The Sun Was Shining
On Tuesday the Junior Boys Rugby team delivered their best performance of the season, defeating powerhouse St George’s 28-27 in a thriller on Gillespie Field.
It started ignobly, with Saints scoring a try five minutes in, after plunging across our gain line routinely and batting away our attempts to stop them. Luckily the ball was grounded at the far right hand corner, and the conversion missed.
For the next ten minutes we secured the ball, and while their initial pressure was startling, our flyhalf Jack NG found some space in behind with some well-timed kicks and an organized chase; one such kick alighted perfectly into the hands of Stephen I, running full speed, but he dropped it cold, and the touchline gasped.
Our forward pack began finding some George’s flesh to cave into, driving them off several rucks and softening them up for future ones. Our unpredictable kicking game forced their blitzing defense to reconsider, and we began building pressure, with several scything runs by forwards Luc B and Olin D. A quick ruck in the midfield, followed by a quick switch back to the near side, saw Noel P in space. He is a short boy-racer, who beat his man with a jinky stop-go, then flirted with the touchline before racing in under the posts. Jack NG converted and things looked even.
Some poor option-taking let them wrestle back control, with their forwards taking the most economical path to the goal line, scoring a try soon after (also unconverted) and a try in the midfield, which they converted to make it 7-17 for the visitors. We had a chance in the dying minutes of the opening stanza: a ripe attacking scrum 15 metres out, but some miscommunication and some bungling at the back let it slip away, and we headed for the oranges wondering what might have been.
Halftime was a crossroads. We had played our best, and were down two tries. It would have been easy to say, well, we tried, they’re better. We didn’t. Five replacements relieved the most tired among us, and set out unawed by the occasion. Saints looked stretched, and Jack NG took the ball in space and glided to his right, poked around for a seam, found one, stepped gingerly through it, then toyed with the fullback before dotting down and converting his own. Score 14-17, and our tails were up.
The game settled into an arm wrestle, with both teams defending well and snuffing out chances. They scored an unconverted try after some sustained attack and several penalties close to our goal posts, making the score 22-14. Minutes later, after some back and forth, we took a page from the Saints playbook by using our forward pack to churn upfield in short simple chunks, and were rewarded when powerful Gavin VO crashed over, which Jack once again converted to bring it to within a whisker 21-22.
Then the big play: with ten minutes to go, Saints were attacking deep inside our 22m line. They moved the ball to the near touchline, and under pressure, their midfielder attempted to chip through, but the ball was deflected and bounced up into the hands of Nick P, who had just entered the game. He carried forward and as he was tackled onto his back he slipped a feather of a pass to Santino G, who veered to the outside, paced the last two defenders and sped 80 metres to score under the posts. Jack NG converted again, and we were up.
The last three minutes were frantic. A missed kickoff, a bruising tackle, and some speedy runs allowed them to score in the far corner, bringing the score to 28-27. Fingernails receding, there were more speculative passes, missed catches and last-gasp tackles before Jack punted the ball into touch to bring the game to an end.
The sun was shining.
Mr Phil Smith