555 days. 79 Saturdays. 3 national lockdowns.
The last time Old Colfeians had a competitive rugby fixture seems a distant memory. Saturday turned out to be a healthy reminder of why we do it. After a long and enjoyable pre-season our first real match couldn’t come any sooner. Starting the season with a familiar trip into deep Kent saw OCs take on Thanet Wanderers for what is always a bruising encounter. We knew we’d have to arrive ready to go otherwise we risk being punished on our first outing under new head coach Alan Bateson. OCs were missing a few stalwarts in the pack and there was a new look backline with the ruddy-faced Ryan Napper grinning his way into the number ten shirt. OCs have been known in the past to arrive a bit sluggish after a coach journey, this one featuring a particularly hard quiz which saw your author champion with a lowly 5/10, so we knew a good start was needed.
On another warm Saturday the opening exchanges were not exceptional from either team. A few wayward lineouts from OCs spoilt some good field position and aside from one Jack Potter penalty there wasn’t much to write home about in the first quarter of the match. After what was a pretty nasty collision between two Thanet players meaning both had to leave the pitch, OCs capitalised and managed to maintain some sustained pressure in the opposition 22 eventually leading to Andy O’Malley lumbering over from a pick and go. Andy, who was a handful for the opposition all day, declaring his return to league rugby early on by chastising a late tackle as he scored with “Nice hit you mug!” Showing you can take the boy out of South London but…
Despite being in relative control as this point with debutant Dan Dunbar, try saying that five times fast, putting in a good shift from the back row, OCs don’t do it easy. A loose pass allowed Thanet to sprint through and after a communication breakdown that Led Zeppelin would be proud of neither of our chasing defenders made the tackle and Thanet brought the score back to 10-7. Not too deflated OCs managed to work their way back into the opposition 22 not too long after conceding. There, through Thanet ill-discipline, OCs managed to secure a driving lineout and cross the line for our next try. A somewhat dubious forward pass decision denied OCs another try out wide. If you ask Ed Livett, he’ll say Angus passed it forward if you ask Angus Dalgleish he’ll say Ed over ran it. All I know is I had another scrum. Cheers lads. Thanet were able to clear their lines and through some OCs ill-discipline ended up in our half where a scum half snipe awarded them another try. Groundhog Day then ensued for the remainder of the half. Not too deflated OCs managed to work their way back into the opposition 22 not too long after conceding. There, through Thanet ill-discipline, OCs managed to secure a driving lineout and cross the line for our next try. Half time whistle. 22-14.
The second half began with a long JP penalty attempt hitting the crossbar, which was well gathered by Estefan Ellis, showing why you should never give up on kicks or hair @Lewis Gunn, after a 50:50 decision went against us at a scrum we came away with nothing to show. Conversely, Thanet once again worked into our territory and came away with another score. The next 25 minutes or so were to prove very fruitful to Old Colfeians and pleasing for both coaches and supporters alike. We were saying all game that we could test Thanet in the wide channels and so it proved to be. Scoring three tries seemingly on the bounce with Angus and Alex Verissimo scoring out wide after some slick hands from the backs and Charlie Baker scoring from the base after a strong scrum. Another JP penalty and that was the game. OCs holding a twenty-point winning margin with ten minutes to play. Crazier things have happened but on this occasion sanity prevailed. Some dogged goal-line defence saw OCs deny Thanet a try bonus point. FT score OCs 42 – Thanet 19.
A great first outing away from home in front a large Thanet crowd. The match proved that when we stick to our processes and pattern, we can be pretty good. Next week we take to the South Circular to face off with Old Alleynians. Be good to see you there! Allow for traffic. Author: Chris O’Malley