Kings Cross Steelers III 0 Moles 10
By Michael Murray
Nice one Cyril, nice one son!
On another glorious day for rugby, the Moles drove through the Blackwall Tunnel and underneath ‘Old Father Thames’ to West Ham; the home of the Kings Cross Steelers. In fact, the Steelers’ Memorial Grounds (shared with East London RFC) was once the home of Thames Ironworks FC; a ‘round ball’ outfit who later evolved into West Ham United FC. In an unintended tribute, the Moles’ black and white shirt featured splashes of claret; courtesy of a port bottle breaking in the kit bag.
The Moles have traditionally fared well against the Steelers over the years but it was clear very early on that this match was going to be a much closer affair. In the initial exchanges, the Moles found themselves playing lots of rugby in their own half with the younger, fitter and clearly well-coached Steelers committing plenty of numbers to the breakdown thus thwarting the Moles’ attempts to get some momentum going in their game and forcing a number of handling errors and turnovers.
To keep spirits up, Gravesend’s mildest mannered estate agent and self-styled angriest man on a Saturday afternoon, Velcro called one of the Steelers a word that is not warmed to in polite society. This immediately attracted the Steeler’s nippy wing (who was stopped/bundled into touch on multiple occasions by Lloydy, Mick Terry and Weinstein) to Velcro’s latest handbag. Thankfully, once everyone had briefly compared each other’s handbags, the rugby continued.
Moles’ 8 Big Bob made a number of strong runs up field as if he didn’t have a care in the world or indeed, mostly without any support each time he found himself felled by three or four Steelers. Similarly, ‘prop for the day’ Big Bri and hooker Mick ‘The Guvnor’ Woodbine were also carrying well but being stopped by the hard-working Steelers’ After being considerate to the pack by helping them get into the game with a few knock ons, the midfield partnership of Welsh man Garrick Cruse-Smith and Paddy, ‘Paddy’, started to look like they would be the most likely root of Moley progress. And when fly-half and on-the-pitch skipper Carl Sells went on one of his mazy ‘where the heck is he going?” runs, Paddy was on his inside to back himself over 50 or so metres to get the Moles on the scoreboard.
Skipper Sells decided not to change the habits of a lifetime and missed the subsequent kick for two points.
Unfortunately, the Steelers’ hooker picked up an injury and a discussion ensued regarding uncontested scrums. Moles’ hooker Pierre Du Toit was half way through his latest email to the IRB to express his utter disgust at such a suggestion…..”not in the spirit of rugby blah blah blah…..in South Africa, a team who goes uncontested gets shot at the final whistle…..etc. etc.” when he came up with idea of volunteering himself to the Steelers to keep scrum time interesting. Both packs were delighted and typically, the only whinging came from Moles’ ginger whinger and regular skipper, Elvis, who has been hoping to ease himself back into rugby with a ‘cameo ten minutes’ after popping a rib in the last Moles’ outing at Beccehamians.
The Moles continued to chip away at the Steelers but great defence from both sides saw half-time arrive with the Moles still only 5-0 ahead.
As frustrating as things were, every Mole was giving 100%+ out on the pitch and in reality, no changes were necessary. Nonetheless, half-time saw a number of changes purely to get everyone a decent amount of game time and to stop Mick Terry drawing far too much attention to himself in his ‘rhubarb and custard’ odd-coloured boots; the yellow right boot allegedly nicked off the wall at Sports Direct; its pink left counterpart from the rack out the front of ShoeZone in Gravesend High Street. Ork, the only Mole to whinge even more than Elvis, came on with Posty to replace the nuisances that are Sam Holden and Welshy in the back row. Moles debutant and M&Y coach Carl Blake-Morris replaced Velcro at lock, the versatile and understated (i.e. black booted) Kev Bailey replaced the Terry technicolour extravaganza on the left wing and also, later filled in for Graham Harvey ‘Weinstein’ at full back, while the latter recovered from a ‘hit’. Last but not least, ‘Miami’ (vice-skipper Gareth Moore) came on to replace Garrick in the centres and to pick up another knock to further prove the theory that only good players get injured.
Now in his seventh decade, scrum half Nod was his usual bundle of energy, youthful enthusiasm and positivity and was having a fine game under the pressure of the marauding Steelers at the breakdown; no doubt revelling in the opportunity that have bodies everywhere in a ruck situation provides for, if not traditional ‘shoeing’ and ‘raking’ but at least some general foot driven encouragement to get on the right side!
The tight contest continued into the second half with both defences continuing to snuff out opposition attacks. Blows were traded equally until the Moles were awarded a scrum in the top right corner of the Moles on the Steelers' 22. After winning the ball and a bit of faffing about, the ball came out to Sells at five-eighths again with acres of space and possibly even an overlap to his left. Arguably, the Moles had been making it hard for themselves for most of the game and Carl had no intention of changing that by ignoring Miami's calls of "Left, left left!!" going on another loopy “where the heck is he going?” run right back towards the black and blue bodies still converged around the breakdown/scrum area. However, this proved to be another potential piece of Sells genius as a loopy pass was caught by Big Bob above his head before being nicely tucked into the armpit nicely as he fell over the line to score. Carl was then back to type by missing the conversion.
However, Carl still had more to offer this match. As the clock ticked away towards the end of the match, the Steelers were enjoying their best period of play and threatening the Moles’ line; albeit in part helped by some refereeing decisions (two dubious offsides against scrum half Nod in very quick succession) that appeared, to the cynical observer, to be very much designed to get the Steelers on the score sheet. From one of these penalties, the Steelers pushed hard for the line only to held up by that man Carl Sells; putting in a very strong claim for Mole of the Match if he wasn’t for his kicking. So straightforward were those missed kicks; reader, your correspondent here honestly thought the final score was 14-0 and not the 0-10 that will go on the record. Nonetheless, despite the Sells’ claim the coveted t-shirt went this time to hooker Mick ‘The Guvnor’ Woodbine who was all over the park all afternoon making hits, carrying ball and generally gee-ing up the Moles with lots of positive support.
In the bar after the game, Pierre was (bizarrely but brilliantly) christened ‘Cyril’ by the Steelers’ skipper and celebrated blithely with the other newly inducted Steelers up on a chair. A cultured man, Cyril is fond of a fine Merlot as an after match tipple and thus struggled to keep pace while necking a pint of golden cockney fizzy keg ale – the crowd had sang “Nice One Cyril”, “the Steelers’ song”, “Why was he born so beautiful?” “Delilah” and Gloria Gaynor’s greatest hits before he had finished the pint!
Back through the tunnel at HQ, Elvis whinged as usual about the lack of jugs available for the Moles to dip their fingers in for a bit of head. This was due to various patrons seemingly hoping to appear a bit more ‘rugby’ while watching the 6 Nations, by drinking award winning Irish stout, when served in a pint glass, out of a jug to experience the awful tasting beer that is only worth drinking because you’ve just stepped over the white line and gone to war with your mates to earn it. Like the Murphy’s though, Elvis is not bitter.
In amidst Elvis’ whinging, Paddy was calling everyone and everything a short word he’d picked up from Velcro earlier in the afternoon as England convincingly beat self-appointed World Champions, Ireland 32-20 in Dublin. Serves Paddy right for defying Moley traditions for wearing #1s before and after matches and rocking up before the games in his Ireland shirt.
And so, with the Gravesend 1st XV also taking a step closer to Twickenham with a 20-15 Intermediate Cup victory over Old Cranleighans despite being down to 14 men for 79 minutes; it certainly was a glorious day for rugby.
However, for the twenty Moles who’d played that day the most pleasure was drawn from the 'W' they’d achieved together as a band of brothers to make the beer taste sweeter. Proof once again, jug or no jug, that the Moles is something much much more than just a rugby team.