With the Broadstreet 2nd team facing the might of Leicestershire Champions Hinckley 2nd team at The Ivor Preece Field and calling upon several 3rd team regulars to complete their side, it was a depleted Street 3rd team that headed to Bericote Road for this friendly fixture against our old pals Old Leamingtonians, themselves graced with a squad of twenty-five or so experienced 2nd XV and 3rd XV players. Indeed, much to the frustration of manager Danny ‘Tinkerman’ Rowan, two players, Stewart Crawford and ‘Yorkshire’ Gav Barsby, fully kitted out and resplendent in the freshly laundered 3rd XV kit in the away team dressing room at the Old Leams’ clubhouse and ready for action, were hastily recalled to Rugby Road to bolster the 2nd XVIII (!), leaving Street 3rds sweating on the arrival of England victory celebratory hangover victim Jordan Simpson as to whether they would start the match with a full fifteen.
In the event, Jordan didn’t show, much to the frustration of best mate Murray ‘Mint’ West, similarly afflicted with stomach cramps and head pains following the consumption of several pints of strong continental the previous evening and gallantly there for his team, but in the words of Albert Einstein “in the middle of a difficulty lies opportunity” and this minor setback paved the way for Jordan’s older brother Jack Simpson to step in to the limelight at scrum half for the first time in his illustrious career and deliver a man-of-the-match performance (his own words) despite claiming and sometimes proving to be unable to pass the ball to his left. With skipper-for-the-day Pete ‘Evergreen’ Branston doing everything possible to convince his men that everything would be fine and that the opponents were just fifteen blokes (well, twenty-five actually), the Broadstreet fourteen took to the field in the bright sunshine and kicked off to let battle commence.
The game was competitive from the get-go, with both sides happy to run the ball, tackle aggressively and enter in to the spirit of the encounter, and numerically disadvantaged Street initially looked the more likely to score, winning and maintaining possession and playing a large portion of the first ten minutes in Old Leams’ territory, with birthday boy Clinton ‘Thriller’ Ndlovu, Will Vennard (having overcome his huge pre-match disappointment at not being selected to fill the vacant scrum half position), Jamie McDonnell and Pete ‘Evergreen’ Branston in particular to the fore for the forwards, Jack ‘I’m Better than Jordan anyway’ Simpson feeding his young back line (when he could pass to the right (!), with Callum Abbott, Sam Taylor and Ben Gosling causing their older opponents not inconsiderable concerns) and Ryan Evans fulfilling the hugely important role of open-side flanker in attack and winger in defence. Unfortunately, a period of sloppy play led to Street losing possession and against the earlier run of play Old Leams now attacked the Street line, with a couple of missed tackles leading to the first score of the afternoon for the hosts, which was also converted, leaving Street facing a 7-0 deficit.
By this time, Chris ‘Milky’ Price had arrived, got changed and was stood on the touchline, and despite pleas from Pete ‘Evergreen’ Branston to get himself on to the field of play to bolster the Broadstreet Fourteen, he continued to stand on the touchline with a pose not dissimilar to that of an ancient male model, insisting that we had fifteen players on the field already, a claim backed up by the mathematically challenged ‘Tinkerman’, who has requested an abacus instead of a shield when he collects his Broadstreet team manager-of-the-year award at the soon-to-be-organised end-of-season dinner-and-dance. Eventually, the referee stepped in, did a quick player count and agreeing with the Street skipper allowed ‘Milky’ a few minutes to remove his tracksuit and slumber on to the field. What followed was a moment of pure individual magic from young Sam Taylor, who gathered the ball in the Street 22 and danced through team mates and opposition alike to go a full 80 metres and score under the posts. With Calum Abbott adding the extras, it was 7-7 and game on. Street continued to battle manfully against a home side, who sensing significant danger, were making the most of their roll-on roll-off substitutes with players changing at a faster rate of knots than passengers scurrying for the lifeboats on a sinking ship. Sadly for the player and for the team, shortly after his dazzling solo effort Sam Taylor left the field of play with a wrist injury, once again reducing Street to fourteen players and depriving them of their greatest threat in attack. At the end of the first half, despite fine scrummaging from young Robbie Brown (who would have failed a breathalyser test had the referee decided to administer it before the game) and the Attwood / Kruis lookalikes Kev ‘Trussy’ Truslove and Bill Vennard and aggressive defence from Danny Bucknall, who was again playing out-of-position in the centre, the Old Leams fresh legs started to pay dividends and they slid over for another converted try, leaving Street facing a 14-7 half-time deficit.
Still obviously seriously concerned by the quality of the opposition, and sensing an opportunity to take advantage of the inability to count by some of the visitors’ players and management team, Old Leams tried to pull a fast one as they prepared to kick off the second half by fielding sixteen of their massive squad of players, and it was only the ever alert Pete ‘Evergreen’ Branston requesting that the referee undertake yet another player count that prevented them from doing just that. Once the game did re-start Street, bolstered by Brendan Evans as the new fifteenth man, battled manfully, but eventually succumbed to two further converted scores, the Old Leams pack becoming very dominant, having bolstered their front row at the break, and with birthday boy Clinton ‘Thriller’ Ndlovu also having to leave the field of play with a rib injury (which incidentally didn’t prevent him downing a number of specially prepared birthday celebration drinks upon his return to Rugby Road later that evening). Despite the 26-7 defeat, the Broadstreet lads can all be proud of their contributions to a hugely entertaining encounter, and we look forward to a rematch later in the season at Rugby Road, when undoubtedly we will return stronger, fitter, better.
Squad: Jamie ‘I really want to be a Watts’ McDonnell, Clinton ‘Thriller’ Ndlovu, Robbie ‘I’m a secret drunk’ Brown, Kev ‘Attwood’ Truslove, Bill ‘Kruis’ Vennard, Will ‘I want to play scrum half’ Vennard, Ryan ‘I don’t know whether I’m meant to be in the scrum or on the wing’ Evans, Pete ‘Evergreen’ Branston, Jack ‘I’m better than Jordan anyway’ Simpson, Callum Abbott, Ben Gosling, Danny Bucknall, Chris ‘Milky do I have to come on’ Price, Murray ‘Mint’ West, Sam Taylor, Brendan Evans
Joint men-of-the-match: Clinton Ndlovu, Jack Simpson, Sam Taylor
Congratulations and best wishes to: ‘Big’ Brendan McGuire on his selection for the Irish Exiles XV.