The first wet Saturday of the season saw the fifth team take on top of the table Orrell St James.
Prior to the match kicking off, it was made clear that the Orrell side had no props but were allegedly on their way. The match kicked off with uncontested scrums and that was the way it remained with only one prop finding their way to the rugby league club, the other prop probably doing what all good props do and found the bar.
The conditions didn’t help to produce good handling especially with the ball being more slippery than the proverbial bar of soap. It wasn’t long until the first of many scrums of the afternoon. After good forward drives with the direction of fly half Ben 10 and scrum half Bobby Parker, the referee awarded the Hoppers a penalty for lying on in a fairly central position about 20 yards out which Ben 10 dispatched with ease to give the big outsiders an early 3-0 lead.
The Hoppers, despite numerous times having scrums, didn’t clear their lines and tried running it from their own half, producing several handling errors. It wasn’t long before the home side ran in their first try. Running typical rugby league lines they passed the ball out to their left winger who had pace to burn and touched down in the corner.
It wasn’t long before a similar play produced a controversial moment in the game. With good hands by the Orrell side, it reached the winger who bobbled it forward and it hit John Henry before regathering it and touching down in the corner. The referee controversially gave the try, with skipper Mick Mortimer asking the question to the referee about his decision which the referee gave an apology for.
The usually strong line out of The Hoppers was struggling, with a combination of a random wind and inexperienced thrower Andalie not throwing straight on a number of occasions. The Hoppers were struggling to make use of the number of high tackles the referee was penalising the home side for.
The Hoppers used this setback as motivation and received a penalty for a high tackle. Again Ben 10 dispatched it to make it 10-6 and much closer than side at the top of the league was expecting from the team that started the day second bottom. This was short lived with and with another scrum to the Orrell side, the fly half used some inventive play from the scrum. As the forward packs from both sides were trying to disengage the fly half chipped over the top before their speedy winger touched down inside the posts and Orrell claimed their first conversion success. With the home side again running the same lines it wasn’t long before the home side scored again on the Hoppers right.
Skipper Mick Mortimer taking more than a little concern ordered new player Kasper Brezinskis to warm up. After another try with the same play Kasper made his debut being allegedly the first Latvian to play for Hoppers. It wasn’t long before the debutant was called into action, with his small stature the fairly large centre decided to run at him. The lads from the Hoppers who were at training on Thursday knew what was coming, Kasper putting a man who was three times the size of him on his back. For some strange reason, the Orrell side never ran at Kasper again.
The half time message was “let’s play rugby union”, as when it was being played it was hurting the Orrell side.
The second half kicked off and did it kick off. An Orrell player came through and allegedly used Andalie’s head as a football. Needless to say players came together with punches being thrown. The referee quickly regained control, took his time and sent the Orrell player off and gave both sides a warning about future conduct and expected no more foul play. With The Hoppers number 8 Nathan needing to be replaced after the incident with blood pouring from his mouth, Flemo came on and made an immediate impact.
He was on the pitch approximately 53 seconds before being sin-binned for a professional foul for being lazy around the ruck. This ensured he got the Twit of the day helmet as laid down in the laws of the 5th team. Bringing both teams to 14 men each.
The top of the league side still running the same lines and getting the ball out wide early scored a couple of tries without reply. Another head high tackle left Alistair Lockhead looking uneasy on his legs and so was replaced by BigBen with the perpetrator being sin binned bringing it to 13 v 14.
With Kasper putting in a superb debut performance, the Orrell right winger danced through the centre of the pitch and evaded several tackles. He must have thought he had managed to miss Kasper, Kasper had other ideas getting back and from behind managed to get the player to ground. Unfortunately he managed to off load the ball to a supporting player who had a relative easy walk in try.
Upon his return Flemo was doing his favourite thing, picking up the ball at the base of the scrum and running, despite what the two halves wanted. After realising it was better to tell his flankers what he was doing, soon Gary Douglas with his scrum half gloves was trailing him and giving him some support. With the forwards working in pods, Flemo picked up at the base of a ruck and went alone again. Fortunately Bobby Parker saw this and reacted, ensuring good ball was given to the ever present Chris Nuttall who ran the ball and managed to get a maul going forward. After a 30 yard drive, Coach Shadwell had the pill and duly grounded it. Ben 10 dispatched the conversion.
With another penalty to Hoppers and Flemo nearby, he decided to go for touch, when both skipper and coach were indicating the posts. A rehearsed move saw Andalie going straight to Shaddy, he went for a run down the touch line but with fear of being bundled in touch, he threw the pill blindly away over his head. Luckily for him Chris Nuttall was running in support and managed to regather the ball. The forwards kept the pressure up by working in the now familiar pods and after a number of phases Flemo managed to get the ball down for the Hoppers second try. Ben 10 unfortunately missed with the conversion from a tight angle.
With the clock ticking away to full time, another scrum resulted in three quick passes from the Orrell side for them to finish with a try in the corner.
Although another defeat would seem like a problem, a lot of positives can be taken out of this. For a side that is running away at the top of the league they probably thought this would be another easy match, but the forwards are working well in their pods and with Ben 10 directing the backs the first win will be with them sooner rather than later. The two evenings a week training is really paying off and giving skipper and coach more headaches as the numbers swell.
Orrell St James 46-18 Preston Grasshoppers 5th XV
DoD – Flemo
MoM – debutant Kasparov Brezinskis