Just when you start to wonder why the hell you’re spending two nights a week charging around a field instead of basking in a barmy evening beer garden. Just as you wonder if you really want to be sprinting up hills in the pouring rain on a Saturday morning…along comes the first game.
As I drove over to our last pre-season fixture against Chinnor, with High Contrast blaring as loud as my ears could take it, that familiar feeling begin to brew within. The heart was pumping, adrenalin surging uncontrollably and my head awash with possibilities. It is these pre-game emotions – a dizzying mix of excitement, apprehension, nerves, fear of failure and determination to succeed – that make competitive sport so appealing.
As we huddled in the changing room, two minutes to kick off, Captain Morgan screaming in our ears, the scent of sweat, mud and aspiration lingering in the air, I couldn’t hold back a wry smile – Rugby’s back!
In truth, we open our season away at Havant this coming Saturday – but last weekend had all the intensity of a full fixture. Local rivals, plenty of history, and bragging rights to be fought for – it had all the makings of a classic.
And it did not disappoint. It was a predictably volatile match, played at a frenetic pace - so proved to be a good test for the fitness. Unfortunately, it was spoilt slightly by a totally inept referee – but someone’s got to do it and he was terrible for both sides!
The game started with a bang – a hanging kick off from Fly-Half Ben Criddle gave Liam Chennels a dream line at the target – Tom ‘The Turncoat’ Mowbray. Chennels nailed the former Tring man and forced a knock-on. You could almost see the cartoon-style stars circling Mowbray’s head – a perfect start for the visitors!
However, we were not able to back up our bright start. Chinnor were sharper at the breakdown and turned us over just as we started to look dangerous and pinned us back on our try line.
Tom Mowbray was able to exact his revenge by 'skillfully' falling on top of a ball as Chinnor drove us back over our line - their larger pack asserting its dominance (and Mowbs taking the credit!).
Chinnor's line out was scratchy at best but the pack was dangerous when set. A well crafted driving maul lead to try number two and and early 10-0 lead.
We had faith in our backs and knew they could outstrip anyone if we gave them the platform. And sure enough, once we anchored our scrum, Tom Newton was able to scythe through the defence and offload to Chennels.
As it was pre-season, the match was spread over three 30 minute periods. We were extremely happy to still be within three points after the first period, playing up the slope and into a strong wind. The game bubbled with ferocity and had been marred by several flashpoints.
As substitutions were made, the play lost its structure and became more of a broken free for all. Another Tring score from promising new boy Tom Metcalfe kept the pressure on Chinnor but their strength in depth shone through and they eventually propsered 34-22.
Despite losing, we were very happy with the first period and it has given us plenty of confidence for the league campaign. We know we have a particularly potent backline but this is useless unless we forwards can guarantee them the ball and space to work in.
Needless-to-say, we are all looking forward to claiming our first scalp away at Havant this weekend.