MISSION IMPARKABLE

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For the second consecutive season OCRFC found themselves in the final of the London & SE Division RFU Intermediate Cup final. Last year saw the team victorious as we made the 90-minute trip to Letchworth. This year something much more daunting lay ahead. The journey time had come down from an hour and a half to a minute and half, but the size of the task felt greater. If we wanted to win the silverware and consider ourselves regional champions, we had to do something your author hasn’t managed in nine years of OCRFC 1XV rugby. Defeat Charlton Park on their home turf. 

During the first apocalypse of the year, January and February, a halcyon time when we thought constant rainfall and severe winds were the worst thing that could happen to a rugby club, OCRFC had come good. Winning seven out of eight fixtures and finding themselves atop the London SE2 table. But this wasn’t the league. This wasn’t “there’s always next week” rugby. This was do or die, form means nothing, no holds barred, cup rugby. With a fantastic crowd of supporters, more worried about a Guinness influx than a Corona outbreak we headed to Broadwalk.

The Old Colfeian adage goes “all we need is a good start” and boy did we live up to this. Stripped of the ball in the first contact and ultimately left defending a scrum in our own 22. “Fear not” cried the crowd, “we’ve got the best scrum in the league! What you worried about?” What we should have been worried about was the same issue we face every year. Charlton Park won’t mind me saying that they have an aging pack. However, they remain young enough to play by feeding off the souls of young upstart front-rowers and unfortunately, we were just another course on what must have been a season-long buffet. Put under pressure at the scrum, legally or not is up for debate, OCRFC conceded early to get off to a bad start. 

“Here we go again…” were the murmurs from the crowd. But this team had other ideas. In the past couple of months, we’ve worked hard at game management and reconciling the positives after conceding. A task some found easier than others. But the message was clear. Get the ball, keep the ball, keep them in their half. Which to be fair is exactly how the rest of the half played out. We answered their score with a penalty of our own converted by Jack Potter. Shortly following this another period of pressure led to a short-rangepick and go try from Ladi Ariyo with a comms assist from Chris O’Malley who told him to “just carry”. A period of pressure from CP saw our defensive metal tested and again we were equal to it. Physical tackling from Bill Ramdhan set the standard while Angus Dalgleish marshalled Park’s backline with considered running and defence. Another OCRFC penalty saw us 13-7 up as we headed into the sheds. 

The halftime message was simple from Captain for the day – Fred ‘The Vet’ Humphreys. Strap a pair on, work hard, and keep cool heads. If we did this, in 40 ticks time we’d have the glory. Club stalwart Ed Livett was now on the field. Fan favourite Dele was also on. Housewives favourite Freddie Berridge moved to the wing and Sean ‘the blitz’ Parkinson was on at hooker. The subs proved to be a master stroke as they all had almost immediate impact. Dele flung CP’s club captain to the floor in a violent collision that just about everyone thanked the lord they had no part in. Before going on a trademark run flicking off one tackler like he was wasn’t 16 stone and putting OCRFC into good field position that led to another Potter penalty. 

OCRFC seemed in control at this point, the scrum seemed a bit better, the lineout was going well and we didn’t seem to have many problems defending multiple phases. But the fans paid for drama and we live to entertain. Out of no where a half break from CP saw their player kick through… the race was on. The CP player seemed destined to gather his own kick and streak away beneath the posts. But cometh the hour cometh the man. A boy no longer. Thirty-year-old Ed Livett showing pace no one thought he had (or ever had) turned on his heels and let fly.  Ed managed to put him 215 games of experience to good use and beat the CP player to the ball dotting down for a safety 22 drop out. Despite aging like an old curry, Ed showed the coaching staff there is life in the old dog yet. 

Back with the ball the boys could see the worst was behind them. The team were galvanised at the start of the final quarter by a frightening run from Alex Verissimo who went charging up the right wing before colliding in an all-mighty bump-off that drew equal parts “ooooh’s” and swoons from the crowd. I believe there is a video of this on Alex’s Instagram. Don’t know his Insta? Ask your sister. 

Alex’s run had put has in more good field positions and we were rewarded with another 3 points. With the score at 22-10 with five minutes to play, one hand was on the cup. But OCRFC and ‘easy’ don’t often go hand in hand. A couple instances of lack of discipline, which up to this point had been excellent, saw CP get into our 22 eventually scoring to make it 22-17 with a minute to go. Regather the kick-off and we’d be champs. We didn’t. However, somewhat foolishly a CP player got into Andy O’Malley’s orbit and was sucked into the inevitable choke tackle. 

Ball held up.

Final whistle. 

Euphoria. 

We’d done it. SE champs again. A great performance where 1-15 dug in, stuck to our processes and ultimately put into practice exactly what we had prepared, making the Monday/Wednesday slog worth it. MOTM went to Bill Ramdhan who brought the physicality we had asked for all game. 

Back to Horn Park for a night of merriment, with a birthday tray for Fred the Vet, a round of coronas (ha ha), drunken darts, and a few sing songs. A great way to end a great day.

Despite culminating in extraordinary circumstances this season should be looked back on fondly. Finishing on top of the table (will we be promoted? Who knows?!) and in a national semi-final. But the most exciting thing this year has been the new and old faces that have found their way to Old Colfeians. The amount of young talent in the teams is very promising. The likes of Rameaux, Ramdhan, Smith O’Malley (jnr), Hedpen, Angus, Ross and Verissimo all under the age of 25. 

The country may be amid a generational pandemic, but OCRFC 1XV remains healthy and looking forward to next year. Let’s hope the lockdown lasts until after preseason… 

Author: Chris O’Malley

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