With a belly full of butterflies
and bouncing with nervous pre-game energy, I joined the team as we made our way from the changing rooms to the pitch. The atmosphere was at once jovial and serious, momentous but merry. Some faces were set in a contemplative composition, while for others the excitement of the game to come broke out in broad beaming smiles.
I was feeling both. Wearing grins or grimaces, we began warming up in the September sunshine. Shouts, chants, calls and whistles filled the air, as we stretched and ran through our drills. Liam catching the ball with his face (something that is becoming a bit of a training tradition) reminded the boys of home and provided a sense of comfort, rather than the sense foreboding of danger to come. A quick huddle, a positive word or two, a reminder to have fun and the game was off: Ravens V Roundheads. Writing days later: the memories are a blur of black and yellow.
The first moment of clarity comes as a player goes down, the previous pain forgotten, Liam limps off with ligament damage. As the game progresses, the Ravens must have wondered which hospital the Roundheads had raided to fill out the team. Subs were rolling more than Tina’s river, Steven taking a knock to the head and Jose biting bloody chunks out of his own cheeks. The Ravens took an early lead, but fighting back, the Roundheads pushed forward allowing Nath to show off some of his skill when it comes to running, dodging, palming off the enemy and getting the first try for the team in yellow. He was met back on our side of the pitch with jubilant handshakes and proud pats on the back. It really was a battlefield, and tackles were hard and fast. Both teams taking them in their stride, but Ben’s Back of the Match winning performance was noteworthy for the courage and agility he showed in taking down opponents that dwarfed him on the pitch. Thommo’s presence is always felt by both teams: intimidating opponents and spurring us on, gaining him his third award for Forward of the Match. Ian scored a cheeky try, in the second half that revived the Roundheads energy and passion, but too soon the game was over and the Ravens had won.
The constant praise and advice from the strong Captain and Vice-Captain and their leading examples of good play alongside good sportsmanship ensured the team left the pitch with our heads held high and smiles on our faces. The Ravens were humble and kind in victory, their magnanimous attitude makes it clear to see why they are one of the most well liked teams in the league, and we could not hold their well-earned victory against them. The fought hard and won. Our first IGR League game was over, but out thirst for the game was realised. Our passion re-ignited. Our enthusiasm renewed. I hope the Hunters are ready.