February 23 2012
Last night, Durham’s newest, far from youngest, rugby team took to the pitch for only their second game last night. The Constabulary Veterans were to play Houghton-le-Spring Veterans.
Given the current topics of promotion & relegation versus ring fencing, contracts & best positions, surely what rugby comes down to in the end is getting 31 people on a pitch, and how, coincidentally, I played my first ever senior game at tight head.
As I bustled in to the changing room, 15 minutes late & expecting to have to squeeze in somewhere to get changed, I was somewhat alarmed to see that Durham had enough players for a sevens tournament, or a team of 10 with subs, rather than the 25 we had last game out. Sometimes you find the mind is willing, but the body, oh the body is as old as it says it is. Thankfully a few more (old & tired) bodies arrived, so with 40 minutes to go before kick off, we had our second training/run through with one spare body we knew & picked another who had come to watch but who had his boots in the car. It was then we discovered that we had one prop & two hookers. I bit the bullet & opted to chance my arm on the edge of the scrum, rather than in the middle. Thankfully before kick off I was informed that the opposition loose head had only played there twice.
Houghton’s team looked suspiciously young for a vets team, as it turned out they were a mixture of the colts & some old stagers, looking for a game (their fifth apparently – who said rugby is dying?). The added bonus for them was that the referee also happens to be their coach, so would be letting play go as much as possible, which allows the old farts to keep up & the youngsters to learn a thing or two.
The game was split in to three periods, two 30 minute stints where the colts gave us both the wind & the slope, & a final 20 minutes where we swapped ends. There are many maxims in rugby – forwards win games & backs decide by how many, if you have the ball they can’t score & the ever faithful youth & talent are no match for age & treachery – most of which are true. The ref, whilst given several opportunities to, did not brandish any cards, instead choosing to coach his side, make allowances for a most disgruntled player (who it looks like we’ll face in three weeks time when he turns out for Northumbria Police Veterans, who I wouldn’t be surprised to discover plays for the military like this lot) & even penalising a 5h1t kick from us, because, well, it was.
With a lineout being given as what would be the last play of the game, the younger side trundled, ran & passed the ball from their 10 metre line, all the way to our try line, where they knocked on. So they got a scrum, then another. Then a penalty, until they finally scored through a set of pick & drives to clear the remaining metre to the line.
It was a match played in the spirit of the game (N’umbria polis excluded) if not to the letter of the laws, with the younger team being really technically proficient, especially in tackling. In the end, it was the older, cannier, sneakier team that won, I believe 36 – 19. I have aches & pains in muscles I have not taken notice of before & a couple of bruised legs. All in all, given my recent return from injury, not to mention being on the tail end of a chest infection (I’ve got a note from my mum & everything, honest), I was one of the poorer performers on our side. I managed to deal with both props I went up against & even nabbed a couple of scrums against the head (age & treachery, I told you).
Our next scheduled game is a 7.30 kick off, against the aforementioned Northumbria Police Veterans on Wednesday the 14th of March. Come down, have a laugh, you might even get a game. Maybe though, you might dust off your boots & think about getting a vets squad together.