“FIERY FORDY-BOYS SMOKE ‘STOKE!” by Stuart Fielder
HAMPSHIRE BOWL QUARTER FINAL
There was something of the unknown in the air as our Fordy-boys took the field today........
There was something of the unknown in the air as our Fordy-boys took the field today; a real sense of anxious excitement seemed to crackle above the team’s heads as Patch played ‘Rock, Paper Scissors’ with the oppo skipper to decide on who would get the contest underway. The shouts of encouragement and the calls to arms seemed to have an added urgency; almost a pleading quality which indicated that the boys knew that there was a wrong to put right today. It is a year since they last met with Basingstoke, at a similar stage of the competition, an ultimately chastening experience despite a valiant, but ultimately futile fightback. Today they were in the mood to put that particular experience, well and truly to bed.
The first ten minutes of the game were played in a palpable atmosphere of edginess, both sides were guilty of several anxious knock-ons and fumbles bought about by attempting to rush the play, so keen were both teams to impose themselves on each other. Back and forth both sides punched and counter-punched, looking for that first break that very often sets the match’s tone. It was cagey, frenetic and physical. The break that Fordingbridge’s loyal travelling supporters were waiting for was eventually delivered in spectacular fashion by two thirds of our awesome front row, Tom Parry snaffled the ball at the ruck and after a muscular little saunter down the pitch offloaded to Comps, who had clearly consumed an extra Weetabix this morning. With fearsome and belligerent intent he decided to make the game as direct as possible and like a rampaging bullock ran over, pushed aside and then carried, a goodly proportion of a floundering Basingstoke team half the length of the pitch, eventually crashing over in the corner. Take a bow, Tom.
Some of the tension seemed to lift from the team - and certainly in the stands - as over the next twenty the pack continued to flex their collective muscle. Patch’s ability to win most ball at scrum-time and the power coming through from behind meant that the team were being able to play on the front foot. Luc’s always quicksilver work at the base of the scrum started to looked even sharper than usual, he seemed able to steal yards before the defence were able to react and to do so at all. Indeed, later in the match Basingstoke were reduced to tackling Luc before the ball even got to the back of the scrum, so terrified they had become. This was quickly turning into a physical but very fair encounter where the strength of the scrum was to be key. This is not to say that this became a game won by the pack, indeed although they led the way, this was clearly a 15 man effort. Today saw a full debut for new recruit at fullback Will C, accomplished and confident, he quickly reassured his teammates that little would get past him today. Indeed it was glorious whole team continuity that led to Tom C's second try some after. Jack P gathered the ball brilliantly at the restart then rumbled with elbows and angles flying, straight into contact, some beautiful handling through several sets of Fordy hands including a typically bruising intervention from Ciaran, and the ball once again found itself nestled safely in the Complin breadbasket; somewhere it would resolutely stay before he touched down yet again.
Tom C’s hat-trick came shortly before half-time and ensured that the team finished the first period in the highest of spirits. Joe, spotting that there were frequently acres of space behind the Basingstoke line, kicked through and chased like a dervish, outstripping several defenders with frankly electric pace, a kind bounce leapt into his grasp only for him to be instantly felled by last ditch tackle; no matter, his pass off the ground was sublime and allowed Eryx to continue the move without breaking stride, next was James W in rambunctious mood to take the ball another ten before he let James P have a trademark dart and balletic twist and turn between several, now panicking, would be defenders – stopped just short, he found the inside pass to (who else?) Tom C for a well-deserved finish to a breathtaking team try. The crowd went wild, a Basingstoke spectator was heard to quietly gasp, “the Firsts don’t get this kind of excitement!”
The early stages of the second half brought us the same arm-wrestle for ascendency that the match had started with, but the fact that the Fordy-boys were now warming to the task and enjoying the rugby meant that the battle in the centre of the pitch did not last too long and once again it was Joe’s intuitively sharp kicking which broke the stalemate. A long, bobbling horror of a ball split the Basingstoke defensive line who had clearly been briefed to be more aggressive at half time, and the twin threat of Max and Josh raced after it like scolded cats, leaving defenders looking like they were wading through treacle. As they approached the still spitting, tumbling ball, Max seemed to show what a polite young man he is by slowing and stepping away, allowing Josh the honour of scooping up and scoring, instead Josh knocked on as the ball turned to soap (much like Max’s butchering of a try in similar fashion in the first half)
Still, no matter, pre-eminence for the Fordy-boys was now set and it was only a matter of time before victory was assured. To be fair to a keen Basingstoke team, up to now they had not folded, they had not capitulated, they had not chucked it in – they were stoic, but frankly being beaten up and bullied off the park by a side at the top of their game. Nothing better exemplified ‘Bridge’s attitude and superiority today than a double tackle on one Basingstoke player, midway through the second half perpetrated first by Jack W (back from his world tour and to his ‘Flymo’ best) and then finished by Josh who simply tackled the poor unfortunate so hard that he ended up wondering whether his shoulder had been removed from the socket. A short break in play followed for Basingstoke body parts to be gathered from various parts of the field and marked the point when their spirit finally gave way.
In addition to broken bodies Basingstoke now had to cope with even greater pace as the timely introduction of Anthony at inside centre allowed Max and Josh to shift out one along the line. How brilliant for the team to be able to call on the overall game awareness of Anthony and the consistently dogged tenacity of Simon to enter into any game. For the remaining 15 minutes Fordingbridge proceeded to run through them at will. Started by a startlingly brilliant take from a mishit penalty by Simon which he quickly off-loaded to a galloping Max who ran the touchline to score. Shortly after, the pack were causing mischief again as a catch and drive from a line-out resulted in Tom P touching down in the opposite corner. Joe was heard to complain about the difficulty of the conversions but it mattered not, the score was now 27 – 0.
Some extended mention should go to the back row who were magnificent as a unit; it was Cookie who viciously stole the ball in a maul for the umpteenth time that led to the next and final try. It was Jack P who always gathered the ball at the restart and made ground consistently and with angry intent. It was Eryx, who like a blonde-haired heat-seeking missile chased and harried and generally made the oppo’s life really unpleasant for the whole match. They were brilliant.
But of course, it was clear to all whom witnessed it that this was a true team victory, achieved through skill, endeavour and collective will. They deserved to feel amazing about the way they played, and they clearly did. Happy “Fordy-Boys” songs were heard to ring out from the changing rooms!!!
Over lunch, the boys were asked politely by the opposition to not lose again in this competition. Playing like this, who knows who they could beat.
Thank you Stuart - another great report.