Wednesday 2nd March presented itself with a myriad of high intensity sporting encounters. Kevin O’Brien blazed the fastest century in Cricket World Cup history as Ireland pulled off an astonishing victory over England in Bangalore. Passions ran high for the Celtic and Rangers players and management teams of a fraught Scottish Cup fifth round replay at Celtic Park. But the real plethora of action came from Charlton Park where Lloyd’s RFC were locked in a closely fought battle with Nomads Media RFC.
The floodlights were bright, the receiving team was set and the gloomy night sky was only broken by the steam coming off the Lloyds team as James Williams led them out for Kick off. With temperatures dropping low, the referee’s whistle blew and the Lloyd’s pack lurched forward as a crash of rhinos. With a crunching first hit from Chris ‘Mustard’ Coleman, the tempo for the evening was set and the forwards looked to exert consistent pressure on both half backs as they in turn, tried to rally their own forwards into crossing the gain line in a number of phases endeavouring to push themselves up to the edge of their 22 yard line.
A long spiral soared from the boot of the Nomads’ fly half, over the melee of forwards, up to the half way line, but only to find the Lloyd’s Hooker, and Captain, had anticipated the greed for territory over safety, gathered the ball with ease. Without a moment’s hesitation, James brought the ball back up to the encroaching chasers and, with a grace of Anne Widdecome on the dance floor, sent a deft chip neatly into the corner to pin the Nomads back on their try line.
After a second clearance from Nomads, wisely opting for less ground and less pressure, it was Lloyd’s ambition to stay in this area of the pitch.
The first half developed as the Lloyd’s players tested their opposite men. The suggestion by the Nomads’ Captain, after seeing multiple scrums shunted back towards him, that perhaps this set-piece should become uncontested, only flattered the Lloyd’s front row of Coleman, Williams and Foister. As the front row unremittingly continued to pile on the pressure through out the game, Mick Dundee and Al Cockerton, looked to be working like a slick machine in the engine room and darts through the heart of the Nomads defence with their barrelling lopes up the pitch. The back row of Wagstaff, Hill and Clarke, emulating Haskell, Woods and Easter last Saturday, were on the charge, and in defence of their line, simply ruthless. Nomads were repeatedly stopped in their tracks or driven back by a wall of steaming blue and red. The hard work in the warm up, and in the Annual friendly with RICS the week before, had paid off handsomely.
Outside of the pack the backs shone on this front foot ball. With Ryan Patterson’s immaculate service from the scrum in the first half, and that of Nathan Taylor in the second half, you wouldn’t have been wrong in thinking you were dining in a five star establishment. Playing out of his usual position of 9 his chips, clearances, darting runs and miss passes made Tim Jackson look more like a stage magician, and as every magician needs a couple of pretty white rabbits to finish off the trick both Lloyd’s centres obliged especially Rob “best centre in the club” Pound who was only too happy to look at his best.
Both Lloyd’s wingers defended well including Chris Copping, whose reputation in the City League is such that grown bankers quake at the sight of his calves on first stride, showed his heartiness as he defended his wing and tackled like a loose forward.
The foundations at full back where secured by Rob Weaver, cool under pressure and determined in attacking lines. Having comeback from a lengthy absence, the man was everywhere and at times the crowd thought his brother Bob Beaver must have been on the pitch also.
The scoring started with a Lloyd’s attacking lineout on the 22 yard line. Al Cockerton with a gazelle-like leap and soft hands to hold and off load the ball at the peak of his jump, showed the education of the new father, jumping at first receiver. Seconds later the fly half, Tim Jackson, conducted the back line and sweet music was heard as Rob Pound burst through Nomads defensive line and swallow dived under the posts for the first try of the evening. Two more points were added by Jacko and Lloyds were standing on the start they had hoped for.
The Nomads lineout instantly replied after Ryan Patterson had fled to the side lines to have his little pinky put back with a tidy set move off the lineout bringing the scores level again. After this momentary blip, Lloyds rebuilt the momentum and put Cockerton over the line, giving him two tries in two games this season.
Lloyds continued to soak up the pressure from the charging Nomad’s pack and having camped out in the Lloyd’s half for a good ten minutes, a knock on by the Nomads fly half paid testament to this hardy defence and Jackson put boot to ball for half time.
Nomads would have taken their momentum into the second period had Lloyds not come out revitalized, and smashed into them from the re-start. With the impetus of Depel, Plaistowe, Parkinson the fresh faces scythed down Nomad’s belief and big ball carriers in one. Nomads’ hopes, still buoyant despite that blitz, were punctured in a crucial five-minute spell from the pack, as time after time, a rolling maul was formed and was driven onwards as numbers one to eight played their part, sniping like a coalition of hyena at the Nomads’ line. One bystander exclaimed he hadn’t seen a succession of rolling mauls executed that well since 1992 when Brian Moore could boast a head full of hair and Dean Richards a clear conscience. After the resulting team push over try, the muddied, but smiling, face of big Mick Dundee appeared from the bottom of the pile of bodies.
With Lloyd’s working themselves into good position in the Nomads 22 and not content with dominating his opposite man in the scrum; Danny Parkinson was not to be stopped as he worked his way over for a try with two or three tacklers trying to stop him.
The Lloyds team went for the jugular after the Nomad’s number 8 was sent to the sin bin for consistently killing the quick ball. Michael “Mick Dundee” Lee made not one but two 40 yard breaks. But somehow his long stride was not long enough to take him under the posts. However, it did put Lloyd’s within range and after one failed tap and go from a penalty, Lloyd’s then opted for a scrum and with Nomads 8 men having lost several balls against the head already in the evening their now 7 man pack was not match for Lloyd’s and a push over try was touched down by the ever industrious Tom Wagstaff at number 8.
At this point Lloyd’s collectively took their foot off the gas and the referee decided he would like to make a game of it and the Nomads 14 men rallied and the final play for Nomads to put a shine on their gloomy night was a cross kick similar to a Guiteau-Tuquiri World cup final 2003 opening score that was merely a consolation.
On a wet, chill evening, the Charlton Park turf squelchy after a week of sporadic rain and hard trodden feet, Lloyds had not opted for tactics more suited to sunshine and slick hands but that of a hard fought grinding win.
Lloyds 31 – Nomads 17
Report by Rob Thomas