Winchester 10 – 20 London Exiles
“The bear is awake, dangerous and hungry”
I would excuse anyone in thinking that an adult grizzly bear would make an excellent rugby player. Strong, tough, aggressive – it would make a welcome addition to anyone’s front row. It’s not until I looked at this in greater detail to discover that despite these attributes availability would be an issue. An adult grizzly hibernates from September through to March (give or take dependent on the food supply throughout fall). This I like to think as their off-season, time to rest, rejuvenate, rebuild. On the other side of the spectrum an Exile’s off-season stretches from April – September. Whilst bears use this time to rest Exiles use this time to sample the better things in life, sandy beaches, warm tropical sea, the delicate touch of a light Provence rosé.
Last year a chap called Perry Chiaramonte wrote an article for Fox News highlighting the dangers of grizzly bears post hibernation. After their off-season, a grizzly bear wakes up hungry, dangerous and usually looking to mate. The latter being slightly less relevant but as Winchester RFC were putting on their ladies day fairly appropriate.
Last Saturday brought about the first game of the season with the Exiles sporting a new coach, two new faces in the starting lineup, and a newly appointed captain in Will Banbury. Mating aside the Exiles 1st XV fresh from the summer off had certainly woken and were hungry to get stuck in the new 2016/2017 season.
The fairly loose arrangement of a ‘5 pint policy’ the night before was clearly adhered to (much to the surprise of yours truly) as the Exiles’ started with a tempo that hasn’t been seen in previous seasons. The pack laid a solid platform and despite the damp conditions the backs threw the ball around with precision and poise. Debutant Boyd-Moss certainly showed his class early on with a few scything carries certainly putting down his statement for the No. 12 jersey.
The first 20 minutes went past with the Exiles very much leading the territory and possession charts but only having two Oscar Matthews penalties to show for it (0-6). The real breakthrough came in the 24th minute when quick hands from turnover ball released J Pryce who took off down the wing like Kauto Star two lengths clear on the finishing straight at Cheltenham. A couple of strong fends later he found himself under the sticks celebrating the first try of the new season. Moments later T Pierce found himself in some open space and went off like a raw prawn down the touchline before getting tangled in his own feet and falling victim to the Winchester full-back – an opportunity gone, possibly, the Exiles on the front foot, defiantly.
Despite taking an early lead on ladies day at Winchester RFC the chance of an Exile ‘pulling’ was looking far from likely. However, I was proved wrong moments later when Neil Criggie pulled a hammy whilst carrying into the Winchester pack. Season over, possibly, a big loss, not sure… This created a slight shuffle to the pack bringing to the field D Goulding.
Half time: Winchester 0 – LERFC 13
Now I’m not saying for one minute that this is a recurring trait but like an old lady with a frisky Labrador the London Exiles can sometimes struggle to keep hold of the lead. The constant drizzle was starting to take the glamour out of the day and as the second half got underway the ball was finding itself more ‘up the jumper’ than flamboyantly wizzing through the hands.
This tight, continuous pressure was starting to tell on the Exiles and after a couple of hard drives the Winchester pack managed to get their side on the score board with a 5 pointer in the corner. However, a few stern words from Banbury and Palmer behind the sticks clearly did the job as it wasn’t long after that the Exiles were back on the offensive. Matthews pushed a penalty into Winchesters 22 where J Sawbridge called order at the lineout. Clean ball off the top saw the gain-line broken and off second phase Barty crashed through the defensive line adding his name to the score sheet. Converting has been a problem for Matthews off the pitch recently but there were no issues on Saturday as he added the further 2.
As the weather really began to turn for the worse the last quarter of the match was understandably scrappy. By this point the ladies of Winchester had headed for the shelter of the clubhouse where on closer inspection it turned out the only thing worth pulling was in fact the Doom Bar beer pump. This isn’t a remark about the quality of woman associated with Winchester Rugby Club, more of a complement to their pipe lines and cellar conditions.
Winchester showed good levels of fight right up to the 80th minute where they deservedly scored another push over try. Frustration had crept into the Exile pack with both Palmer and Wilko (Big) having to watch the end of the game from the naughty step.
A big hand goes to the Exile front row union (FRU) who I expect can’t read this anyway but they set up an impressive platform for the team to work off. It certainly seems that T Court has earnt his seat at the end of season dinner this year.
Final Score – Winchester 10 – LERFC 20
Both hearty congratulations were offered to and from the opposition and we very much look forward to welcoming back Winchester to Barnes Elms later in the season.
The bus journey home saw Father Abraham make his first appearance of the season and it was great to hear the finely tuned voices of the debutants.
A message has been sent to London South West 2 in the same way Perry Chiaramonte warned Fox News – the bear is awake, dangerous and hungry (and possibly looking to mate).
Over and out.