Ageing Lions Mauled by Tiger Cubs – Vandals Bow Out of the Cup
Sedgley Park 2nd/3rdXV 75 – Fylde Vandals/Taps Bar Staff 10
The Vandals bowed out of the cup at the first hurdle for the 83rdyear in succession as they endured a bit of a torrid afternoon in wet and windy Whitefield. Facing a team who play in the league above away from home is always a challenge, throw in the fact that Sedgley 2ndXV didn’t have a game, they fielded a team with an average age in the mid-twenties and the Vandals were missing a host of players and it’s fair to say an upset was never on the cards, plainly evident in the weekly e-mail from Sean T who had labelled this our annual cup match (emphasis on the singular).
Bereft of too many selection options the Vandals had gone so far as to co-opt their very own barman from the Taps Mr Chris Penrice into turning out for them. Questioned as to availability and suitability the night before Chris pointed out he would gladly turn out but hadn’t played for 9 years, had suffered a broken back since then and with size 13 feet had no boots. “You’ll do for us” said High Performance Directors Townsend & Townsend, Marcus Naylor lent him a pair of size 15 boots and inducted he was for his debut.
The omens weren’t good from the off, never mind finding their way to the try line the veteran warriors had trouble finding their way to the pitch. Denied the chance of playing on the main pitch presumably due to the home grounds chairman being worried about the impact of some hefty units on the wet turf the Vandals strode across said main pitch purposefully heading for those round the corner. Full of vim and vigour they hailed the Vandalettes who were unloading their 10 gallon vat of mulled cider from the boot of the tottymobile only to reappear 2 minutes later having been stymied by the fence all the way round the main pitch. “I’m sure that wisnae there when I last played here in 1953” said Scotty.
With all previous wing forwards either injured or fed up of playing alongside Hodgy our usual hooker Wurzel played out of position at flanker with 4thteam player/manager Sam Bensky showing his club allegiance by also helping us out. Chris the barman joined Steady in the second row blending youth with experience although Steady’s ability to mentor his protege was reduced by him having to wear a scrum cap for the first time in his career to protect his head wound from the week before. He complained he couldn’t hear anything and had no peripheral vision, adding tongue in cheek that his game as we all know “is all about using his peripheral vision”! Scotty, Andy T and Nev Dugdale provided a formidable front row to complete the pack. The Townsends and Swindells were in their usual berths with Matt Latus (sill sporting a night club stamp on his hand from the night before) partnering Pete Acton in the centres, Liam McCartan on the other wing and wee Mark Scholes the last line of defence,
As usual it has taken me a long time to get to the rugby, much longer than it took Sedgley to get to it as they were straight out of the traps at breakneck speed, running in 3 converted tries in quick succession to make it 21-0 after just 7 minutes. Sensing a long day ahead the touchline monitor blagged a cup of mulled cider from the Vandalettes and wondered if he had a spare pen and enough notebook pages to keep up with the scoring. The Vandals were playing into a stiff breeze, driving rain and were up against a well-drilled Sedgley team with their dander well and truly up. The tide was stemmed for 10 minutes but then 4 further tries in another short burst again all converted made it 49-0 with only 24 minutes on the clock. At 2 points a minute a final score of 160-0 was looking possible but to their credit the Vandals dug deep and set about salvaging pride with some gutsy play. Hodgy has explained to us previously that he was never taught how to tackle properly which is presumably why he doesn’t do much of it, not accepting our riposte that he’s had at least 30 years to learn since his late teens. The big lad realized it was every man to the pumps and led from the front scragging attackers in the loose and disrupting ball in the tight, occasionally even doing so legally. Bensky moved to the centres and Latus to back row giving the team better balance and more structured defence and the Vandals started to make life a lot less easy for the home team. Although Sedgley had a huge advantage where pace and space was concerned whenever the game was kept tight the Vandals were able to play to their strengths and they steamrollered the younger pack several times especially in the scrum. After one particularly impressive scrum the ball was fed by Patrick T to Swindells who arced round from open to blind and showed fast feet and good balance to swerve past the last two defenders and cross for the Vandals first score. Another good period followed only for the defence to switch off and concede a soft try on half time leaving the score 54-5 at the break.
Scotty gave the team his usual wise words and pragmatic advice and play began only for another first minute try as per the first half. Again the Vandals tightened up and a scoreless spell followed before the home team crossed again, the Sedgley kicker wasn’t doing the Vandals any favours as he converted both to make it 68-5. Then came the Vandals best spell. They defended stoutly and competed hard to win ball, Chris the barman might look like the long lost love child of Shaking Stevens but there was no shaking in the face of the onslaught as he never took a backwards step despite picking a heck of a match in which to make his first appearance for nearly a decade. He flung himself in to the breakdown and worked hard in the lineout to support Hodgy in providing ball for the backs. Andy T and Nev were willing runners and Bensky hadn’t turned up just to make up the numbers as he produced a high tackle count and provided Swindells with a willing crash ball option. Swindells did his best to test the home defence and as ever punched well above his weight in the tackle. Captain Scotty may not be able to provide corner flag cover from 20 yards away nowadays but woe betide anyone foolish enough to come within grappling distance of the Tartan Terror as the opposition hooker memorably found out round the front of one line out.
Having kicked wisely to gain territory the Vandals forced another 5 yard scrum and destroyed the home team once more, Hodgy picked up and with the Sedgley back row concentrating on him offloaded to Wurz who rolled round and crashed over for a defiant score, 68-10. Pete Acton had run himself ragged chasing the youngsters in the Sedgley backs and made way for Gary Andrews before one last break was finished off by the home team with their kicker making it 10 from 11 to take it to 75-10 at which point the referee decided he’d played long enough and sensibly called the afternoon off a tad on the early side.
There’s no getting away from the fact this was a heavy defeat but there are always positives and the day was enjoyable as Vandals rugby always should be, heads never went down and everybody can be proud of their efforts. After an odd post match meal of a hot dog with roast potatoes the de-brief was held in Scotty’s local before ending up back at the Taps where Chris ended up spending money over the bar rather than earning money behind it.
Next week sees the Vandals entertain Leigh 3rdXV at home, kick off 2.15, all welcome.
Team: Scholes, McCartan, Acton, Latus M, Townsend S, Swindells, Townsend P, Worsley, Hodgkins, Bensky, Stead, Penrice, Tomkinson, Scott, Dugdale
Bench: Andrews (willing), Tankard (reluctant), Taylor (petrified)
Vandalettes: Mrs Bolshy, Mrs Podders, Miss Nickson, Miss Burke (driver/snapper), Mrs Scott (post-match press appearance in the pub)
Mini –Vandal: Latus D (‘has our Matt got Tourettes Mum?’)