A game of 2 halves. A dominate first half display from the Grizzlies gets undone by a penalty strewn second half and a rampant Finsbury Park.
After having drawn the away league match and been thumped by Finsbury Park in the cup the Grizzlies knew it was going to be a tough match but hoped home advantage would this time see them edge this encounter.
We won the toss and went with the wind behind us. We started strongly and it was evident that the Grizzlies were up for this one. We knew what to expect from their powerful strike runners and our defence had to be switched on from the start.
It was the Grizzlies though that piled the pressure on Park and we played some decent flowing rugby in the oppositions half. Mick Foley ran through the park defence and battled his way to the line just managing to put the ball down before too many Park defenders caught him. Our 10, Robin Bye kicked the conversion 7-0.
The backline was looking good and it was great having our 2 Aussies, Pat O’Brien and Mick Foley pairing up in the centres. They had a tough job against their opposite numbers but they kept them pretty quiet all match. Mick Foley relished the prospect of reignited his rivalry with Finsbury Parks huge number 12.
Finsbury Park came back and scored a try of there own to make it 7-5.
We knew we needed to use the wind to our advantage and kicked for territory. Foley had his kicking boots on and made ground and found touch with every kick. Our set piece was working well with Darren Ead hitting his jumper “Birthday Boy” Alan Gray and securing the ball off our line out. The breakdown was pretty messy as both teams were giving away lots of penalties for not releasing, or playing the ball whilst on the ground or for being offside.
The Grizzlies pack were being their dominant self as we welcomed Gareth Williams back from injury. He paired up with Matt O’Conor in the second row. With the all familiar front row of Ally Ruffett, Darren Ead and Simon McGuiness at the coal face they were giving Parks scrum a torrid time. Simon Huntley at Openside was tackling his heart out and Stu Williams at 8 played well at the back of the scrum making ground with his pick up and goes.
We gained a penalty from a scum in their 22 and decided to kick for the points. Robin stretched our lead to 10-5.
With ball in hand our backline looked dangerous. Darren Coley made some great runs and opened up the field. Charlie Ringwood from the colts was playing his first game for the Grizzlies. He had a great game at Full back was a constant threat with ball in hand and was unlucky not to score a try. Second try came from Scott Whyman who was released on the wing by a great pass from Charlie. Scott still had a lot to do but backed himself beating a couple of defenders to score in the corner. Robin had his kicking boots on and slotted home his third kick of the day 17-5.
Changes were made at half time. The introduction colt James Naylor for his second run out for the Grizzlies came on at Openside. Simon Huntley switched to second row with Matt O’Conor coming off. Tanyaradzwa Fernando came on for Scott Whyman on the wing.
Our pack was bullying the Finsbury Park pack driving them back at each scrum. Unsurprisingly the scrum went uncontested as one of their props (in the words of his own team mates) got tired and had to go off.
This took away a huge advantage from us as it allowed them to get back in to the game with their big strike runners. Our defence had been solid in the first half but in the second we slipped off a few tackles and that allowed them to cross our try line and score. 17-12.
Our discipline was lacking and we seemed to lose focus as the Ref was pinging us constantly for being off side at the ruck. We only have ourselves to blame! Whether it was red mist or just being overly enthusiastic to defend we didn’t adapt to this by simply taking a step back and the penalty count kept going up. This played into Parks hands as they started to get into the ascendency. Their tails were up and we seem to be constantly defending. Even still I didn’t think they would break through as we were still in the lead coming into the last 5 minutes of the game.
Alas another penalty was given against us and whilst we argued about it they took a quick tap penalty and we weren’t ready. Unfortunately we could not stop Park crossing our try line. 17-17. With a pretty simple kick in front of the post Park converted the kick and the Ref blew his whistle. 17-19 Final score. The boys were all gutted to have lost with the last kick of the game and we couldn’t quite believe they had beaten us again after having such a dominate display in the first half.
Unfortunately this loss means there is almost no chance of winning the league now but I am so proud of the effort from the Grizzlies, not only in this game but throughout the season. We’ve had so many injuries this season that to be still pushing for the league in itself was amazing. We win as a team, we lose as a team and even though there was huge disappointment at the end of the day we go back to the bar and enjoy a beer with the opposition. Unfortunately for us we also had to watch England lose to France!!!
“MoM” went to Mick Foley who not only scored our first try, was a constant threat and made things happen in attack, kick brilliantly out of hand, but also was phenomenal in defence making tackles all over the park.
“Chris of the Day” went to Ally Ruffett for having more whinges at the refs decision than the whole team put together.
|Old Albanian Sports Club, 160 Harpenden Rd, St Albans AL3 6BB, UK|