Due to a previous cancellation of this fixture the long awaited game against Upper Eden in the Intermediate National Cup competition was on. All we needed was a squad of players, just about managed that, a coach, yes that definitely turned up, some committed supporters, OK bitter and twisted more like, and a kit to play in, oops. I knew it was going too well. For some reason the communication between the senior management team, who seem to live in their own time zone when it comes to meet times, fell flatter than a flat fish dish at the Flat Earth Society’s annual dinner. And they criticise poor little wingers for not communicating. Thankfully a spare kit was rustled up from the loft, all be it in need of a good airing.
On arrival at Kirkby Stephen Brunty nicked the Griffaloo’s wagon and sped off into town in search of fodder. Then we had umpteen discussions on the possibility or not of extra time, the possibility of sub interchanges and the maximum numbers of such. Some were also keen to ensure that the decision makers, Ha, understood that bonus points didn’t count and so they could at times consider kicking the odd penalty when awarded under the posts.
The game itself started in typical cup tie fashion with both sides showing enterprise not normally present in a league game. With Eccles having the slight upper hand a 20m driving maul, following a lineout, was rewarded with a penalty try after the third attempt by the home side to collapse said maul. This was converted by Ellis O’Neal.
Not to be outdone Upper Eden came back and scored a try of their own following a series of driving plays by their forwards. Eccles responded with a penalty by Ellis O’Neal. Then straight from the restart the ball was caught by James Radcliff, no e, who cut through the defence and released Joe Dale, now Joe who was carrying a permanent grin on his face for reasons best not said had a choice to make, pass to the old balding No8 or release the whippet that is known as Chris Wilson. He chose well and Chris streaked away to score out wide.
Halftime came with the score at 5 – 15 in favour of Eccles.
Now after that last score you would think the home side might have learnt about restarts, but it appeared not so. Straight from the kick off the ball was gathered by the forwards and after a quick series of inter-passing James Radcliff, no e, sped off under the posts to score, which Ellis O’Neal converted. The Eccles lead was then extended with a penalty by Tom Dutton who had been forgiven for his shocking performance with the boot the week before. Well forgiven by all bar his dad.
Now this is where Upper Eden are dangerous, with a 20 point lead you could almost think the lads were home and dry, they did. But the Upper Eden lads never seem to know when their beat and so back they came and scored 2 converted tries to make the gap just 6 points. To the credit of the Eccles team, and after seeing their lead whittled down, they came straight back to gain a well-deserved try by Tom Chapman with a large proportion of the team getting involved. This was converted to make it 19-32 so surely that was it. But no, Upper Eden again came back and it was only solid determined defending by all that kept them out until in the last play of the game Upper Eden scored a consolation try.
Final score 24 – 32 to the boys in Blue.
During the post-match formalities the SMT were quite rightly heavily penalised for the shirt’s fiasco. Then it was on the bus and back to sunny Eccles.