4ths not hurt by ‘Stones

Metro League Div 5 – Old Wesley 38 Greystones 8

Tries: Claxton, Glynn, Handcock (2), Wallace, Young. Cons: Handcock (4..Shock!!!)

In the days leading up to this potential banana skin, all the talk was of avoiding complacency. Indeed, it was felt, that the highs experienced after the previous week’s victory could lead to a potential stumble against a dogged and ever-improving Greystones side. The task at hand was made noticeably tougher with a number of key absentees. Lost were Shane ‘OVO’ Deignan, David ‘Go Pro’ Priestman, Alan ‘the human thumb’ Doyle and Mark Toal-Lennon; the latter was launching his new range of artisan pickle and kale biscuits in a quaint, yet vibrant Somerset café.

After a focused warm-up and measured team talk, the team emerged from the dressing room to receive a massive cheer from the grandstand, only for the cheer to fade quickly when the patrons realized that this libidinous team, made up of charlatans and miscreants, were in fact not the 1sts.

Undeterred, Wesley began the match in bright fashion, moving the ball down the field with relative ease. However the scoreboard remained unthreatened. Despite a barrage of incessant pressure, on the Greystones try line the final pass remained elusive and could this profligacy with the ball come back to haunt Wesley? A couple of soft penalties, stemming from indiscipline at ruck time, saw Wesley retreat into their own 22. The retreat was compounded when the impish Guy Cresswell was deemed to have not released the tackler before he poached the ball. This indiscretion afforded the Greystones ten a shot at goal, which he duly slotted over.

From the ensuing kick-off, Wesley was on the back foot again. Resolute defence was ultimately undone by a plethora of unforced errors and careless penalties, Wesley eventually succumbed to the pressure from the men from the Garden County. For the first time all season Wesley trailed by 8 points. Somewhere over the Irish Sea Clatch’s hair was getting a little greyer.

In previous years, the team would have reverted to its petulant ways, chief amongst the culprits, this author. But the pride of the Premier County, and Man Mountain from Thurles, gathered his troops under the sticks. He momentarily thought about giving a rousing rendition of ‘A Boy Named Sue’, but settled on a quiet reminder of the road that their loyal band of brothers have travelled together. These words and the conviction in which they were delivered proved to be the inspiration that Old Wesley needed. With a renewed sense of urgency, Old Wesley lined up for the kick-off each player frothing at the mouth to atone for the poor start. Andy Kelly, breastfed by a mountain goat for first two years of his life, smashed his opposite number, crumbling him like a freshly baked mince pie. This monstrous hit sparked the team into life and set the tone for the rest of the match. Strong Wesley defence forced a knock-on and quick distribution from the resulting scrum saw Handcock gain ground down the right wing. One further, albeit reluctant, carry by Joe ‘Sigh’ Wheatley opened up space out wide, which allowed Graham Claxton to scramble over in the corner.

From the restart, Old Wesley moved the ball effortlessly into the opposition territory. A strong scrum set the platform for a hard Dave Heelan carry up the middle. This legs pumping, blood and guts effort is no doubt the primary reason why Morgan Lennon has been begging him to play higher for the last number of years. Off the ensuing ruck, Michael Glynn took a sumptuous line off a flat Younger pass. The Wicklow native rounded the hapless full back for Old Wesley to take the lead for the first time in the game. In the true spirit of the game the venerable Gerard’s man did not celebrate against his former team. Handcock dutifully added the extras and momentum had shifted Old Wesley’s way.

It was at this point that Coaches Wallace and Hastings, both sensing that Greystones were tiring before half-time, sought to capitalize by springing Chris Coghlan from the bench. The substitution proved an inspired yet flatulent choice, as Chris cut through the Greystones defence leaving defenders in his wake. Following another one of his beautiful incisions that put Wesley on the front foot, the ball moved wide quickly to Handcock and, not to be outdone by his friend and Laois native, crossed over for his first try of the contest.

The shrill blast of the half time whistle came and the coaching staff instructed Wesley to trust their defence and pressurise the Greystones team into making the unforced errors. Wesley accepted the task manfully. Messers Parfrey and Vaneli proceeded to throw themselves about the park with reckless abandon. With constant pressure a mistake seemed inevitable. A loose pass from the Greystones nine hung in the air, tantalizing the Wesley team. To the surprise of everyone in Donnybrook watching, including himself, John Wallace managed to gallop off the line and wrap his meaty mitts around the ball and hold on to the intercept. There was nothing but silence as he cantered across the artificial surface like a thoroughbred racehorse covering the hard turf at Aintree. There was a collective sharp intake of breath as he approached the line, with everyone asking themselves; will he knock it on? This intrepid reporter is delighted to write that he didn’t, even if the grounding of the ball was a rather unedifying sight. This play was to be only later matched off field with Big John recounting the tale of the Brazilian trombone player, much to the raucous laughter of those around him.

Wesley continued to press home territorial advantage but failure to put men away with the final pass, something that Coach Wallace had stressed during the week, kept the plucky Greystonians hanging around. A smart lineout move put Max Lane into space and rather than take the direct route through a gaping hole in front of him, he decided to take the scenic option and run around the defence, arms and legs flailing about like a distressed turkey in December. He then summoned his go-go gadget arms to flick a pass over the top to put Al O’Connor, racing down the wing. 

From there a couple of strong carries set up a lovely platform for Stevie Young to attack the gain line. He used the elegant decoy running of the dynamic front row duo of Andy Boyle and Phil Power to draw the attention of the defence, and waltzed through a gaping hole to touch the ball down under the sticks. The scoring in the game was rounded out late by Handcock, who gathered a charge down kick like a ravenous Lion pounding on a gazelle on the planes of the Serengeti. The game finished with a score line of Old Wesley 38 Greystones 8.

Post-match, light refreshments were the flavour of the evening as the fourths made base camp around the chicken wing platter provided by the club. Teammates ate franticly like a pack of starved dogs and listened intently as Glynner discussed current macroeconomic trends and El Capitano recounted how he fought off three men in Thurles city centre while managing not to spill any of his spice burger and curry chips.

Eventually these hardy souls dragged themselves to bed, battered and bruised, and mostly alone knowing full well that the following week’s game in Naas will require levels of physicality and commitment this team has yet to reach. Old Wesley’s resident WWE Champion, and the 2002 St. Gerard’s Under 14 chess champion, Phil Power who will be reporting on the match. More importantly, Phil will also be giving a detailed breakdown of the attire worn at the annual 4ths Christmas party, a highlight of Dave Heelan’s social calendar.

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