|Hull Roundheads RUFC||4||2||1||24|
In the shadow of the Humber Bridge, the two teams observed a minutes silence in memory of Metropolitan Police Officer Sgt Matt Ratana, who was tragically shot and killed one year ago. A 60-second interval of nothing but the wind in the trees, the sounds of the birds, and the deep breaths of those about to do battle. The visiting team; The Chester Centurions, were clad in dark blue and in their first League game of the season; The Hull Roundheads were sporting their yellow kit. Prepared for a clash of primary colours the teams set up.
A blink, a whistle and the game had begun.
The Centurions gained the ball and held it tight. Wave after wave of blue beat the Roundheads back, driving them down the pitch into their own half. Yard by yard the visitors fought, pushing forward, pummelling their opposition. The ball bobbing forward on a sea of navy blue. The tackles seemed infinite, the rucks without end, but like a sea slamming and slapping at the beach, the Roundheads like golden sands, absorbed each attack. Dealt with each attempt to gain ground. Pushed back to their twenty-two, the Roundheads refused to retreat further. For thirty-five minutes, the offensive line sustained their attack, and for thirty-five minutes, the Roundheads endured.
Having experienced nothing as savage as this before, the blokes in yellow could only keep trying. Keep trying to gain the ball. Keep trying to gain ground. Keep trying to last. The brutal sea of blue was relentless, trying to pound the Roundheads into submission. The game reached breaking point. Broken after the battering: not the Roundheads’ spirit, not the Roundheads’ players, but the Centurions. Exhausted now, injuries could only follow, and their hard and fast tactics took their toll on their team. More than one man in blue limped or was carried off the pitch to the sound of sympathetic clapping.
Then the Roundheads made their move. A streak of gold, Nath broke through the thin blue line, and more yellow followed. Supporting each stagger and stop and start the ball finally crossed the try line, and the Roundheads breathed a momentary sigh of relief. Sweat and steam boiled from the players heads as they took on water and Ian attempted his first conversion of the league.
Halftime saw the Roundheads in front, but both teams were blowing. The weather was a second adversary on that pitch; the heat and the close atmosphere intensifying the hard work of play. The brief team talk, gulps of water, and orange segments was over before anyone was ready.
The bruised blue team continued to fight on valiantly, seeming to dominate the game with their time on the ball. Repeatedly, the ball was dragged into the Roundheads half, or kicked closer to their try line. Line out followed line out, Jose soaring and seizing the ball each time, delivering it to the Backs, to ship it out, to ship it away from the tide of Centurions that had hit so hard before. Sprinting down the pitch, a golden eagle pursued by cobalt crows, the Centurions couldn’t catch Steven as he flew to place the ball between the posts, a quick conversion kick from Ian, and play resumed.
The Roundheads managed to hold onto the ball more in the second half, even managing to keep the ball out of our half for a while. Still the tackles came hard and fast from the Centurions. Then, Lloyd, man of the match, a player who had played in many positions in this game alone, scored from a quick tap and go off the back of a penalty.
Though this try was unconverted, the Roundheads spirits began to climb. This brief moment of confidence and cocky bravado, where the team in yellow surrounded the ball like bees on honey, allowed the Centurions to make the most of a break in the line and storm past the lonely players on the wing. The Centurion barrelled down the pitch hugging the touchline to make the first Chester try.
Heads back in the game, the Roundheads exploited the exhausted and injured players on the Chester side and Nath slipped between a few players to get a fourth try in before the end. Ian stepped up to make the kick, to make his team proud, to make the conversion…
And then the whistle blew.
Both teams, were battered and bloodied as they cheered each other and the referee. An exhausting battle, a fierce fight, but the most gratifying game the Roundheads have ever played. Improvements can be made, and reflections acted upon, but the Hull team have transformed in their playing, the sense of camaraderie and team spirit was plain to see. On to the next one.