Ireland, hiding behind walls in the rain waiting for men in balaclavas for days on end, had prepared him well for tonight. However, a man on the wing can only be wet and bored for so long; so Mick went over for a look at the contact area and pulled his calf muscle. In his place was sent Sam Snell, one of Elvis’s ‘real mates’ from the adjoining parish ‘over the fence’ and a member of the Mckee branch of the Moley family tree. Usually a ‘Back 5’ forward, Sam reasonably asked “What do I do on the wing?” “Just do what Mick was doing Sam.” encouraged Elvis, before adding, “Not a lot!” In all seriousness, like every member of the squad, Mick more than earned his beer tonight and great to have him in the squad and able to lead the team out on such an occasion.
Back to the rugby: On the other side of the park, the aforementioned penalty was taken and LAS bundled over to score and see the sides change ends with the score at 5-17.
In the Moles’ huddle despite the frustration at conceding a try when they were getting back into it, the mood remained positive. Replacements interchanged seamlessly; but with tighthead prop and ‘rock of the front row’ Mick Woodbine looking for a breather, Elvis’s options were limited. However, in the pre-match warm up Mike Walsh had impressed Elvis with his body position and strength when ‘stepping in’ to give the starting front row something to push against. As Shakespeare once said, “……others have greatness thrust upon them” and Walshy became the latest member of the Moles’ front row club.
In the second half the Moles were beginning to perhaps enjoy the greater balance of play but were served a blow early on when Carl Sells, who despite his conversion nightmare, was having a fine game, limped off lamely. However, as alluded to earlier, Elvis’s squad had quality tonight and in Carl’s place came the diminutive ‘mighty mouse’ of Adam ‘Rolo’ Rowlinson whose introduction, particularly in combination with Vaughan, added new ‘bite’ to the Moles attack.
Also having a fine game was the world’s angriest estate agent, Velcro. Velcro has had a quiet season to date on the angry front but has missed the odd match to go to something called ‘The Arsenal’ where one believes you can liberally call people, players and officials short words that begin with a ‘c’ without fear of retribution. In seeming celebration of his fine performance tonight, Velcro found himself some new handbags; wading in after the aforementioned Walsh who was taking a method approach to his new position: “Props fight don’t they?” the silver-haired fox later mitigated. The referee, who reassuringly received #2 Lord Jim Hill’s highest and lowest level of appraisal, quickly calmed things down reminding the players that it was; a friendly; a charity game; in honour of our fallen heroic forebears; so take a ‘chill pill’ girls!
In defence, the Moles were standing firm with notable hits and challenges from the Moles' best ginger on the park Rich Glover in the midfield, Matt ‘The Barman’ Daly on the wing and a hit on the LAS scrummy by Marco that took the breath away (actually, that was in the first half but I’ve only just remembered the 'unforgettable'). In attack, it was the Moles’ forwards who were providing the threat led by, with Elvis and Carl in the dugout, on-the-field skipper ‘Big Bob’ Butler. Bob always has a good game but tonight he was outstanding: stirring pre-match changing room words; supportive on-field leadership; awesome ball carrying; a dominant physical presence in defence. Bob’s try in the third quarter was deserved and memorable. If there is a cure for ‘white line fever’ Moles’ forwards genuinely choose to stay infected. “Backs? Overlap? Space? There’s the line mate, I’m ‘avin that!” Tonight was no exception.
However, while observers in the dugout huffed at most Mole attempts to plough through five green/yellow lumps, when Bob went for it they knew it would be successful. And it was. Bob was a contender for Mole of the Match but his recent preference for cross-dressing over rugby has come as a surprise. Bob will be coming out as ‘Mary’ on Saturday 22/12 in the main hall. Tickets £5 from behind the bar if you’re curious.
Fortunately, Carl was still in the dugout so the Moles had a chance to add the extra two points. Up steps Squeeksy-coached Connor Gilbert who has had a great game at Hooker and particularly contributed, along with Heinz, to a consistent and effective Moles’ lineout. Connor has a lovely boot on him and just like similarly well-booted Mole Swanley is carrying a bit of timber. A tricky blustery prevailing wind is no obstacle for Connor and the ball sails majestically between the sticks for the conversion. One can only conclude that if Carl wishes to improve his kicking, he needs to eat more pies!
Trailing 12-17, the Moles continued to push for the score that would take them into the lead but LAS were solid in defence and always a threat for a quick breakaway attack. With the clock approaching red time, the Moles set up for a line out in the LAS half. The LAS defence looked as if it was setting up to ‘sack’ the Moles’ ‘catch and drive’. The ball came in. The Moles set. LAS did nothing. The Moles’ half of the maul that wasn’t formed walked into the non-competing LAS line and thus were well and truly sucked in to conceding a penalty, which LAS co-captain and spoilsport, Liam Twomey kicked into touch to end the game.
Final score Moles 12-17 LAS
So, the Moles came second on the night but no one was too disappointed. It was a great team/squad performance and overall a great game enjoyed by both sets of players and one or two spectators who braved the weather. Those not mentioned already include wing Stu ‘Peggy’ Pollard who took time off from his refereeing career to put his boots on again for the Moles; Army Vet and full back Graham Harvey ‘Weinstein’ who had another blinder to illustrate just why he’s climbing up the GRFC teams; Garrick Cruse-Smith who always gives 110% and comes off the pitch covered in ‘tough stickers’ all over his face. I have deliberately not mentioned Mayhem; not because he had a bad game, he never does, but because of his flamingo shirt. Last but not least to mention is Mole of the Match, Stu ‘Sleaky’ Leaky who had barnstorming game at 8 as a late replacement for 'Miami' vice-skipper Gareth Moore. Miami was nursing a broken fingernail but went on to have a blinder as Moles Director of Rugby on the night.
A great night for the Moles in terms of its rugby and its support of the Royal British Legion. Thanks to all at the LAS, RBL and of course GRFC for making it happen.
As ever, the Moles is something much much more than just a rugby team but in life some things are much much more important:
Lest we forget x