With the weather on the turn Spartans knew their game against Bank of England would be tough and so it turned out to be… Despite a lengthy warm up, given some issues about player availability and an unfortunate injury to Dom in the warm up, last minute changes were needed with Christian and Glenda stepping into the breach. But players of their quality fitted in seamlessly and Spartans were ready for the kick off.
We were soon into our stride with new players Dean and Seb showing their skills early on. Dean playing in the back row was everywhere in the opening stages, putting in big tackles on the BoE inside centre while offering a real threat with ball in hand. Seb was the same, although he found himself in unfamiliar territory out on the wing, and both had early chances to stretch the BoE defence. Unfortunately that last pass failed to stick but the signs were very positive.
Before kick-off, Yatesy made it clear… given the size of the BoE pack, we weren’t to get into too many scrums but a combination of the weather and a case of the dropsies from 1 to 15 meant scrums were regular a feature throughout!
But whenever we gave the backs a platform Spartans looked threatening. Hambo and Haribo made an excellent half-back combination with Jason and Leo offering smash and guile in the centres and it was during one moment of phase play that Jason cut a wicked line and found himself driving at the heart of the BoE defence. But as with Dean’s and Seb’s earlier breaks, the ball refused to stick and a scrum BoE was the outcome.
Unfortunately our lineout wasn’t functioning as well as we wanted as BoE put great pressure on Dean jumping at two, combined with their own success on their ball meant we struggled to get the regular platform we needed. What didn’t help us was a very liberal interpretation of jumping across the line by the referee with one BoE lineout seeing their jumper landing well past our own, which set them up for a great driving maul but our defence stood strong.
It was about half-way through the first half that things started going wrong. A very very cheap shot on Glenda took him out of the game (think Pascal Pape on Jamie Heaslip) and rattled Spartan cages. A succession of cheap penalties conceded ground and with the BoE lineout and maul working so well they were eating up the yards. A couple of one out balls later and their back row had punched through our defence and slid over just to the right of the posts. Conversion duly slotted and despite playing all the rugby, we found ourselves 7-0 down.
The half was to end with the same score but little in the way of further chances. Time for a regroup and a rethink. Yatesy, as ever, provided sound advice – ‘Get the work rate up. Get the penalty count down. Play for each other.’
The next 40 minutes would be crucial and a real test of Spartans togetherness… Already the intensity was different. People were throwing themselves into the tackle all over the pitch. BoE were under pressure and looking to get rid of the ball anyway they could. They were kicking it to Seanie and Arun regularly and both were returning the ball with interest regularly. We were on the front foot and our clearest chance to score was to follow. Dean again with the break and with just their 15 to beat he pops a difficult pass out to Arun on the left wing… SCORE???? No… the ball squirmed loose, resulting in a BoE scrum.
With Rors on the pitch following Glenda’s withdrawal, the BoE scrum shenanigans would no longer be tolerated. Rors made sure the call of ‘loosies on’ was meant each and every time and slowly the tide was turning. The next score would be crucial…
And that elusive gazelle Dean proved the Spartans catalyst. A jinky, mazy run saw him slalom past BoE defenders… would he run out of steam?! NO! SCORE! The men in purple were back in the game… A tough kick was to follow and unfortunately Seanie couldn’t do the business so it was 5-7 with about 18 minutes left on the clock. Time to turn the screw…
With the wind on our side and Seanie finding touch like a laser guided missile, Spartans were exerting some decent pressure, waiting for that crack in BoE’s defence. And again Dean proved the hero… Another quick set of hands and he was once again rampaging around in space, another jink, a cheeky hand off of the covering defender and he was crossing the BoE try line to put Spartans in the lead. The shouts of support from the side lines were deafening… 10-7 with about 10 mins to play.
As you’d expect, BoE came back strong. Their inside centre was seeing a lot of the ball and were it not for Jason’s desperate lunge and shirt snag he would’ve been through. The defence flooded back and Fozzy, recently on for Michal, got the turn over we desperately needed.
Time ticked on, more epic defence from 1 to 15… but wait, Spartans ball, a gap for Leo to race into. A step round the defence and he was off… Captain Newe on his shoulder looking for the pass but unfortunately their 12 proved adept at defence as well as attack and the opportunity was lost.
Now it was BoE’s turn for some ill-discipline and Rors went with the chaos ball. More Spartans pressure. We knew another score would probably see us home… But BoE stood strong.
The last 5 minutes were a titanic tussle, with neither team giving an inch… Time was ticking down. A scrum with 20 seconds left. BoE put in, a half break from their 8 but again a purple jersey is there to shut it down. Turn over and Spartans go left. Close to the touchline. Hambo and Haribo at the bottom of the ruck so Fozzy calmly picks the ball up and boots it into touch...
PEEP PEEP PEEP… What a win. What a second half. Discipline. Determination. Guts. Sheer bloody-mindedness and two great cameos from the new boys. The result put everyone in great spirits for the 1s evening kick-off at The Stoop which you can read about in Lance’s excellently crafted match report!
Christian, Adi, Glenda, Newe, Football, Michal, Dean, Colt, Hambo, Haribo, Seb, Jason, Leo, Arun, Seanie, Rors, Fozzy, Ben Jones
MOTM: Dean officially but Seanie was the recipient in the clubhouse!
Dick of the Day: Arun officially but Leo was the recipient for wearing a kilt for a jacket
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