By Gossip Girl
Hugh and Norma would've loved the display
December 1st marked the beginning of the final month of 2018 and was the Wildboys penultimate game of the year. Their opponents on this occasion were Newbury Stags away who were sure to be a formidable force. The rain from the morning eventually cleared but the wind was ever present, meaning the tricky conditions would have to be mastered if the Wildboys wanted to maintain their status at the top of the league.
65 years previous in 1953 the late Hugh Hefner published his 1st edition of Playboy featuring Marilyn Monroe, both magazine and actress going on to achieve worldwide recognition. Captain George White had a few key names missing from the regular team sheet but the Wildboys had more than enough talent to get the job done. Mark ‘Father Time’ Bradburn was getting some winter sun in Mauritius, George ‘Chewbacca’ Hope resting a hurty ankle and Jayson ‘Squidward’ Abbott also unavailable. Alan ‘Cosher’ Cawston was drafted into the front row with the White brothers in the engine room. Adam Hastings made his 1st appearance of the year on the flank. Bob Nichols was welcomed back after his travels in South America and making an impact in the centre and Guy Hackshaw added to the wing after being rested against Maidenhead. The Wildboys also welcomed back Nicholas ‘Grizza’ Harrison on the bench who would look to put in a shift at some point.
With the advantage of the wind in the first half the Wildboys kicked off in bullish form. However, they were swiftly brought back down to Earth by Newbury who built the phases and broke the gain line on multiple occasions. Sloppy play saw the Wildboys become their own worst enemy, attempting ambitious offloads and mismanaging the conditions. Newbury capitalised as their flyhalf ran in the first try of the game, taking the lead much to the delight of their fan base on the touch line. The Wildboys needed to match Newbury’s physicality and were inspired by Tommy ‘Gunn’ White who stripped the ball from the Newbury player after the restart. The scores were levelled by Big Sam Jones who crashed over from close range, Harry ‘Bomber’ Hillier unable to add the extras from the tee. With the Wildboys finally out of second gear, their forwards began to dominate the set piece. A penalty try was awarded to the Wildboys after multiple infractions, full credit to the front row of Ralph, Cosher and Ludders who put the Wildboys into the lead for the first time in the game. This was short lived as Newbury charged back into the contest and the Wildboys 22m zone. Some strong carries from their own forwards saw them bag a score which was converted, scores now levelled at 12-12. Soon after Newbury were awarded a penalty in range of the Wildboys posts, their fly half adding another 3 points and retaking the lead 15 - 12. The Wildboys quickly worked out they couldn’t rest on their laurels and were made to work for the rest of the half. Newbury continued to tackle well in midfield, Bob Nichols and Strathers unable to take advantage of any space so the forwards took charge and played to their strengths. Cosher added another score for the Wildboys before the end of the half, conversion missed but the lead retaken 12 - 17. Time for some stern words of encouragement from Captain George White who wasn’t hesitant to ring the changes. Max Graham was brought into scrum half with Bomber switching to 10.
The second half got underway and the pack continued their outstanding performance in the set piece. The bonus point was secured by Big Sam who now had a brace. Newbury continued to be a nuisance at the breakdown, winning the odd turnover but also being their own worst enemy as the referee blew the whistle for indiscipline. Bomber in his new role as 10 kicked for the corners and played the territory game even with the wind against him. Big Sam completed his hat trick after the Wildboys scrum turned the ball over from a Newbury put in, the score 15 - 27 to the Wildboys. Additional changes to personnel were made and Grizza was brought into the pack and Will Bhagat given an opportunity out wide on the wing. With Bomber pulling the strings the backs finally began to find their mojo, Strathers running one of his trademark lines and cantering in under the posts for try number 6 to the Wildboys, the 1st conversion being added to the total making the score 15 - 34. Newbury continued to be penalised by the referee and the Wildboys stuck to their game plan. Some loose phase play saw the ball end up in Bombers hands with no options outside him. He composed himself, took aim and went for the drop goal. It was an awkward contact, spinning horizontally and spending an eternity in the air. Eventually it sailed wide of the right post and everyone breathed again - all except Max Graham who had chased the ball, gathered the bounce and dotted down collecting 5 points instead of 3. Bomber made amends moments later by bagging another conversion, the score now 15 - 41. As the Newbury defence tired Max Graham took full advantage, showing his pace by side stepping the full back and scoring down the left flank. Newbury did have the final say by adding their only points of the second half in the last play of the game, their lively winger breaking a tackle and scoring in the corner.
The final score read 20 - 46 to the Wildboys, 8 tries scored against a dogged Newbury side who deserve credit for their efforts. The votes were counted, and Man of the Match nominations awarded to Max ‘Weasel’ Wood and Big Sam Jones for his hat trick of scores. However, the award was taken by Jon ‘Wreck it Ralph’ Goodson who provided the foundation for The Wildboys forwards to dominate at scrum time. Mare of the Match on this occasion went to Harry ‘Bomber’ Hillier for his unsuccessful albeit memorable drop goal attempt. The Wildboys have a week off before welcoming Reading RFC and commencing Christmas festivities.
You know you love me.
Gossip Girl xoxo
Man of the Match: Jon Goodson
Mare of the Match: Harry Hillier
Tries: S.Jones(3), Penalty Try, A.Cawston, T.Strathdee, M.Graham(2)