So, Impact player Sesh continued to show his value to the team by asking (genuinely!) a few days prior "Trez, I've got a few lads who can play, interested?". Uh, yeah. I now have worked out a ratio of needing 25 on the teamsheet to ensure 15 on the park, so more is indeed merrier.
Vets rugby is proving to be interesting with not just having to worry about one's own squad, but having daily discussions with the oppo about the state and make-up of their lads. The great up-side of captaining the Vets is that no-one expects uplifting team-talks (I hope) as after playing a few hundred games a piece, we don't need to get the adrenaline flowing, but rather the glucosamine sulfate.
The downside is the need to spend much of the preceding two weeks trying to work out what type of team you're going to be playing.
To be fair Jim (N&B Vets Captain) was a) good at updating me b) totally honest c) aware we'd beaten them twice this season, so expecting a decent OBs side to turn up, which was the case. So not going to complain, as it was a good (if bruising) game.
When we turned up a lot of very fit keen and some rather massive youngsters were warming up OVER AN HOUR BEFORE KICKOFF! After we'd stopped our reunion hugging, a little bit of worry edged into the camp. Attempts to point out that well, of course the young keen ones WOULD be warming up, and all the oldies would still be smoking out back, were undermined by a headcount of the young and fit, which wasn't far off a full side. That said, we'd borrowed some 3s so our average age was a relatively youthful 36 (I actually worked this out).
Ah well, not a team to be easily daunted, we decided (OK, I inflicted it on us, predicting a slightly ouchy kind of game) to warm up properly. This is a first for any vets game I've been involved in, but hopefully contributed to the lack of injuries during the game (or warmup...).
It may however have contributed to our opening 20 minutes being a little less than strong, as a lot of us were a bit knackered from the pre-game plyometric-yoga-weirdness. And it was pretty hot out there.
As is traditional we don't dwell much on the game, which is useful for me as I'm terrible at remembering any of it in order. So... Highlights from my recollection:
Great takes from the re/starts from Tinks whose cries of "hurt the young ones"! were taken in the spirit it was meant (i.e. seriously).
Equally angry was Garth, who having felt a little out of the action on the wing replaced Ted (who'd injured his shoulder - more on that later) at 10 and preceded to become the most abrasive fly-half ever - skipping past tackles and quick tap penalties. Most un-vet-like. The Ref took me aside and pointed out that the 'tone of the game had changed a bit since the 14 had come (back) on' and he asked me to have a couple of words, and so I did. And those two words were 'Absolutely F'ing Brilliant'*.
Talking of abrasive, the simmering anger-pot that is Ted almost decapitated one of their young centres (possibly wanting to run his fingers through his boy-band hair) and narrowly avoided a spell in the bin. Their fewer-young and more-tattooed other centre then showed us how you actually earn a yellow by smashing our guest Spaniard about 3 seconds late and with weird high yet twisting technique. To be fair it was kind of him to do it to one of the chaps on the field who still has bones flexible enough to take it.
Similarly not an angry man, but you wouldn't know it - Alex Millard made the hit of the day as he chased across the field and absolutely smashed one of their youngsters into touch. I was particularity pleased as it was my wing they were about to score down.
Our visiting Spainard and Asbel were a lovely addition to the game, and great to see the OBs - spain love-affair thriving!
We stole a number of line-outs, and also got 1 (or 2?) against the head in the scrums - Sam Hawke as ever was fantastic (who had not expected to play, as it was his daughter's birthday until his misses pointed out that he really wasn't going to add much to (or enjoy) a teenage girl's party. Her loss was our gain.) Mike Dean bounced a few of their lads wonderfully, and then showed some great hands as well.
Peaches and Gorman, as expected were everywhere. Also as expected Peaches damaged himself, and then, as ever, cheerfully bounced back. Those two are both OBs GCM personified.
Brid, Ted, Grzonks and Gareth were wonderfully impenetrable, even when they stuck their huge 20yr old second row into the centres. It's was a thing of beauty seeing the grizzled ginger lions of the two Gs team tackling the young bull elephant who they'd probably expected to break through. Talking of Bull elephants - Dave Burrows - despite losing 3 stone after a type 1 diabeties diagnosis at Christmas (cruel timing!) was still able to swallow up 3 tacklers in each bullocking run. It'll take more than diabetes to slow that man.
The back three (esp me) had a mixed game, as the oppo had quite a lot of pace going on out wide (not helped my your's truly's tendency to step in), and a few looping passes (sorry again) and fumbles (ahem) were pounced on mercilessly. Youngsters with the ability to sidestep is pretty much my worst nightmare, so as a man who keeps a mental record of tackles made (and missed) I was in negative numbers by halftime.
Talking about scoring however, Gio - a late and SO SO welcome addition to the lineup was a man possessed - almost as if his lady was watching. A ref with a sense of justice would have given him his try, as he sprinted from near halfway, through at least 5 atempted tackles, and 3 at the end to twist and roll to score backwards over his head. The Ref (who had a mixed game, his admittedly very clear comms not really entirely excusing being rather tight on some of the laws) disallowed it - and when it was feeling that OBs were coming back nicely, having started to play a lovely offloading game.
On that note, a fantastic come-back from Monty (to be clear, not the old or famous one. But the one with terrible chat.). Smashed through tackles and put one of their couple of enormous lads backwards, having said he was going to. Monty: more than just chat.
And still talking of come-backs, Mark Li was a contender for Best on Park as despite not being the largest of men, was carrying constantly and tackling everything. Stunning work. A fantastic rip from a man twice his size was cruelly punished by the ref as he'd called 'Hands away' a nano-second before.
Continuing in that line, Aussie Pete took a couple of great kicks and one lovely looping pass to show great pace and touch down. We all especially loved how surprised he looked every time he did something great.
But the Best on Park performance came from Jim Sesh who, having said last game he was timidly just wanting to play a 10 minute spell or so, then absolutely tore it up (tap and go right into, and through their pack...) and one of the finest chasing back tackles I've seen in any OB's match. Fantastic. A lad half his age with a 10m head-start - reeled him in and then hauled him down full body outstretched just short of the line. The only reason they went on to score is because absolutely NOBODY thought there was the faintest chance Sesh was going to catch him. Underestimate gingers at your peril.
We scored a great team try in the last minute, and having said something along the lines of "I don't care about the final score, let's just bloody finish this strongly" I was still feeling pleased with the lads when we then totally failed to collect the restart, gave away a penalty on our 5yd line (after a valiant chase back) and then were bulldozed down over the line. Ah well. There were two other intercept (or collected off fumbles) tries so arguably 15 of their points were fortuitous, and our second fumble was in the act of us scoring so there could have been a 20 point swing if fortune had been smiling the other way...
But nevertheless, a great day - the game was played in great spirit, we acquitted ourselves well and in the second half, when our middle-aged legs might have buckled going up the slope into the sun, rallied strongly. Great band of brothers, and as this game's about camaraderie more than winning (although both is nice) - a great Saturday.
*this is a harking back to an old OBs pre-match mantra: "Boys, I've got just two words for you... Personal F'ing Responsibility" PFR became the two words the senior club built its success on. And Burpees. YAY Burpees!