On a very hot and humid Wednesday evening, the Griffins travelled to the Defence Academy, Shrivenham for their third game of the season. For the hosts this was their first run out in 18 months with the team containing the feel of a barbarian’s side: turn up an hour before kick-off, work out who we have, put together some moves and calls and step out for battle. In a gentleman’s agreement, the game consistent of 4 x 15 minutes quarters following the return to rugby grass roots law amendments and allowing rolling subs throughout. Both sides entered into the spirit of the friendly yet competitive match, playing loose and attacking rugby and keeping the crowd of around 100 students (dispersed around the pitch) highly entertained.
Despite their lack of training or game time, the Def Acd RFC started strongly with some big ball carries from forwards into the fringes of the opposition pack. The Griffins defence was well organised around the fringes but the Def Acd finally made a break shifting the ball off 10 with Tim Glover barreling through only to slip on the dry and hard surface with the line under his nose. Quick ruck ball saw the scrum half shift it left and two passes saw it into the hands of tight head prop James Harris. Despite a 3 on 1 overlap, he only had one thought 5 meters from the line and his route one approach resulted in the first try of the game aptly converted by James Robinson (Robbo). The remainder of the quarter was an even affair with the Griffins finally getting some possession and some strong carries in the midfield making good ground but ill-discipline and a sweaty wet ball resulted in them never truly challenging the Def Acd defence.
The second quarter ended up being 15 minutes of dominance by the Def Acd, who had noticed a weakness in the Griffins defence between the ruck guards and the 10 channel. With the Academy forwards tipping on, cracks began to appear and Tim Glover took advantage running off the 9 to carve through the Griffins defence only to be tackled, once again 50 cm short of the line. However, a pop of the floor to Neil Hart saw him flop over the line for the second try of the game, once again converted by Robbo. The second try of the quarter was again created by the hard and continuous running of the DefAc forwards off both 9 and 10 resulting in numerous penalties against the Griffins for foul play at the ruck. This gave the Academy field position and off a well-executed line out and subsequent phases, the ball was held up over the line. Quick thinking by Tommo (9) who tapped and went shifting it out for the Robbo score. Unfortunately, he was too tired to convert and the sides went into half time 19-0.
The final two quarters saw the Griffins start to grow into their structure and discipline in the rucks gradually improve. In an even third quarter, the weakness exploited by the Def Acd previously had been rectified. This saw the ball shifted more into the midfield with both sides gaining good ground when in possession. However, it was the Def Acd who squandered a number of try scoring opportunities. Steve McNeillie made a lovely break from the half way line. Set up with a 2 on 1 and the line beckoning, he threw a balloon pass off his left hand into touch. 4 minutes later he had the chance to rectify his mistake. Another beautiful break through the middle. 2 on 1, this time off his dominant right hand, he passed it casually into touch completely missing his man. At the third time of asking, he finally provided a try for the Academy. Another scything run and his pass finally went to the hands of Pete Berry who ran over one final defender and scored in the corner with another Griffin hanging on him. Conversion was missed.
The final quarter saw a lot of tired bodies struggling in the heat. The Griffins bench of 8 players compared to the Def Acd bench of 2 alongside previous game time was starting to tell. Whilst the Def Acd began to lose shape, fall off tackles and knock the ball on, the Griffins tightened up in defence and their forwards worked hard to get around the corner running into the tiring defence. Griffin’s form, structure and set plays provided them with near dominance, although it was the Def Acd who struck first. More ill discipline at the ruck saw referee in the first half turned 9 in the second half tap and go only to be sent backwards just short of the line, but open side flanker Tom Murphy bundled over and Robbo converted. The Griffins came back hard with some strong carries from their MoM Luke alongside Boyd and Beecher with Harry Waller still showing he could pull the stings from 10. The result was two excellently worked but unconverted tries.
Words and Images © Andy Bennett