It’s St. Crispin’s Day today, did you know that? Probably not. And whilst you were at school, you probably didn’t pay any attention to your English Depts exhortations to appreciate Shakespeare’s famous (or infamous) rallying call in “Henry V” either, did you?
Well (though paraphrased just a little bit), let me remind you with this short extract:
“…. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in Accies-Land (sic.) now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.”
Famously these words were uttered on the silver-screen by the likes of Larry Olivier and Kenneth Branagh. But, as the rain lashed down today at NA and the wind howled (you’d have been forgiven for thinking that we were not actually playing at Lochshore) they might equally have been uttered, one suspects, by Capt. Walker in the pre-kick-off huddle as he urged his boys to lift their game to new heights this season in what we all knew would be a truly bruising encounter. And did they “rally to the cause”? Did they “shed their blood” with him? You bet your sweet ass your Boys did!
This particular St. Crispin’s Day match kicked off at 3pm prompt, Ref David Mathias from Oban “wafting” Garnock off with a theatrical arm. We received through Mikey, hit up, recycled 4 or 5 times and then a cute kick through from Loomsey saw Bondi romp up to their 22. And that got the home support got all warmed up. The ball found its way into touch in their 22, we won the line-out, hit up and after a couple of drives, won the scrum. Garnock tried their best to intimidate us, but their exuberance at the set-piece quite rightly cost them a penalty on just 5mins, from which Loomsey (remembering from last week that kickers actually do it with their “Eyes Wide Open”), promptly gave us a 3 – 0 lead.
From the kick-off, we infringed, gave away a penalty and the Garnock 10 duly obliged with a decent shot at goal to make it 3 – 3. But this seemed to rouse our boys rather than deflate them, and from the resultant kick-off, we put a number of good phases together.
Though we were (in truth) “dallying” between the half-way and their 10m line on 15 mins, we then lost turn-over ball, Garnock decided to spread it wide only for Stewart to intercept, off-load to Loomsey who once again prodded a delightful kick through for Bondi on the left wing. He gathered superbly well. though with a covering and scrambling defence, he was just edged into touch “”cm’s” from the line.
Garnock cleared from the resultant line-out and though they picked and drove at us thereafter, the game seemed to be played for a-while in midfield. Loomsey (“recklessly” in the minds of some, “boldly” in the minds of others) tried to ignite our backline with 2 or 3 wide passes which, considering the conditions, gave the home support palpitations. But he got away with ‘em, so good on the boy for having a-go. Bondi and his oppo on the Garnock wing “manned up” to each other on the stand-side and, as a result, the tone seemed to be set for a pulsating, if error strewn, encounter given the conditions: 16 forwards trundled from break-down to break-down, bashing and hammering at each other, both sets of backs huffed and puffed when they got the chance.
But then, as if a switch had been flipped in the second quarter, Garnock seemed to revert to type and play 10-man rugby. Undoubtedly, they generated some momentum as a result though it did ignore the not inconsiderable talent they have in their backline, But your Boys in the front 8 stayed resolute and repelled everything that was thrown at them. Undoubtedly Garnock had the best of the next 10 mins, trying to “batter” our line into submission, but each and every foray they made was met not only with resistance, but with added interest.
Gradually, incrementally, we eked our way back up field as a result and, though Sam didn’t (quite inexplicably) get his well-deserved try, we were awarded a penalty which Mikey instructed Loomsey to nail: he did, and it was 6 – 3 to us on 30 mins.
A clever kick from Chris shortly after the re-start, saw us back in the Garnock 22 and though we lost the line-out, the opposition moved the ball along its backline but their midfield hadn’t really yet met our Stewart: a simply sublime, text-book hit on their lively 13 saw him spill the ball which, from the resultant “melee”, saw the hugely impressive CalDal win us a penalty. “Cock O’ The North” Loomsey promptly then did his stuff and extended our lead to 9 – 3 on 35 mins.
And so it ended at half-time. Water, energy drinks and words of wisdom from Coups were then all taken on board in the “huddle”, and your Boys then began the second half as they left the first – pressing, but without (admittedly) a decisive blow. That was largely down to some determined Garnock “D” but in truth, we struggled for a period to put together any sustained phases.
Play flowed then largely between our 10m line and the Garnock 22m line for the rest of the 3rd quarter but come the start of the 4th, it all heated up. We’d been pressing, had possession and were looking reasonably threatening. Then the Garnock 8 (who’d until this point been having a decent game) decided to take the law into his own hands and dish out some “retribution” with the kind of behaviour that if it’d been exhibited on Sauchiehall St on a Sat. night, would have landed him up before the Beak on Monday morning after a couple of nights in the cells! Fists flew (predictably), Ref Mathias turned up 20m too late, and the touchline got super-animated with the kind of comment being exchanged between the coaching staff of both Clubs that would make even a Laurel Bank girl blush! Ooh, it was all quite “gorgeous” stuff and it fair got the hearts-a-pumping for the stand-side support!!
But we had the last laugh on this particular occasion – just 4 minutes later, our midfield ran some hard-hitting lines stand-side, the ball was re-cycled by the forwards who seemed to be rising to the task, and Kris fired one out to Loomsey. A miss pass with Bryden Jnr running a great decoy line saw the Garnock defence momentarily mis-read the situation, and the ball was with Stewart who promptly off-loaded to Bondi. Surprisingly – though to the delight of the home support – the “Try-Whore” slipped a clever inside ball to Richie who’d run a great line to splash over in the corner. 14 – 3, and even though Loomsey couldn’t add the extras, you know what? We were worth it.
Coups made personnel changes subsequently, with Brad, Ruaridh and Gav (in particular, and for various reasons) making an impact. Sam then got sent to the “Naughty-Step” on 82mins, the unlucky recipient of the Ref’s woes for alleged and persistent infringements despite Capt. Walker’s protestations – once again, and for the benefit of The West Refs Soc. – one mans “holding on” is another’s “not releasing”. But then the Garnock forwards came hammering back at us and, after half-a-dozen phases, they scored in the corner.
Suddenly, though the conversion fell short, with just injury time to go (5 mins, 6 mins, 7 mins?) it was 14 – 8.
And if the “Accies Faithful” thought Garnock were going to play “dead” for what was left of the game, it was sadly mistaken. Garnock’s forwards rumbled up into our 22 after a series of moves and quite literally “battered” our line. These were uncomfortable moments , but the salvo’s were survived, Sam re-joined the fray and, back up to our allotted number, we held ‘em out. Garnock did have a penalty in the dying seconds of the game and drove hard at our line from 5m out. But your Boys met their attack with interest, all 8 getting stuck in. At the death, Sam won turnover ball, Kris secured it and Chris cleared, all to welcoming sound of the final whistle.
MOTM: once again, a quite imperious performance from CalDal marked him out as a candidate. Ker ran himself “stupid” all over the park and very nearly scored our “Try-Of-The-Season”, and nothing got past our midfield all-day. But this week, even if he did get his bottom spanked by Ref Mathias, our MOTM is Sam Miller – a BIG performance today!
REF Watch: to Mr. Mathias, let me just say this: if a flanker is 5’2” in height, bridged over the ball (and winning it), don’t penalise him just ‘cos you think he’s unfeasibly low to the ground. He’s bridging and low to the ground ‘cos he IS 5’2” – not because he’s cheating! All at NA appreciate your efforts today, but you know (as do Garnock) you were never going to get more than a 5 out of 10 today.
And finally: a big “Up” to all our fans in NZ who had to miss this one and watch, instead, the ITM Final earlier today. Poor you!! You might have enjoyed that one folks, but ours was better! Like those Accies “a-bed” you missed our Boys perform a “Band of Brothers” treat to get us over the line – you’d all have loved it and every single one of ‘em for it!