Preparation for Saturday’s clash with fellow LSW2 new boys was carried out in typical last minute Exiles fashion, with the lure of the 6 Nations and a fresh dump of Alpine powder, luring a number of the loyal piggies away from the comfort of Wandsworth. Eventually however, the 10:40am meet time was upon us and everyone was there and ready, except for Will Preece (obviously taking the Valentine’s weekend quite seriously with his new princess), and the bus…
Despite these initial setbacks, Preecey and the bus eventually arrived and the E’s made their way down to Andover, remembering how pivotal the same fixture was last season in their bid for promotion. With a number of tight 5 players missing, including inspirational leader Pidge, and Andover’s aggressive 10 man rugby game plan, the Exiles knew they were going to have their work cut out up front and this was going to be a true test of the old adage, brain over brawn.
According to the old Chinese proverb though “even strength must bow to wisdom sometimes”, and this was again the case in the fourth meeting between these two sides over the last couple of seasons.
Exiles won the toss and elected to start down the hill with the wind behind them and immediately used this to their advantage, camping in the hosts 22 until indiscipline crept in and presented Will Banbury with an easy opportunity for 3 points. Banbury put behind him a couple of fairly sloppy displays from the tee and slotted the 3. Exiles 3-0.
Even with very little clean ball from the set piece, the Exiles continued to use the slope and wind to their advantage, keeping Andover pinned in their own 22 for long parts of the first half. Mentions must go to Rich Oliver, deputising at hooker, who managed to secure some lineout ball in testing circumstances, Jim Kendall stepping up and making it through 80 minutes at tighthead against a significantly larger pack, Jack Sawbridge who managed to get the ball out of the back of a rapidly retreating scrum to provide the backs with some ball to play with and James Wilkinson, with his tireless work rate and carries. One final mention for the Andover second row who seems keen to re-introduce the pudding bowl haircut, personally I don’t get it, but I’m sure he has his reasons…
The hard work of the forwards eventually paid off when after a few tight phases, the ball was spun wide for the Seagull to round The Boiled Egg on the wing and go over untouched in the corner. Conversion missed. 8-0.
This try must have rattled the Andover pack who woke up and started to enforce their will on their smaller counterparts. This, combined with the Exiles indiscipline at the breakdown, allowed the hosts to kick for the corner and score from a rolling maul. Conversion successful, 8-7, game on.
Following this, Exiles had a tough task on their hands and were living off scraps, this was not helped when the referee gave a straight yellow to Greg Palmer for questioning his decision not to call up another wonky Andover lineout.
While down to 13, the men from South London scored two tries, one a typical Sheppig-esque try, pushing over from half a yard out, unconverted. The second, a half break from Paz, fed Pierce who stepped his man and was tackled by the full back, Rich Oliver found himself on hand to take the offload and dot down for his third Exiles try in as many weeks, Banbury adding the extras. 20-7 to the Exiles at half time.
The second half was a much different affair, Andover played to their strengths and kept the ball tight, not allowing their backs into the game. This faith was eventually repaid when they scored through a dominant scrum 5m from the Exiles line which went unconverted. 20-12.
Exiles managed to add one more penalty to their tally to take the score to 23-12, sadly falling just short of securing the bonus point.
With a severely weakened pack, against a strong Andover unit, this win shows just how far the Exiles have come in the last 12 months, playing to their strengths, with a great defensive effort from Pursell, Banbury and Muir in midfield (the choke tackle once again proving dangerously effective), and not getting sucked into an attritional game of 10 man rugby.
The win propels Exiles above KCS to 4th in the league with 2 big games coming up, first of all a tough league fixture against Effingham & Leatherhead this weekend, followed by a local derby in the Cup against Hammersmith and Fulham
Why was everyone so negative about January? People came to us and said; “You can’t possibly come away from 4 games against established opposition with a 75% win rate.” We did. And we’ll do it again. They said; “You can’t organise and run a successful Christmas social in the middle of January, no-one will turn up.” We did, and they came. “You can’t expect high numbers of bodies to training, and produce quality training sessions given the cold, cold January nights.” Well that’s what we got.
Bellow is the first edition of the ‘Exiles Extra Newsletter’, truly a collector’s item, where our very own Rick O’Shea gives us a low down on how he saw a great month.
Well done to all involved in a very ‘wet’ and successful January. 3 wins, 2 fun buses and 1 night in the Schoolhouse. January 2016 really was a great time to be alive.
‘God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure’ – Olympic Champion, Eric Liddell
Conditions: Good to soft in places. Roughly 12 degrees centigrade (Light winter Karrimor fleece required)
As I drove to the match on Saturday in my old Honda Civic, I hoped the match would provide many of the answers to the question marks I had about this Exiles team. Is Jack Read the right man to be leading this team? Will Neil Criggie be missed in the second row? Can the boys back from Dubai make an impact? Are Basingstoke the sleeping giant that the London Cornish website led me to believe?
After 10 minutes of frenetic paced action (and by which time the Exiles had secured the four try bonus point) I could firmly say that all of my above questions were answered. As I sit here in my sitting room to reflect on the game and read over my thorough post match notes, I thought it would be easy for me to delve into clichéd descriptive narrative about each of our fabulous tries. Yes Baynesy scored 5 tries showing the form and pace that made him a Cranleigh Prep School legend along with GTB. Yes Shep the prop took his tally up to 10 tries for the season (not that he is counting). And yes Ellis scored 2 collectors’ items as his tries came from scrum push overs. But I feel this would hide some of the subtler intricacies of the game that I noticed from my excellent vantage point on the touchline.
I understand that both the 1st team and the 2nd team were in one changing room which meant there was a cosy pre-match build up. Many other teams would have really had a moan about this, especially for a home game, but the Exiles didn’t and it may have in fact galvanised the club. Great to hear some beats bellowing out of the changing room pre-match.
Where was the game won and lost?
Support – The vocal, well-dressed and well-spoken support carried the players through to the last minute.
Breakdown & Collisions
Do the Exiles have defensive frailties?
Credit where credit was due, the Basingstoke team capitalised on a system error which their hooker (who had a whole-hearted game) capitalised on with a filthy step and pass. The London Exiles coaching and video analysis team will be tearing their hair out this week to rectify this issue. Will Banbury, who failed to get on the scoreboard this week, was unsurprisingly not happy.
Who is the best place kicker in the club?
Step forward Will Sandbach. Those touch line place kicks from the no-nonsense full back will live long in the memory for anyone who saw them, especially with such a blustery wind.
Those of you who stayed awake when Italy were playing 6 nations games in the late 2000s will remember that they had a cunning tactic to defend the rolling maul. The forwards would stand off, no maul would be formed and Mauro Bergamasco would run around the side and tackle the ball carrier. Basingstoke used a similar move a couple of times before the Exiles team switched on and nullified it in the 75th minute. On the topic of savvy old school set piece moves, I look forward to seeing the London Exiles free kick wall moves which used to be such strong weapon for the club.
146-7 : That is not a cricket score. That is the combined totals of the Exiles games this weekend. Top effort.
Moment of the match
‘God made me fast. And when I run, I feel his pleasure’ – Olympic Champion Eric Liddell. Similarly, I’m sure he would have taken a lot of pleasure in watching our very own Shawsie make a nifty intercept and gallop 50 plus metres down the paddock. The forceful prop forward has always claimed that he used to play at centre when he was 17 and 18 and in those 5 seconds, where he displayed the vision to initially intercept the ball and then scorch his way across the lush Barne Elms surface, he proved many of his doubters wrong. A truly memorable moment.
What is next for Exiles fans?
A tough away game against 3rd placed Winchester awaits. Wouldn’t it be great if the boys could nip a win before I return to Ireland to enjoy the Christmas break.
Sandbach – 3/10 There’s being flair. And then there’s being rash. Far too much of the latter from the elder statesmen of the back line. Wins himself 3 points for 3 touchline conversions.
Baynes – 10/10 5 tries. Need we say more?
Pierce – 3/10 Looks like a piggy in the back line. Played like a piggy in the back line. 2nd XV beckons.
Cox – 7/10 Some lovely touches on the ball and covered plenty of ground at the back during Sandbach’s absence. Exquisite step in the warm up touch.
Pryce – 8/10 A man who’s making a name for himself in the league. Tidy rig as well.
Pursell – 6/10 Kicking boots still lost in Warlingham. Relied on Paz to carry him through.
Paz – 8/10 Tired of carrying Matt. Always a threat around the base.
Oliver – 9/10 Exceptional work on his opposite number in the scrum. Stepped in to throw some serious pills in the absence of Skip.
Sawbridge – 9/10 Missing: Opposition 10’s 5th, 6th and 7th ribs from a Sawbridge ‘hug’. A performance Bakkies would be proud of.
Graham – 7/10 The Victor to Sawbo’s Bakkies. Goes up like a forklift truck in the lineout but impressive work in the loose.
Cooper – 8/10 Pretty certain he could run into a brick wall and win. Another top performance from Super Cooper.
Palmer – 7/10 Little bit quieter this week however never shy’s away. Top work on the kick chase, finding himself the first man there on several occasions. Strong turnovers.
Ellis – 8/10 His form continues. From recent media reports, got on quite well with the barmaid at the Alma. Streamline haircut allows for great height when jumping.
Shaw – 9/10 Incredible toe from the big man re-enacting his (apparent) centre days
Wilkinson – 8/10 What an engine this man has!!! Works like a dog around the pitch as well.
Murray – 8/10 This man is blessed with a very swift set of hands. Shame about the less swift pace. In good form ahead of the Christmas Lunch.
Banbury – 0/10 No tries in a 85-7 rout, No conversions, No attacking intent,Poor defensive mind set ****The views above are purely the views of our match reporter Rick O’Shea and do not necessarily reflect the views of the club. Rick has limited influence over the player ratings these days too****