Old Millhillians 57 – 19 Cuffley
Autumn. People go on about autumn and the leaves changing colour, getting your warm comfortable clothes on again and slow cooked dinners like it’s a good thing. The reality of autumn is that it gets dark earlier, it’s invariably wet and you’re in a constant (and ultimately guaranteed losing) battle with your better half to keep the heating turned off as long as you can. I regard getting to October as a win. However, autumn is eternally redeemed by a single key feature – the start of rugby season.
A new season, a new skipper and a new kit, but the same reassuring Lane – old foes Cuffley completed the cast for match day 1 of a campaign bristling with expectation. Even the standard dose of aforementioned autumnal drizzle could not dampen enthusiasm.
Warm-up complete, words of wisdom dispensed and new shirts thoroughly tucked in – the OM’s were led out for the first time by Oli Avent in front of a rapturous club record crowd of 1,016*. A proud moment for the young man.
Buoyed by the limitless possibilities of a new season the M’s started well, crossing twice early on, and having relieved James Davis-Roycroft of kicking duties, Avent converted his own score – his dictatorsh…captaincy beginning very nicely indeed. The only blemish in the opening exchanges was a ten-minute breather for Chris Jewel-Clark as the prominent issue of the day in rugby circles, tackle height, reared/ducked its head. The only thing more puzzling than the decision being the continued absence of the gym bike from the touchline for just such an occasion. Despite these bafflement’s, the M’s would not be deterred. Smarting from his enforced rest and not being able to renew acquaintances with John Coffey, CJC channelled his aggression into restarts, not shelling a single one. His performance in the engine room, along with Ollie Sanderson (strong debut, but was that really a try? The history books say yes) provided a strong platform in the set-piece and at the breakdown, going a long way to establishing OM dominance.
Then came a highlight of the game, remarked upon favourably even by those who have no idea what they’re watching – namely outside backs and scrummaging. Cuffley, enjoying a spell deep in enemy territory, had the put in to a scrum. Initially on the back-foot and seemingly retreating to an inevitable conclusion, the OM pack regrouped and charged forward, splintering the Cuffley eight, gaining possession in the process and allowing a swift exit towards the sanctuary of half way. Cue Maro-esque celebrations and a multitude of pats on various backsides. Also worthy of note was also an expertly taken quick 22 restart, absolutely smashed about 5 yards before scuttling along on the ground and really giving Cuffley something to think about. Yet somehow, they survived.
Half-time: 5 tries to 2 – ish.
Credit to Cuffley, they hung in and gained a foothold in the game in periods around the interval (aided slightly by the traditional drop-off in performance from the M’s) which yielded deserved scores, but normal service was eventually resumed. Roycroft defied the limitations of his own hamstring when the try-line beckoned and the skipper bagged another try with a chip and chase. Having been otherwise engaged at scrum-time yours truly was simply pleased to emerge and not have to run backwards – but I’ve been assured it was a delight to behold.
Worth noting at this point key contributions throughout – Joe Wray was to the fore in the loose, mixing powerful carries with deft hands and getting the team on the front foot. Louis Bird was his normal whirling dervish self, only being removed when his cumulative injuries slowed his running pace to such an extent that he was only the second quickest forward in OM history. Ben Nash showed further glimpses of his potential – turning ball over, disrupting mauls, carrying hard and generally being a menace, he could be a player this lad. A clubman at heart, at one point he even tried to fertilise the pitch with his own vomit.
Pretty sure the backs did some nice things as well, scoring as they did 7 of the 9 tries on the day, but these things are of little interest to me. Suffice to say, well done everyone.
Full time: Old Millhillians 57 – 19 Cuffley
MOTM: Joe Wray
Worst-dressed: Joe Wray
All in all, a top day at the Lane, and good to see a full clubhouse once again, including our newest member (and OM skipper circa 2045), Henry Murduck. Congratulations again to Rebecca & Ralph.
Next week – a short trip up the road to face league new boys Pinner. Ooo-la wayyyyy, la-wayyy lah-wa.
*Accurate to within 1,000