It can be as tough at the top as it is at the bottom
By Citizen Slacker
March 15 2012
With the focus of rugby moving away from the Premiership for a couple of weeks, it leaves space for some of the grassroots news to come to the fore, as well as those stories from the Unloved Cup.
This was, as I may have mentioned, going to be a big season for Gateshead IV’s. The core of the team has been together in some cases since junior rugby, others about 20 years. I’m a relative newcomer at five years at the club and three in the fours. As with all eras though, this has to come to an end, and several players had announced that this would be their last season. It was also the team's stated intention to go for the league and cup double again this season, to end many players careers on another high.
Dreams can be crushed though, and the cup run came to a juddering halt at Barnard Castle a few weekends back, apparently a mixture of a lack of control, not sticking to the game plan and the ubiquitous dodgy reffing decision, meaning The Flat Liners left the south of County Durham with a point less than the opposition, but a semi-final less to play too.
Last weekend saw Alnwick III’s visit Eastwood Gardens, with them sitting second in the table, a point behind Gateshead. Alnwick used to have a reputation as a good forward orientated side, with the occasional flash of brilliance in the backs, but they have got a good crop of younger, fitter players who are able to produce across the park. When I asked their coach what had happened to one of their former players – a giant of a prop – I was told he had moved on. No more will there be a Wally crash ball from five yards out, anymore & the poor lad would have been knackered.
After a very evenly matched first half, Alnwick eventually turned on the fitness, getting the win 10-19. We have very similar run ins toward the end of the season, so it was one to take on the chin & move on.
This weekend saw Percy Park Marauders visit Low Fell, but with the Firsts & Thirds home as well, the game went to the pitch at Dryden Teacher Training College. Changing room space was at a premium, deities help us if the grassroots clubs ever have the kind of changing room restrictions imposed on them that the Prem clubs do, but we were all able to get stripped & on to the pitch. Grass tends to be a bit of a premium at this end of a season, but using the pitch that we only run out on a couple of times a year after preseason gave us a lush, almost overgrown some would say, area to play on.
We had faced Park’s other team in this league, the Pumas, in the last week of February. When Gateshead scored their first try about 10 minutes in from a well controlled maul, I overheard one of the Pumas tell his team under the posts that Gateshead couldn’t keep it up for 80 minutes. He was right, the ref stopped the game with 10 minutes to go following a head injury to the opposition fly half, and the score at 32-14.
There were a couple of familiar faces in the Park team, and the game had a similar feel to it, hard graft as Park are very good at defending the fringes of the rucks, scrums going toward Gateshead & some good running from both sides. At half time, Gateshead were nudging in front at 8-0, when our scrum half was removed from play to go & fill in for the third team. I moved from my usual staring position of touch judge to hooker, & took the first scrum against the head.
Play was getting somewhat attritional, leading to a refereeing decision of Andrew Small/Alain Rolland proportions. Park got back in to the game with a decent enough try, but an excellent conversion. Despite most of the posession being with Gateshead we were unable to find a big enough gap to get through & extend the lead by more than the single point advantage we had. The game went end to end, Park had to borrow one of our props to make his hooking debut, with two of Park’s first choice front row having to leave the pitch through injury, as well as a shuffle to get another prop moved from further back in the scrum to the coal face. I do have some embarrassment over the amount of ball I took from them in the scrum, but not enough not to do it during the game.
From an attacking position inside Park’s half one of our forwards spotted a gap & grubbered the ball in to the opposition 22, unfortunately neither he, nor I as the support runner, nor our winger were able to get to the ball first. The Marauders marauded with their full back picking up the ball & danced his way past a handful of attempted tackles, finally getting the ball back to his fly half who cleared upfield. A fumble & a fly hack later & Park had a lineout 10 meters from the Gateshead line. After several phases of picking & driving we had managed to get drive them back to about 15 meters out. Our captain having made a tackle then got a boot to the face, & stood up to remonstrate – no handbags, no threats – so the ref stopped the game. He took the captains to one side & made the decision. He had not seen the incident, so had stopped play to sort it out, but, rather than award Percy Park the scrum as they had the ball, he said that he thought the two packs were too fired up to scrumage, so awarded Park a penalty kick instead. Not a free kick, a penalty. I am only too aware that the laws of our game are open to interpretation by the men & women in the middle, but there has to be a way to stop them inventing things, doesn’t there? Anyway, penalty kick awarded & Park’s spot on 10 slotted the ball between the sticks, no problems.
With five minutes left to go Gateshead were unable to force an opening, so the game finished 8-10, and the chance of winning the league in tatters.
In what was quite an attritional game, I would wish the Park players who picked up knocks & a nasty looking broken finger well, & I have a fairly bruised shoulder & a broken little toe with only a couple of days before Durham Constabulary Veterans take on Northumbria Police Vets in a “friendly” on Wednesday. Those of you who fancy a laugh or are desperate for something approaching a game of rugby are welcome to join us, kick off 7.30p.m., at Houghton-le-Spring RFC.
Slacker, firstly, what a player you must be to come on from the touch judge position (supporting the referee) and take the first ball against the head. Well done.
It's very sad to see that Durham referee's society are not capable of supplying Gateshead's Fourth selected side with the match officials that do not make mistakes in your eyes. Even sadder to see you make such an issue of it in a public forum, which the individual concerned is not likely to read, and even less likely to have a right of reply.
Perhaps the ref should forfeit his match fee to compensate for the poor performance you felt they delivered? Why not state their name in your reply so we can all be aware of who you are talking about?
Posts such as these are an embarrassment to the game in general, and Gatshead in particular. Please desist.
What is unwelcome is Slacker slagging off a referee publicly who gave up his time to allow him and his mates to have 80 mins of sport on a Saturday afternoon. If you think that is acceptable then you need to consider which opinion is the most unwelcome.
I know a couple of volunteer referees & just as you say the pushy parents are by far the worst, on a couple of occasions he has had to stop games because of them. Conversely, first team players of clubs who play competitively are generally the most polite & never argue.
Ninja, it really isn't difficult for the DurhamRefSoc to work out who I am, especially as a couple of the senior refs are part of GRFC, they as a committee regularly come to our club for their meetings & I will, if not starting, always take the touch line, & continue to run it until needed, unpaid. As & when I stop being able or willing to play on a Saturday, I will take the whistle & subject myself to the same criticisms that I level at others. What goes around will come around, & I am more than happy with that.
Secondly, my moniker on here is not really a secret, most posters know where I can be found on match days, under the clock in the SS, with a shirt with said nom-de-plume on the back.
Third, take or leave it. I haven't felt the need to assassinate your posts, your opinions or your views. I would recommend you get a sense of humour, as I have no intention of placing smilies to indicate when something is mildly amusing, requires a positive emotional response from the reader, or indicates that something is there requiring that the hard of thinking do something other than just read the text.
Surprised to hear the refs are not paid at this level of Rugby. In footie, even at youth level, the refs get paid. Not much but enough to show appreciation. As a parent we always have a raffle to pay for the ref..
SilverG the refs do get limited expenses I believe and a couple of free pints if they wish, at least from our club; but I think they do it out of love of the game, which is something that is sadly lacking in soccer and is unfortunately increasingly becoming common in our amateur game.
I think the days of players the like of Graham Kell and Steve Havery (to name but 2 of CS's colleagues) are sadly dwindling, richly talented but one club loyal players, who refused in their day to move to a "big" club just to progress in the RFU structure. Havery in particular was considered by many as the best scrum-half in England for a time, but stayed put, loyal to his club. I know the game has moved on and has an openly professional element now, but I think that at the lower levels of the game far too many youngsters are motivated by money rather than the game itself. Not that any of that has anything to do with this thread (other than team mates of CS), for that I apologise!
As for Ninja, I feel that you have no affinity with the local game. CS's article is clearly light hearted and touches a nerve of many of us of a similar ilk, he does not "slag off" the referee, merely points out what is to him a very obvious and costly error of judgement.
Typically you use this as an excuse to offend and start an argument, something you seem to do with almost every post. Sadly I suspect that it will not be your last!
Slacker I read your original post which I found very amusing and it took me back to when I were a mere slip of a lad of 40 or thereabouts and languishing in the 3rd XV having NEVER reached the giddy heights of 1st XV.
I noticed that it was dated 15 March and you finished off by inviting us to Houghton next Wednesday. I took that to mean 21 March, but then I noticed a later post in which you say that the match had taken place.
If I turn up at Houghton (my own club) on Wednesday evening will I be one of the few people there ?
This man says that the referee in that game invents decisions. If the ref was on premier league pay for his performance then Slacker's critique may have more weight. The fact is that the lad wasn't (more like 30p a mile expenses) and i am sure would not enjoy the comments. The exploits of Gateshead 4s are important, but not enough to justify broadcasting their efforts and Slacker's decision to castigate him in public. Last time I looked Gateshead had their own website.
Oldgit, I have more knowledge of local rugby than you think. I have played at Gateshead (and North Durham) and thoroughly enjoyed both clubs. That is why why I find the poster's views so offensive.
I had to delete yet another of his unhelpful contributions last night which was basically just slagging off Steve & calling him liar. If Ninja doesn't learn how to play nicely with the other boys & girls in the playground he will soon find he is not allowed in the playground anymore.
Now can we please get back to discussing rugby, Falcons, and other items of interest. Contributions such as Slacker's about local rugby at any level are always welcome.
Monkey please explain why you deleted my post. I did NOT call Steve a liar in it, and object to your inference that I did. I take it you only like "helpful"' contributions, and apply your own censorship rules accordingly.
I deleted your post because it served no purpose other than to criticise Steve, and the way you worded your accusation that he actually hadn't seen Gateshead recently implied that he was a liar.
If you post comments that serve no purpose other than to spoil otherwise enjoyable topics they will also be deleted. To call that censorship displays ignorance. If you cannot tell the difference between censorship & moderating you should seek the appropriate education.
This forum is not for personal issues or grudges - please take them somewhere else, a long way away.
The exploits of Gateshead IV's or any other IV's IS important enough to justify broadcasting their efforts - grassroots rugby is what our sport is all about - if you don't understand that then you are sadly lacking.
And I still call the big department store in town 'Bainbridges' but I still go there regularly - doesn't mean I'm not aware its been renamed - and I still prefer marathons to snickers!!
I thought we had got rid the the nitpicking on here - be a good ninja and GROW UP!
There is a big difference between having "knowledge" and having "affinity" Ninja; I am talking about having empathy for the amatuer game, having a feeling of kinship, enjoying and understanding the cammaraderie and motivations of the likes of Slacker and myself.
Having said that I am sure that you understand full well, it is just that you prefer to stir the proverbial for your own entertainment!
Indeed Charlie, anything else that even resembles the old nit picking & bickering will be deleted without comment or explanation. This was a perfectly good thread until it was trashed, and if threads are constantly trashed by this sort of nonsense the offender will be banned without comment. If that is censorship then long live censorship.
Ninja just to clarify my last visit to Gateshead RFC was last weekend to watch the 1sts against team northubria who were coached by Andy Buist which I didn't know till then and also kept an eye of the top pitch with the 3s winning their semi final against Billingham and also had a brief chat with Slacker before he headed along to Dryden for the 4s game mentioned above.
To avoid any further doubt me and my partner are both members there.
Although I dont agree with most of ninjaboy's posts I also dont agree that they should be deleted when Steve is accorded the right to reply to the same.
Much as I dont like the petty squabbles over nought, I think there is a risk alternative views, much as we may not agree with them will be stiffled. My limit would be persornal vendettas and such like which just ruin the enjoyment of the forum.
I fear we're getting a bit too sensitive about things and playing police when posters could perhaps exercise restraint and be more mature about things. It's unfortunate as this post has degenerated into something it was not intended.
Totally agree Monkey - bickering was why and I assume many like me never got involved in this forum until the then perpetrators left. It had been a much improved place since.
Equally I believe that moderation is required - it keeps topics 'on topic' and I have absolutely no problem with your approach. Right of reply is a valid concern but these are petty irrelevant squabbles that are not welcome here.
If ninja wants to whinge then he should start his own thread which the rest of us can avoid rather than trying to ruin a perfectly enjoyable contribution.
I started posting articles when the site shut down a couple of times due to a lack of front page articles. My stuff has been varied, from recipies, through match reviews, up to the recent grassroots stuff.I think my next may well be around freedom of expression.
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