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Merit Table 7 Plate final - Old Millhillians 2nd XV vs. Harpenden

Played at Tring RFC 24th April 2010
After an extremely successful first season in the merit table for the 2nd’s where we ended up 3rd; we had glided our way to the plate final of our merit table. It was a hot day, arguably the hottest of the year so far and the ground was lacking moisture and grass in many places.

We had played and beaten Harpenden twice in the league. The away game had ended up being comfortable after a tight first half. The home game had seen the debuts of Sam Rosenkranz and Kachi Nwokenna who had too much pace and freedom on the outside running out comfortable winners. Harpenden had anticipated a similar side but got a side boasting many of the season’s regular faces. The Harpenden side were a big unit and carried a lot of experience and muscle.

1)      Ben “Nashy” Nash

2)      Panni Theodorou

3)      Philippe Hadjisymeou

4)      Jonno Harris

5)      Martin Coupe-King

6)      Paul Wylie

7)      David “Woody” Wood

8)      Phil  “Grunty” Smith

9)      Rob Seger

10)   Jamie “Monners” Monaghan (Capt)

11)   David Cohen

12)   Greg Walsh

13)   Ollie Wetzig

14)   Jes Graves

15)   Max Coupe-King

16)   Seb Jacobs

17)   Ralph Murdock

18)   Gideon “Gidders” Felton (Team Manager)

The game started brightly with Jes Graves scoring in the corner following good work at the break down. The conversion was missed by Monners for a 5-0 lead. The half remained tight and the Harpenden forwards worked their way up the pitch to score and also convert their try for a 7-5 lead. With what proved to be the slope the OM’s worked their way back up the pitch and put themselves back in a good position with a line out on the 22. With what has become the backs trademark X ball Monners ghosted through the defence and with a trademark step was in under the posts. The OM’s were playing the better rugby and Monners set Panni up with what surely should have been a try but his desire to get closer to the posts saw him held up when he was clean over the line. Fortunately we had another chance and the backs again worked the ball wide and used simple hands to allow Max to score under the posts and with the conversion over a 19-7 lead was looking promising. Just before half time the OM’s took their foot off the gas slightly and allowed Harpenden to score a similar try to their first with their big back row muscling over in the corner.  The OM’s had a few more chances to extend their lead further but the Harpenden defence stood firm and we couldn’t quite break through. At half time it stood 19-12.

The second half saw Harpenden use their size and the slight slope advantage to good effect and there was much hard defending to be done by the OM’s who looked like they were going to hold out until only five minutes from the end of normal time they again used their weight advantage in certain areas to score and the conversion was good. The score 19 – 19. There were a few nervy moments in the last few minutes but the  final whistle went and it was a draw.

The organiser came to the pitch and it was agreed following a consultation of the rules of the tournament that two ten minute periods of extra time would be played. This was not being relished by some on the OM’s side but most were chomping at the bit ready to put the older Harpenden side to the sword or so they thought. By this time the banter on the touchline was increasing and some of the supporters were feeling left out and started to have their own beef with each other while the game started for the extra 20 minutes.

In the first period and with the slope the OM’s looked to dominate and there were a number of chances squandered before Ollie Wetzig burst through the defence and ran clean through and under the posts from the half way line. Monners slotted the conversion and the 7 point advantage was theirs again. 26 – 19. The second period of extra time started and again Harpenden looked to use the slope the pattern of normal time seemed to be repeating itself.  The forwards were having to work extremely hard and there were some immense performances from all of them during the final period of extra time. Despite the heroic efforts to clear ground Harpenden again scored and the conversion was good to bring the scores level once more 26 – 26. The OM’s held on until the end of extra time and by this time the touchline had been witness to some genuinely funny moments with Rob Seger keen to make some comments to those in the Harpenden supporters group including a suggestion that they had not attended school to a Harpenden supporter who was in fact a headmaster!

Once more the discussions with the ref and the two captains were heated as it was decided after some rude interruptions from a Harpenden coach who had also quietly suggested to Monners that we call it a draw and get to the bar. At this suggestion Monners realised that perhaps they were suffering more than us although with some walking wounded we were not looking too sprightly ourselves after 100 minutes of rugby on a concrete pitch in 24 degree heat. He turned down the offer and thought this is our chance. One final team talk and we were into two ten minute periods of sudden death! First score wins any method.

The first period saw the OM’s going down hill surely this was our chance to clinch a famous victory. Despite the pressure on their line we could not break them down. A series of penalties just out of range for a penalty shot were used to get us close and to have a few line outs to perhaps clinch the game. The scrum were tiring and the line outs were lost and they cleared their lines. Following a good attack from the base of the scrum with Paul Wylie and Seb Jacobs involved Philippe went over to score with Mr Jacobs running onto the pitch screaming with joy but alas it was a knock on!

The second period of sudden death began, following a brief attempt by Gidders to get back on the pitch when water was brought on, and Harpenden were quick to get down to the OM’s 22. After some resilient defence the refs whistle blew for a penalty. Definitely in range and not too hard a kick. With heads down the OM’s returned to under their posts. It was like the dark days of Italia 90 penalties England vs. Germany; many of us couldn’t bear to watch it was surely over. The young Harpenden fly half struck the ball but had he sliced it ……..yes it was wide! Thank the rugby gods!

From the drop out the Harpenden side came back again. With 2 minutes to go the forwards stole a line and Monners cleared up field and the bounce took the ball a long way into their 22. An awesome chase from Seb Jacobs and Greg Walsh saw the full back slice the ball into touch. Was this the opportunity we needed. The lineout was won and a couple of phases played out before the ball came to Max there was a glimpse of space and as he had done all season he knew what he needed to do sprint for the corner. The defence was absent and the victory was ours. Never had a victory felt so good after 118 minutes of rugby we had won.

This was a fitting finale to a great season; to win in such a way typified everything that has been great about the squad this year. Everyone played their hearts out and the victory and the manner of the win was indicative of the friendships and camaraderie that had formed over the season. Thanks to all the supporters who came to the games throughout the season and particularly our 1st XV captain Kieran Walsh  and Doc Webster who came and watched the final and a number of other games.

Well done boys – Mabulla!

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