After 18 months of languishing in perpetual uncertainty Saturday felt like the good old days. A sun kissed Reigate was the location of our final pre-season match and the first full 80 minutes many players would have played since mask wearing was just reserved for Halloween. The game was held in conjunction with the RFU’s Pitch Up for Rugby weekend and Old R’s had put on a lovely day for spectators, with beers flowing, BBQ’s sizzling, and even a parachutist delivering the match day ball! All of this was of course wasted on your author as I was inside a sweaty changing room desperately trying to squeeze back into my lycra shirt, but I heard it was amazing.
The game began and two things became apparent quite quickly. Bring your own water bottle to the game (thanks Covid) had been a failure and that we were in for a very thirsty 80 minutes in the 25-degree heat. However, there was a brighter side. OCs had started well. Physicality on both sides of the ball and at set piece meant we controlled the opening exchanges. Yet, a turnover and some misunderstandings out wide meant that a break away try was conceded, quite against the run of play, and OCs found themselves behind. A few head scratches about how that had happened, and we were back up the right end of the pitch. New man Jake Carter and the returning Bill Ramdhan were setting the tone with strong man-and-ball tackles. Their technique probably won’t be seen in any training manual any time soon, but it did the job. The usual suspects of Sugar-Andy-O and Sam Wallis were fighting their way over the gain line. Sam utilising his newly acquired Dad-Strength to good effect. One of several new fathers in the OCs squad since we last laced up the boots. Congrats to all – now please stay available. Before too long OCs had a scrum close to the OR’s line and with Ladi Ariyo returning from a summer of bench press he managed to drag the rest of us with him over the line for a dot down try from the base.
OCs did well to stay on the right side of the penalty count as OR’s saw themselves lose two players to the bin at one point shortly before half time. This allowed OCs to advance up into their 22 and make the most of a driving lineout to notch up another score. To end the half OCs were treated to some punishment of their own. A five-metre scrum for ORs was followed up with wave after wave of lumpy ball carriers seemingly destined to score. However, OCs resolve held firm and a nice low tackle from your author managed to dislodge the ball and OCs cleared for half time.
The second half saw much of the same. Despite the weather the game had descended into “one for the purists”. The wide men saw little of the ball so had to come looking for it. Future Love Island star Alex Verissimo was looking powerful up the middle of the field as we have come to expect. More indiscipline from Reigate meant OCs could kick into the corner and come away with two more driving maul tries. It seems uncouth to mention that this final try meant your author finished the day on a hattrick of tries so I won’t bother. I think OR’s got a final, somewhat consolation, score after this but at this point I was very tired and thirsty so my memory escapes me. Apologies if the order of scoring is incorrect. All I know is OCs saw out the game with some more goal line defence and the final whistle was blown.
Old Colfeians 22 Old Reigatians 13
A good outing for Old Colfeians and a great way to end preseason. The boys should be commended on their commitment during a frustrating period for us all and we start the season with probably the widest and most competitive senior playing squads since AG had hair. All eyes will be on the season opener next week away at Thanet where the league finally begins. After such a lengthy lay off each league fixture this year will take on an element of the unknown, but one thing is for sure, if we use this preseason match as a base and keep improving, a very competitive season lies ahead for OCRFC. Don’t miss it!
Author: Chris O’Malley