Footscray 'Olds & Bolds' 17 Moles 24
By Michael Murray
Moles dig deep defensively for victory on 4G pitch
On the final glorious day for rugby in the 2018/19 season, the Moley circus moseyed its way westwards to the wide-open fields of New Eltham for the annual end of season ‘dust up’ with the ‘Olds and Bolds’ of Footscray RFC. Well, one says a ‘dust up’; in fact it was a ‘rubber up’ given the contest was played out on the brand spanking new 4G pitch and the ‘Olds and Bolds’ largely featured young ‘Boldlings’.
Moles skipper Elvis, leading the men in black into battle for the final time before handing the blue badge on, had assembled a fine-looking squad of 23 players with impeccable Mole credentials: Tie owners, tourists, current or former GRFC Mini and Youth section coaches, parents or sons of Moles, them all.
Unusually, over recent seasons at least, the Moles conspired to make sure that they started the match on the ‘back foot’. A missed catch from the kick off, followed by a ‘knock on’ and a sloppily conceded penalty, all helped to keep the Moles in their own half and standing behind their own posts within five minutes of the ‘chirpy’ match official’s initial blow of his whistle.
As ever, Mole heads did not drop. From the restart, they asserted themselves with immediate effect. Something about the 4G pitch seemed to make the breakdown rarely appear more than simply a pile of bodies and thus rife for the happy official to award penalty after penalty for holding on, not releasing and anything else the penalised team wished to furrow their brows in response to. An Elvis drive followed by an opposition player being found to be off their feet at the subsequent ruck, saw outside half and son-of-inside half Nod, Lewis Saward kick precisely into touch for a Moles’ line out 10-15 metres from the try line. A perfectly executed catch and drive manoeuvre by the Moles’ pack ultimately saw prop, Ralph Walpole, drop on to the ball and get the blacks back on terms. Ralph’s first try for the Moles!
The early deficit addressed, the Moles proceeded to take greater control of the game; getting their trademark ‘pick and go’ style working and both Saward half backs effectively organising the forwards in the loose into pods and feeding a strong midfield of vice-skipper and now 2s regular, Miami and Saffer Under 6 coach, Marco to attack the Footscray line. However, it was Lewis Saward who found the gap to take the Moles into a deserved lead; maximised by the boot of ‘footballer-who-has-seen-the-light’, Benny the Pimp: Footscray 5 Moles 12.
The Moles were looking strong but ‘Cray came back from going behind even stronger; albeit, arguably, with the greater ‘rub of the green’ from the referee’s decisions. The Moles maintained their discipline and were nothing less than stoic for much of the last 15 minutes of the first half; snubbing out attack after attack from the yellow and blue shirts with typically resilient ‘body on the line’ defence. Lock Oaf, having to leave the field with a hand injury along the way was an unwelcome setback as a result. However, if you can’t turn over ball, keep it and get to the other end of the field, ultimately, you’re going to be punished. And alas, this was indeed the fate for the Moles; succumbing to a converted try that saw the teams change ends at 12 points apiece. Like in pretty much every previous encounter between these teams; this was proving to be a close, well fought fixture.
Despite the Footscray onslaught which saw them get themselves very much back into the game, Mole spirits were buoyant in the half-time huddle. The general view was that more was going right that wrong and it was case of sticking to the game plan and maintaining composure and discipline. The usual ‘higher than normal’ numbers of replacements seen in Moles’ rugby has been known to disrupt team equilibrium over the years. However, this is something that the Moles have been much better at coping with during recent seasons. Subsequently, the introduction of the likes of Chairman Squeeksy in the second row, persistent ‘nuisance’ Sam Holden and South African ‘Minister for going forward’ Vaughan in the back row, all proved to be seamless transactions. Similarly, with backs cover light, the introduction of Lloydy on for Mick Terry and his amazing odd coloured boots in the back three, also went smoothly.
The Moles continued to play good rugby and make good ground up the field. Work from a maul saw the ball move right and, normally a ‘9’, Lewis Saward ‘snipe’ from twenty or so metres out; sending defenders in opposite directions, to ease through the large gap he’d created to touch down under the posts. With the Pimp on target again, the Moles moved into a 12-19 lead.
Despite Footscray pulling in some extra talent during the second half, now that their first team had finished their match on the adjacent natural grass pitch, the Moles continued to maintain the upper hand. More work on the right-hand side of the pitch saw the ball end up in the hands of a forward-charging big Moles’ centre Marco, who bounced two brave oncoming yellow and blue defenders off him in the ‘Jonah Lomu’ style before scoring a memorable try. Despite seeing their team go further behind, the home crowd were seemingly delighted at the spectacle and spontaneously struck up a chorus of Mancunian Britpoppers, James’ 1991 hit, “Oh sit down, oh sit down, sit down next to me…….” Ahhh……grass roots rugby! Don’t you just love it? Footscray 12 Moles 24.
With the Moles’ pack putting increasing pressure on Footscray at scrum time, a move to uncontested scrummages, given the youth in the ‘Cray back line, was always going to be a potential game changer. And It was; with the Moles spending the final 15 minutes or so of the second half defending even harder than they had had to at the end of the first period. A casualty along the way was Squeeksy with a shoulder injury. To compound matters further, for a good chunk of this time the Moles had to battle with 14 men when back row Welshy being a very effective nuisance as ever, saw yellow for killing the ball two metres from the try line; perhaps a harsh decision given that this was a friendly fixture between very old men and largely very young men. You must also feel sorry for whoever had Velcro in the ‘yellow card sweep’; such an bubble of hopeful anticipation burst by an arguably needlessly zealous decision. But then again, even Velcro doesn’t pick on kids!
The Moles’ defence was again extraordinary during this period with huge try saving tackles by Benny the Pimp, Vaughan, Mole-of-the- Year Big Bob and most notably by, the later to be named Mole-of-the-Match, Academy dad and full back, Rich Glover. Alongside some fantastic carries from the back, Rich made two such pivotal tackles that, with other mentioned hits, were as critical to the final result as any of the points scored. Despite this Herculean effort, the Mole line was ultimately breached and the gap between the teams reduced so that the home side needed a converted try to draw the match.
Although the final five minutes featured several leap years and an appearance of Halley’s Comet, the Moles managed the clock down effectively to emerge as 17-24 victors and, after picking up the Memorial Cup at Maidstone back in December, added the ‘Olds and Bolds’ Native American themed trophy to the silverware that needs to be kept in other clubs’ trophy cabinets. Do they think that we instinctively melt down all metals in G-Town?
So, a fantastic, hard-fought victory to cap another enjoyable season of Moles’ rugby. Every player contributed nothing less than 110% today. It was a performance that #1, the late great Gary Theobald, would’ve been very proud of. Those not already mentioned or shortly going to mentioned in dispatches include hooker Heinz, now in his seventh decade and refusing to do a minute less than the 80; prop Mick Woodbine who, as ever, gave his opposite number some friendly coaching advice before showing him what the inside of his backside looked like; Back row, Ork, who moaned something about having been playing on 4G pitches since he was 16 and that he still had the odd but of rubber stuck in the odd fold of skin to prove it and last but not least, retired Moles, Oily and Q for providing welcome support from the sidelines.
Back at HQ, there was inevitably some business to attend to and some beer to be drunk. Up on the chairs with the MOTM Glover first off was Benny the Pimp. Benny is Mole #16; indicating that he may have been a member of the first ever Moles’ squad in 1998. Missing in action for some years, presumed irretrievably corrupted by soccer, the Pimp claims to have never been given a tie to go with his number. What a fibber! Let the history books record that he lost it! Shame!
Similarly shamed for not taking care of his tie, despite yet another ‘body on the line’ performance out on the park today, was ‘Posty’. Posty’s tie was discovered wrapped around one of the pillars in the lounge by ‘rarely seen these days’ Mole Lunch. To add insult to Posty’s shame, Elvis disrespected his former skipper from the 16/17 Swans’ Kent Met League winning season, by referring to him as “Andrew Patterson”. “Who’s Andrew?” onlookers muttered to themselves. “His name’s Dave!” called out Tracy; the clearly outraged Mrs Posty, aka Tracy. Another Elvis public speaking gaff! Thankfully, some might say, the final one! In other news, Elvis has reconnected with his old mate Andrew Pattison following his gaff. So, every cloud……!
To make matters worse; Mayhem was unveiled as Mole #95. The former Gannets’ skipper and self-styled ‘loudest gob in rugby’ has been a reliable servant of Moles rugby in recent years and proved himself an entertaining tourist last year; not least given that he was once a male stripper in a Go-Go bar. “It’s all over!” cried Ork, throwing his tie across the table in disgust or more likely in a first step towards nakedness. Someone thankfully stopped the former Middle Earth international back row.
Unfortunately, due to work and other commitments, other ‘wannabe’ Moles missed their opportunity until Halley’s Comet next comes around (probably). However, 2018 Tourist, young Jake Welsh, added to his future credentials by not letting a pint go to waste.
So, as the last drop of Guinness dripped on Benny the Pimp’s head, the crowd got to the second “bang” in “Why was he born....”, then they clapped and that was the end of another season of Moles rugby.
But dear Reader; with a summer of cycling, FAFs, an AGM and hopefully the launch of a 'retail refreshment enterprise', the Moles will carry on regardless through the darkness of the off-season to the dawn of 2019/20; because as you all very well know, the Moles is something much, much more than just a rugby team!