‘Twas the week before Christmas,
And up at the Butts,
The 2nds were strapping,
Their muscles and cuts.
Biggsys was smoking
And Greevy was late
And Crouchy was biting
To limited bait.
The team was announced
And the boys did their stuff
They rucked and they pushed
‘Til Sutton had enough
20-10 was the win
Celebrated with beer and cake
And the boys earned some rest
On their mid-season break.
The last game before Christmas marked the mid-season point for the Barkers 2nds, and a difficult home game against Sutton Coldfield faced them. Sutton are one of only two sides who have beaten the Butts this last four months, so it wasn’t hard to get the lads fired up for this one. There was however one thing not helping anyone on the day, the weather. At or around zero degrees, and with driving, sideways rain for most of the warm up, and large parts of the game, it was to be an uncomfortable day for all involved, and even saw some of the “harder” forwards resorting to long sleeve skins (Tom Morgan...), and the rest deep heating their forearms...
Barkers’ were able to name nearly the same side that had ran riot at Dunlop the week before, with Crossfield at 8 being called into the 1’s and replaced by James Cooper
, and injured Colin Hutchings
(injured = hangover) replaced in by Callom Baker
, joining older brother Aaron in the second row, the only changes. The day also saw George Adams back from uni for the break, although given current form, only room on the bench could be found for him...
Despite the weather, a resolute crowd showed up to watch the game, and in spite of the inevitable handling errors and forward passes (given the strength of the wind) meaning there were scrums aplenty, they were treated to tight but enjoyable game.
Barkers won the toss, which captain Mercer noted was 9 out of 9 coin tosses for the league season (shame his pass completion doesn’t offer the same stats) , and chose to play into the wind in the first half. Aaron Baker
secured the kick off and made a few yards forward, albeit could have chose better line as he was immediately smashed into the ground by the much larger Sutton pack, the Barkers boys knew they would have to fight for this one. The first ten minutes were especially tight, Sutton slightly outplaying Barkers’ but unable to penetrate the Blue and Gold wall, a wall that is becoming as big a feature as the flowing running game enjoyed going forward. Tom Morgan was outstanding on the flank again, and alongside Adam Greevy
and James Cooper
, ensured Barkers were quickly at every break down and the three marshalled the defence all half.
Despite Barkers’ through Dougie at 9 and Mercer at 10, trying to unleash a backline including an impressive Rob Knox
, Crouch, Hutton, Deano and Leo, making ground was difficult, particularly, given the wind eliminated any sort of kicking game. Being unable to release any pressure showed, and at ten minutes, Sutton missed a penalty from 40yards. This brief pause enabled Barkers’ to hudde round and demand a little bit more from each player, with balance of power even at this point.
It paid off. Given the amount of first half scrums, it was well that a front five of Lee, Kirky and Pete alongside brothers’ Baker shook the Sutton scrum from the outset, and James Cooper
, who ran tirelessly from 8 with the ball in hand all day, started the work for the first try of the day. Taking the ball blind, Barkers quickly completed 2 phases before releasing Rob Knox
on the left wing who ran in from 50 yards to put Barkers 5-0 up at 15 minutes.
That was as far up the pitch as Barkers’ could venture, as the next 15 minutes were spent camped in the Barkers’ 22. For 10 of these the defence was resolute with Tom Morgan more than once, Pete the Meat, Aaron Baker
, Andy Mercer
and James Cooper
all making front up tackles around the fringe on Barkers’ line to keep them out. Sutton out of options resorted to a cross field kick, and it paid, with the ball sailing over an outstretched Crouch into their wingers hands and they slid down to make it 5-5.
At the restart, the ensuing breakdown saw contact to the eyes of both Callom Baker
and Adam Greevy
, and so the introduction of Kev Greenhill and Jack Boland. Sutton made slow but steady yards, and a penalty gave them line out ball in the bottom corner. Barkers’ were able to repel this pressure, albeit at the cost of Andy Mercer
’s knee, the captain being replaced by George Adams. A Sutton scrum followed, alongside some broken play, and Barkers’ were unable to get a had on their ten, as he crossed 4 of his own players, meaning the Barkers’ defence couldn’t get near him, as he slid into the corner. No penalty was given for any of the offences and Sutton took a 5-10 lead.
Barkers’ riled by this, and at their brothers-in-arms being sidelined stepped up, and the game was taken from Sutton for the remainder of the match. Knox kicked to the corner from a penalty earned by Pete Stapleton
and James Cooper
, and despite the line out not finding the jumper, Aaron Baker
secured at the back and found new captain Dean Thompson who had moved to 10, quickly releasing Knox who broke two tackles to place the ball down and make it 10-10.
Taking a lead into the second half against the wind and rain positioned Barkers’ well, and manager Biggsy chose to bring on AJ and Jacko onto the wings for Crouch and Leo. Zach also came on for Hutton and was his usual menacing self 5 minutes in to the second half.
Barkers, other than the odd break defended well by the back three every time, dominated the second half, with the score line only hindered by weather induced handling errors. Again the fitness of Barkers’ proved key, the front eight making use of themselves at every breakdown, with either determined rucking or able support play, offering for the hungover Jones at 9 all day. As the game continued to break, the Barkers backs tackled and defended astutely, the 15 strong Blue and Gold wall holding strong all half.
At 50, Callom Baker
returned to replace brother Aaron who had lost his contacts and hands were too muddy to put new ones in, and was quick to the breakdown to earn Barkers a penalty, converted by Knox to make it 13-10. This also saw the introduction of Alex Ford, back in the Blue and Gold after an extended absence, and back into the game like he hadn’t missed a week. 5 minutes later, apparently thinking his kicking boots were firing, Knox attempted an audacious 60 yard drop goal... He failed, but it did turn into a half decent positional kick, from which Barkers camped in the Sutton 22 for the remaining 20 minutes. The pressure soon showed, and with 15 remaining Knox slid into the corner for his third hat-trick in three weeks, and the bonus 2 were excellently converted by Deano. 20-10.
The game came to an end with no other drama, highlights including a huge Callom Baker
sit down going forward, the normal Kirk-Boland-Morgan scuffle and Crouch making some good yards at contact with two of their larger lads – albeit he was unaware Tom Morgan was pushing him every second. Some un-named subs decided to have a fight in the mud in the dying minutes – covering the colts and injured in the dug out with mud in the process. The noise from the sideline, led by chief lad Nutty, was appreciated all game, and they were all in full applause at the final whistle before running back to the bar...
Final score Barkers’ 20 – 10 Sutton Coldfield
Man of the Match – despite many impressive performances, Tom Morgan was outstanding and deserving of the accolade for another fantastic showing.
Muppet of the Match – despite Knox’s stupid grin before, during, and after his ridiculous attempt at a drop goal, his hat-trick lets him off. Greevy was also in with a shout, as every conceded first half penalty came at his hands and feet (well, the inability to stay on them). But the winner is Crouch, who despite jumping at the cross field attempt, failed to get a hand on it and allowed their winger, who was a full 6 inches shorter than ‘our Rory’ (who had a good game other than this) to gather the ball and slide in...
Post match – Barker’s X-Mas party was a mess as expected. Some very questionable fancy dress and a lot of face paint seemed to be the adopted theme. I remember nothing so please fill me in with details...
Have a good break – next game Under 27’s vs. Over 27’s on the 27th December. 27 minutes each way, kick off about 2pm, the a bucket load of festive beer