Old Millhillians v Harlequins Amateurs
Temperature – low 20’s. Wind – gentle South-Westerly. Grass – trimmed to perfection. Better conditions could not be asked for as the OM’s began a new league campaign at The Lane on a sunny September afternoon. Harlequins, ferried by coach and bedecked with sparkly new kit, completed the scene.
Having started the game well; asserting real dominance in the scrum and territorially, the choccy & whites fell behind to two sucker punches; coughing the ball up and affording chances which, to their credit, were duly taken by Quins. The first period was punctuated by one drawn out succession of scrums, the type frowned upon by backs but adored by purists and props alike, especially so when you’re on the front foot. Although unable to cross the whitewash (in the eyes of the man who counted anyway) the OM’s eight had well and truly set the tone. Aside from the scrums, the highlight of the first half was seeing our own Ralph Murduck catch (and subsequently drop) the ball in live play whilst carrying out his duties as touch-judge – OM’s had work to do.
Half-time: Old Millhillians 0-17 Harlequins Amateurs.
It wasn’t a rocket that arrived at half-time, more a realisation that going back to a well-executed, simple game-plan would be enough to bring ourselves back in contention. The wheel was turned in the first minutes of the second half with another gargantuan set of scrums; again on the Quins 5m line, again relentlessly on the front foot, but with the addition of a truly deserved 5 points scored by this year’s joint top try scorer, Mr P. Try. That passage opened the floodgates, and frankly, the next 20-25 minutes must have been a joy to watch, an exhibition of OM’s rugby; ruck ball dominantly secured, runners coming on at pace, with excellent hands and scissoring runs finishing the job. Every member of the back-line played their part during this scintillating period of play and James Roycroft, Jack McCooke, Greg Walsh and Joe Wray all went over in the blitz to pull themselves level with the aforementioned Mr Try. At that point, Harlequins appeared to be done. Rarely is that the case though and, giving them their dues, Quins came again and dragged themselves back into the game. The highlight of our game in those closing stages was our defence high up the field, until, in the dying moments of the game Harlequins secured a line-out deep in OM territory, put the ball through the hands and scurried in on the 15m line. All of a sudden, Quins had a kick to tie the game with the last play. Having seen the oppo kick well all afternoon this observer was not entirely confident of securing the game – frenzied calls to “run different lines so he doesn’t know where the posts are” perhaps evidence of this. With the Quins lined up expectantly on half-way, the kick sailed agonisingly (for them) across the face, the whistle blew and the game was won.
A quick word to the prop’s and the pack as a whole – dominance was maintained in the scrum throughout and, after a wobbly start, the line-out was equally as strong – really impressive work as a unit in the set-piece, long may it continue.
A winning start to the season then, and, as was noted post-game, from a position at half-time we would not have recovered from last season.
Having said that, there is a lot more to come from this team this year – watch this space.
Full-time: Old Millhillians 31-29 Harlequins Amateurs