On a pleasant sunny afternoon a goodly crowd gathered at Chester’s Hare Lane ground expecting to witness an afternoon of entertaining, competitive rugby football in this National League Two North fixture. What they got was a penalty strewn, error ridden encounter dominated by the whistle and at least a half dozen yellow cards, (some say it was seven, but, either way, it reminded one of a field of rape seed flowers!); reducing both teams at times to thirteen members each, albeit Chester’s reduction reportedly, came near the end of play.
The match started brightly as Chester RUFC kicked off and made ground from the catch into the visitor’s 22 metre area. ‘Street lost possession from the close in lineout and Chester swung the ball right to left to put Greg Ross in at the corner. Kicker and fly half Luke Gray was unable to convert, 5 – 0. From the re-start ‘Street won the possession and at a ruck 30 metres out scrum half Nick Thatcher seemed to go the wrong way when he passed to a lone attacker on a wide blind side, however, on the return pass the ‘artful dodger’ sped through the outnumbering defence line for a great individual try. Fly half Ben Cooper was not on target so 5 – 5 with just six-minutes played. Cooper had a chance for three points after 10 minutes when Chester failed to release in the tackle inside their half but the longish kick faded right of the sticks.
Ashley Elvers sped past the defence for a well taken try. Cooper landed his most difficult kick so far from out wide to give ‘Street an end of first quarter 5 – 12 advantage. That really was the end, of the enjoyment, for the day as the game deteriorated into a fractured affair with ‘Street prop Rob Dugard yellow carded at a scrum, without prolonged scrummaging difficulties; thus allowing Gray to register 3 points from the penalty, 8 – 12. On the re-start 2 minutes later, ‘Street captain and wing forward Jamie Harrop was adjudged to have collided in the air with a Chester player from a kick restart when all, well nearly all, knew the ‘culprit’ to be a Chester player colliding with his own catcher. Despite protestations of rightfully claimed innocence and the involvement of the touch judge/assistant referee, Harrop was ordered from the field. Street’s depleted scrummage creaked thereafter and following a penalty at a scrum in front of the visitor’s posts, Chester’s sensible decision to reset the scrum paid dividend as a penalty try was immediately awarded as ‘Street were pushed back and the scrum wheeled? 15 – 12 to Chester and half time imminent. Before the break, however, ‘Street were dealt another blow when losing influential scrum half Nick Thatcher to injury; but the visitor’s nevertheless defended well in riding out a late assault on their line, whilst down to 13 players and adjusting to an early backline shuffle.Shortly after, a Chester back row player was a little harshly yellow carded for a perceived ‘tip-tackle’. ‘Street kicked for position in Chester’s half and after a not straight at the lineout Chester were only able to clear to 20 metres out. The lineout was good this time and from ensuing ruck play the visitors earned a penalty at 16 minutes as the home forwards infringed. Cooper was again unable to take advantage, but, from the drop out ‘Street worked the ball wide left and lively winger
Half Time: Chester 15 Broadstreet 12.
‘Street re-started and from a home knock-on blind side Aaron Crofts broke through and advanced to score but the referee had blown for the knock on and a scrum. Play progressed to in front of Chester’s posts where, after 7 minutes play, the hosts were penalised for holding on in a tackle allowing Cooper to even the score at 15 – 15. Both sides looked dishevelled thereafter as penalties amassed until Chester steadied for a period and put together two good phases of play; the first halted by a potentially try-saving tackle by full back Andy Murray, stand-in scrum half for the second week running; before the second sortie produced a well worked set-piece try wide out right of field for full back Sean Green. Gray was unable to convert - 20 -15.
Aaron Crofts broke through the defence line near the left touchline with one defender to beat. He was well covered by a heroic potentially try-saving tackle, followed by a shrill blow of the whistle and the on the spot referee indicating that Crofts was being penalised for seemingly not releasing. The touch judge intervened and after a meeting of minds the Chester number eight yellow carded, with only seconds of the game remaining, for cynically dropping over Crofts and the ball thereby preventing the recycling of the ball! [With the act being so blatant, how could it have been ever been in doubt?].Both teams had their moments thereafter but, whereas ‘Street always seemed to infringe when in a good attacking position Chester were slightly less disadvantaged in this respect. Then calamity! In what looked like a ‘Street try-scoring assault deep into home territory the ball was lost forward and shot towards the Chester threequarter defence line. Showing great pace and support play, their counter attack ended in an 80 metre Harrison Vare try, converted by Gray, to extend the home lead to 27 – 15. Not to lose touch on the scoreboard, ‘Street immediately responded following the restart and again threatened to score, but for an early tackle which halted an almost certain touch down. From the resulting penalty lineout, a catch and drive saw captain Harrop go over to pull back an unconverted try to keep ’Street in touch at 27 – 20. ‘Street did manage to hang on to the ball with some sustained possession in the last 15 minutes but constant offending and then a spilled ball proved frustrating; but not as frustrating as the last score from Chester which started when ‘Street cleared from their 22. The catcher, whose foot was clearly out (the line is out!) was allowed by the touch-judge to play on, much to the raucous protestations of a horde, and a moments defensive hesitation was enough to allow play to progress far too near to the ‘Street line where James Whitelock-Wainwright eventually got over the line thereby adding insult to injury in denying the visitors a deserved bonus point. As it was, try as they may, and Street did threaten with several breaks, every sortie ended with infringement or lost possession and the score ended at 32 – 20; but not before another bizarre incident. ‘Street’s
On being correctly given the penalty, ‘Street’s centre Beau Carney’s vision and quick thinking in kicking across field to an unmarked Jeff Gregson on the far touch line, could have earned him the ‘moment of the match’ award, if the kick had been accurate; [a try and conversion would have given ‘Street a more than worthy 2 bonus points for a fourth try and being within seven points of the opposition]. But there you go! The ball hooked back behind Gregson and the cover closed. This was a game full of heroes and villains and one to be forgotten – move on!
The final verdict when one strips away all distractions in this encounter is that ‘Street have what it takes to move forward but maybe a bit more composure will bring better decision making at crucial times and help to eradicate mistakes made through hurried play. Self-belief lads; and a tad more composure!
Squad: Murray; Gregson, Tilsley, Carney, Elvers; Cooper, Thatcher; Dawes, Worthington, Dugard; Tucker, Solomon; Zutic, Crofts, Harrop. Dodd, Pearl, Martin, Beddows, Hope.
Thought for the Game
Are yellow cards good for the game? Yes!
Are they intended for minor misdemeanours? No!
Should they only be awarded in cases of irrefutable certainty? Yes!
Otherwise, wouldn’t it be better to do away with penalties and use a yellow card for all offences? At least in that way there would, possibly, be less disgruntlement………..! [….I know, frivolous; but, sometimes, so can the issuance of yellow cards be…….!]