However, before the kickoff, there were things to sort out. (Yes… this is rugby.) When we got to the pitch, there was an Indian festival going on (not American Indians, but India Indians. They were engaged in a celebration where they painted each other, then used the water hose to make mud in the middle of our pitch where they could frolic. (Freaked me out when I saw the muddy field.) Couple that with a late arriving team and you can see why I was worried that this game might not go off.
The Tigers were in their new jerseys for the first time and were committed to properly introduce them to Tiger Rugby. Tigers love to win and they win the right way. Captain Kian Koleini handed out the jerseys in the locker room before the game and charged the team with the responsibility of starting these jerseys off properly. “We must win this game”, said Kian. “We cannot disgrace these new jerseys.” He cast a vision for the boys… and they rose to the occasion.
Finally we kicked off at 3:30 and got things rolling. The Tigers took their time in the first half figuring out what we could use for attack for the day. Several inside crashes were used to soften the opposition backs with good result. Unfortunately, Harding scored first, six minutes into the game, on a nice move with the 8 supported between the fly half and inside center. He crashed over two tackles after getting quick ball from a ruck and the score was quickly 0-7 Harding.
Josh Campbell who seems to have a nose for the ball, scored next by taking the ball from the base of the ruck at the 10 meter line, and crashing over for the try. The conversion was missed and we are now behind two points. 5-7
The play was tough and effective kicking moved us into scoring position. At the 22nd minute, Scott filled in on a play that we have been working on in practice and caught the defense flat, he broke one tackle and was gone. The fullback did not have a chance. Scott, with a few effective swerves, was in for the try. The kick is still no good. (What’s up?) Tigers up 10-7
Four minutes later Phil Elliott gets an opening and takes three points on a drop goal. Tigers edge away at 13-7.
Josh Campbell on a hustle play on a hot day charges down a Harding kick, gathering the ball on one hop at the 20 meter line. The Harding defense had no time to respond. Josh gets 5 more for the day. Phil adds two and the tigers are up 20-7.
The Harding defense stiffens and holds the Tigers scoreless for several minutes, but with one minute in the half, the forwards and backs work together at the end of a ruck to move the ball forward following tackles. Chris Cobb gets the last pass with 50 meters of open field in front of him. He tears down the south touch line and as the defense closes, he pours on what he has left and makes it to the tryline in the southeast corner. Phil finally relaxed and dialed in, connects with the toughest conversion of the match. Halftime score 27-7.
Harding can feel things slipping away and know they need to step up. They respond by crashing over the tryline 13 minutes into the second half. Tigers still on top 27-14.
It is obvious that Harding is frustrated, so the halftime talk is focused on a few adjustments in tactics, but more importantly, we need to keep our cool as they lose theirs. That advice was heeded by the players and they tightened up for what was best for Memphis. They were tighter and lower than they were in the first half, with better tackles and improved intensity. The Tigers now are supporting each other much better in loose play and on a long run with several Tigers sharing the ball, Aimeer McCrary finally has the honors of slotting the points. Jonathan Brewi drops for two on the conversion and the Tigers lead again 34-14.
Somewhere in there, Harding picked up three points on a penalty. 34-17
From that point, the Tigers turned up the heat, put a smile on their faces and had a blast!!! There were several quick trys in the last 15 minutes of the game reminiscent of the match we had with Harding at their house last fall. Lee Downing started the scoring with some nice running combining power and agility. Lee crashed over the line and Phil converts and the score rises to 41-17.
Jay Mac Donnchadh is the next to score. It began with quick ball from the forwards, a swing pass from Phil, to Jay (outside) who dishes to Anthony (wing) who cruises the touch line and slides the ball back into Jay’s hands. Jay finishes off, Phil converts and the score is 48-17.
In the waning minutes of the game, the outside is exploited again and the ball was moved from the scrum to Phil who clears to Jay, who hooks up with Anthony. Anthony swerves to freeze the defender and pops the ball to Jay at full speed. Jay is gone and another try is taken. Phil slots two more for a final score of 54-17.
They boys played with style, finesse, grace and power. Tiger rugby continues to live up to the tradition of excellence. They retired to Ubee’s where they treated their coach to a birthday party. The win was the best birthday present that they could have provided that day.
Referee: John Sullivan
Man of the Match: Anthony Smith (wing)
Best Forward: Chris Cobb
Scoring: Phil Elliott 13, Josh Campbell 10, Jay Mac Donnchadh 10, Scott Smith 5, Chris Cobb 5, Aimeer McCrary 5, Lee Downing 5, Jonathan Brewi 2