An early kick off meant that the troops rallied at 10am at Rosslyn Park’s 4G ground on a particularly arctic Saturday morning, which only worsened the agony for those with post—Office Christmas party sore heads and nagging beer fears. With the addition of a seemingly endless wait outside the locked changing rooms, spirits were already downed by the onset of hypothermia .. underhand tactics by our hosts? The jury is out…
After a much-needed warm-up the boys were suitably fired up, with Captain for the day Tom Parkinson winning the toss and opting to kick. With the ball lofted deep into enemy territory by Fly Half Matt Baddeley, battle was commenced. Unfortunately it didn’t take long for Rosslyn Park to find their stride, with their handy centre partnership capitalising on dusty heads in the Hammers’ line; they broke through, pushed wide and cut inside to score their first try under the sticks. With an easy start, the on-form Rosslyn Park kicker was able to make it an early 7 point lead.
Unfortunately this became a familiar tale for the Hammers in the first half. Rosslyn Park, were able to utilise a particularly heavy pack laden with strong runners in the backline to execute a well-drilled game plan with impressive accuracy and put several successive converted tries past the visitors. Even designated waterboy for the day, Hamish Barker, was out of breath. Just as heads were beginning to go down, the Hammers found themselves on the halfway line with ball in hand. After a few phases of effective carries from the forwards, a backs ball was called and the ball was slung out left by Will Desprez at 9. Moving down the line, the pill found itself in the hands of Chris Jager at 12 running a cutting hard line, which sliced through the seemingly impenetrable Rosslyn Park defences. The fullback was no match for Chris’s step, and like a rampant stag he skilfully danced his way over the line in the corner. With the kick narrowly missed the Hammers were on the board with 5 points in hand.
The Hammers’ defences seemed to harden at this point, and the rate at which Rosslyn Park were able break through for the rest of the half was scaled back. Unfortunately, in a tragic case of friendly fire, the Hammers had to clap off front row stalwart Mike Spurgeon after a bad head collision, and with no competent prop replacements, scrums went uncontested; we became 14.
With a hefty deficit at half time, heads were lifted by rousing speeches. The Rosslyn Park kicker had very much found his form at this point and the restart was gathered by the hosts. This gave Rosslyn Park strong momentum in the Hammers’ half and it wasn’t long before they were over the line again. Overall, the second half was more of a battle of attrition than the first, with the Hammers’ defences improving markedly as fitness came into play. A few bone crunching hits on the host’s supposedly “chippy” 9 by 12 Chris Jager stoked the competitive fire back into the Hammers and in the dying minutes the boys were able to crash the ball all the way up to host’s 5 metre line, with Hooker Tommy Hayes flying in on the blind side to plant the ball over the line. With the kick converted in the last play of the game, Hammers were able to come away with 12 points.
Unfortunately the well-oiled Rosslyn Park machine was able put up too big a tally early on, and under a heavy deficit the Hammers were under the cosh from the start. It was, however a valiant effort all round and the boys walked the tunnel with heads held high. A bad day at the office, but a hard-fought battle nonetheless.
Man of the Match – Chris Jager for an aesthetic try and a solid defensive performance despite a 5:30am finish only hours before the fixture
Tin Man – Hamish Barker; unfairly awarded for a diligent effort running on the water and keeping the boys hydrated. Didn’t play due to severity of hangover (Category 5) and we all just wanted to see him down a pint…