Another miraculous come-from-far-behind win for the Hammers 1st XV

Eighteen men sit around a changing room. They are in unfamiliar lands, yet in all too familiar territory. Forty minutes have passed and even now, the wear of battle has begun to take its toll. At the general’s command, eighteen men stand to attention, bearing crimson wounds to match crimson jerseys. Could everything be put on the line so months of grit and toil would not be in vain? That was something only they could decide.

As the eighteen men march out to determine their destiny, the scoreboard in the distance reads 19-0 to Cobham.

Record scratch

Freeze frame 

Intro to Baba O’Riley plays

Yup, that’s us.

You’re probably wondering how we ended up in this situation. Our expectations were certainly not quixotic in nature. Training had been sharp. Club captain Rogan, whose attempted coup to oust 1st XV captain Joe Caravan had been uncovered earlier that week, avoided past errors by not mixing up Cobham with Chobham. Arriving at the correct location, Alex Spicer successfully freed his car from the staff car park. And all about the Cobham away changing-room was a spirited air of relaxed confidence. The warm-up was focused, and with jerseys donned and final words enunciated, battle commenced.

However, as in weeks past, Hammers once again succumbed to the cacoethes of starting poorly. Immediately from the kick-off, we began to give ground and conceded penalties and unforced errors galore. Firmly with possession, a zealous Cobham attack met a sluggish Hammers defence, and within a few short phases and against all vaticinations, it was Cobham that crossed the whitewash first. 5-0 to Cobham.

General Jacko wasted no words in galvanising the squad, and immediately from the restart, this author can report he wiped out the Cobham second row who caught the ball. This author, however, is far less proud to report that he did so while that Cobham player was still airborne. The referee, Laodicean to calls for some cheese to be branded, nonetheless awarded Cobham the penalty and Hammers found themselves back within our own 22. Within a few more phases, Cobham once again crossed the whitewash. 12-0 to Cobham.

After a long back-and-forth with both sides having good chances, Hammers appeared to finally settle into the game. However, our woes would only increase in the lead up to half-time. A short and high-box kick put up by Cobham caused confusion and consternation among Hammers’ ranks. With no clear communication, Cobham seized their opportunity and broke down the disarrayed defence with a series of offloads. The scoreline at halftime read 19-0.

Fast forward

So that’s how we got here. They say history doesn’t repeat itself but it sure does rhyme and it was not hard to draw parallels between our situation and our match against Horsham the week before. Though as great men have said, ‘winning teams win’ (Joe Caravan 2021, Abraham Lincoln 1865.) Even against such a deficit, Hammers were not out yet, and with hearts and minds clamouring for battle and for blood, sweat and tears past not to be shed in vain, eighteen men once again took the field.

The Hammers response was ferocious. With succinct and concise phase play, Hammers broke into the Cobham 22. After some heavy forwards carrying, the ball found itself wide where it was juggled between James Lo and Joe Caravan over the try line before Harry Scarr dealt the decisive blow. Within minutes, Rich Vaughan, like a bolt of Zeus’ wrath across the night sky, blew down the centre of the Cobham defence to dive down between the sticks. James Lo soon followed his example and bearing a youth and pace far before his years, crashed over the line to even the scores. Not long after, Tim ‘le Snac’ Russell, already rumoured to be the subject of Taylor Swift’s next album, powered through the would-be Cobham defence to put Hammers ahead by 7. Hammers were finally in control at 26-19.

Then disaster struck. With ten to go, Harry Scarr collided head-first with an opposition player and despite claims of lactose intolerance, the referee handed him the cheese, removing him from the rest of the game. Down to 14, Ed Wynne finally got to live his dream as he moved into the second row, forcing Zander Stephens to drastically rethink our lineout jumping options. Five metres out, Cobham mauled but were halted. The Hammers defence was tested by wave after wave of relentless offence until finally, our opponents broke through. With six to go, the scores were level at 26-26.

A draw was no better than a loss, both were unacceptable. No matter the odds, no matter the challenge. Having reclaimed possession off the kick-off, the forwards threw everything on the line. Phase after phase, carry after carry. Gradually, Hammers worked their way up the pitch. Into the 22. Another yard, a metre, an inch. The clock ticked into the red. Time was up. This was the last play. Metre after metre until at last, we entered their 5. There could be no mistake, no error, no getting held up. And then the opening came. Having sucked in their defenders just enough, the ball was whipped out to Bryce Morgan who ran a line so piercing it could have cut diamond. With captain Caravan adding the extras, Hammers were victorious 33-26.