3rds reach Metro Final after top of the table clash, By Phil O’Leary
Metro League 2 – Old Wesley 13 Barnhall 8
A top of the table clash, Old Wesley having lost their last three fixtures to the opponents, on their own turf, with the chance to wrap up top spot. It was the coaches who proclaimed these were the days they lived for. What ensued was an arm wrestle with both teams sizing each other up at different stages of the game. Having adopted the status of a team that finished games strongly, Wesley were yet to come out of the blocks firing. The lure of a home final, and perhaps more enticing, not having to play the final on grass, was enough to light the fire under this Wesley team. That and a pain in the ass opposition player!
Wesley started strong, building phases with a couple of big carries. Leading the charge was captain Paddy Davies who made a thundering carry through the defence only to fall foul of an injury. A couple more big carries from Mounty, Sam and some Barnhall ill-discipline allowed Wesley to set up camp in the opposition 22.
After a couple of phases, like Moses parting the Red Sea, a gap in the Barnhall defence opened up which scrumhalf O’ Leary took with what can only be described as sloth like speed and precision, and Wesley were over for the first score of the game. Full back Tim Hawe, who has found some magic in those boots of his, duly added the two points. Keen to keep the pressure on, Wesley made a return to the Barnhall 22. Here Wesley set up camp with a string of scrums refereed in meticulous detail. Wesley were comfortably on top with a number of penalties and penalty try looking to be inevitability, until a surprise penalty went against the dominant scrum and Barnhall survived.
In the latter part of the first half, having won a penalty between the Barnhall 10 and 22 meters lines, up steps the fullback again. A look of dismay on the faces of the players on both sides given the swirling wind, but the kick was slotted and Wesley were rolling towards the break with 10-0 advantage. There was a brief onslaught from Barnhall at the end of the first half but, in what was one of the talking points amongst journalists after the game, the Wesley defence proved resilient! Some massive hits were put in; special mention goes to Jeff Dand for sending a Barnhall player into next week with a bone-crunching tackle at the end of the first half.
Following the break, Wesley tails were up, keen to add to their advantage. This didn’t go to plan for the beginning of the second half. It was now Barnhall’s front rows turn to flex. With a number of scrums 5 meters from the Wesley try line, and following a string of penalties, the referee placed a yellow card warning on the side. In or around the 20th scrum of the game, the Barnhall no. 8 made a burst down the narrow blindside and made a b-line for left wing David Braithwaithe. David, in an excellent show of bravery, slowed the no. 8 just enough to allow the back row to arrive and hold up the Barnhall player. Following another scrum, in almost an identical scenario, the number 8, surprise surprise, did the exact same thing only to be met by outhalf Jamie Boyd, in a David v Goliath collision. David came out on top, if a little bit dazed… Eventually the Barnhall pressure proved too much and they snuck over for a score, with a tricky conversion to follow. 10-8 and Wesley were back on the move.
A kick off out on the full and the game returned to the centre spot, for what must have been the 30th scrum of the afternoon. In an attempt to spur on the team someone ?? stated that no one was tired and we had plenty left in the tank. The resulting look that came from the front row was enough to fill the jocks of any man!
A scintillating break from the recovered Boydy had Wesley back on the Barnhall 5 meter line. A couple of scrums and three what looked like tries later, the referee was still reluctant to award Wesley the five points. A penalty under the posts was the best that could be managed. Up steps Tim to knock over the three points with the backdrop of one of the Barnhall tight forwards spewing underneath the posts, couldn’t be faulted!
13-8 and Wesley were moments away from clinching the league. Following an undefined injury time which was being added to at an alarming rate, the referee eventually blew the final whistle and Old Wesley’s position at top of Metro League Division 2 was sealed.