Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Friday, 27 January 2012

The Death of Running Rugby

"Silence the pianos and with muffled drum 
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come
...For running Rugby is dead" - W. H. Auden (paraphrased!)

Gone are those Halcyon days of solid pitches, Indian Summer temperatures and glorious running Rugby. Alas, the weather has changed. The rains have come, the mud has returned, and the ball has disappeared up jumpers.

This has been the mildest Winter since records began. No country-crippling snow drifts. No monsoon-style flooding. In fact, playing conditions have been excellent so far. However, the mere suggestion of moisture in the air or stick under foot has prompted the return of boring, 'pick-and-go', one out runner Rugby. We saw it at Ampthill, we were surprised to see it from Canterbury and we saw it from Civil Service last weekend.

In fairness, the conditions did dictate the game. It was a cold and blustery day at Cow Lane with the wind gusting straight down the pitch towards the infamous Tring Corner. We had beaten Civil comfortably at their place but we expected something of a battle. The Chiswick-based club were snapping at our heels in the league and had notched up some notable results.

We fought into the wind in the first half. Despite Scott Browne's banana trickshot, kicking from hand was largely out of the question. The aim of the game was to keep the ball and we did that extremely well. Yes, we did have to pick-and-go a lot but we also moved the ball were possible, causing some problems out wide as well as in the tight.

Civil's attack revolved heavily around their pack and their strong running Inside Centre Mitchell. But once, we covered these two areas, there was not much threat elsewhere. A dominant Front Row put us under pressure at scrum time but our lineouts were seamlessly effective. We won all our ball and constantly pressured theirs.

In a tense, physical first half, we had played some our most controlled and dominant rugby of the season. We couldn't convert pressure into points but we remained calm and composed. We were happy with the 3-3 half time scoreline because we had the wind and the slope still to come.

However, Civil hadn't read the script! Rather naively, we took our foot off the gas. Our defence worked hard around the breakdown but we simply couldn't get the ball. Civil picked and picked and picked, edging ever closer up the field. Our defence around the breakdown was solid but the one time Civil took it wide we went to sleep, and Outside Centre Wells sauntered over the line.

We tried desperately to get back in the game but Civil just wouldn't cough up the ball. We shot ourselves in the foot with some poor decisions when we finally did get possession. The one time we got it right lead to a score. A smartly executed move in the backs bamboozled the visitor's and Chennells crashed over in the corner.

But that was as good as we got. The final score was 10-8 to Civil. 

We were hugely disappointed. It was a dull, boring game which very rarely left the dark confines of the breakdown. We targeted this as a convincing Home win but our second half performance showed a worrying naivety and over-confidence. That's not taking anything away from Civil Service. They certainly deserved the win for a fantastically disciplined second half performance.
Liam touches down for the last minute score against Stortford earlier this season
That puts more pressure on this weekend. Away at Bishop Stortford. The Hertfordshire derby comes round again. We know they are on an impressive run, unbeaten in 11 games, including a comfortable win away at Tonbridge. No mean feat.

But there will be no naivety or over confidence this week. Training has been tough. A steely determination has returned to the squad. This isn't just another derby. If we win this, it will put us back in contention for a top four finish.

We're ready for war.

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