Friday night, into Saturday. Saturday night into Sunday….
Watching the clock. Every tick and every tock was one second closer….
One second closer to strapping up the pads, one second closer to buckling up the helmet…
Tick, tock, pads, helmet, tick, tock, pads, helmet…
It feels like an eternity, but the training, the blood, the weat and the tears finally come to fruition. It’s 10am, and we’re ready for the trip to Bedfordshire. WOO HOO!
So, people start to congregate from about 9.30, with the adrenaline already pumping, and ready to get going. The rookies have a nervous look in their eye, and the veterans sense the anticipation. So, as people start milling around Paul Bovingdon, our Treasurer, has the job of dishing out the travelling shirts. This year, we’ve gone for a delicate pale blue shirt, emblazoned with the Gladiators’ 25th Anniversary logo. Very nice they are too… when they fit! It’s fair to say some of the “larger” gentlemen had issues doing them up, but we soldiered on regardless!
The bus journey was as long and arduous as ever – well over two hours pootling down roads in the pouring rain. The highlight was the moment Coach Roberts dramatically appeared from the lower deck, and instructed us to all shuffle around – offensive players at the front of the bus, and defence at the back. Needless to say the way were were sat originally meant that most of the offence was sat towards the rear, with defence at the front. Cue lots of moving around, complaining, yelps as people were treading on each other, and amidst the madness the passive figure of Duncan Flack, superstar Running Back, still, unmoving dead centre of the bus. Mind you, with the stupidly loud screeching music he plays there’s a fair chance he was oblivious to what was going on anyway…
So, once we’d shuffled around… nothing happened. that’s right, nothing. So, thinking it was a team building exercise that the coaches had ordered for a bit of a giggle, we started to move back to where we were. At that point Coach Roberts and Coach Stephenson appear from downstairs to give “inspirational” pre-game talks. I didn’t hear Coach Roberts’ contribution, but T’s revolved mainly around “We’re going to beat them. we’ll have fun. It’s all good”. Inspirational, i’m sure you’ll agree.
So, with Defensive players suddenly panicking and flicking through playbooks, the offence proceded to discuss more important matters – like how Monty might be able to steal the TV from the front of the bus (5 minutes alone with a screwdriver and it’s his…), which women Rugby thinks would “wear it like a raincoat” (i think we got as far as Slider’s Mum, and stopped there…), and whether the new and improved Tommy Clarke was actually trying to turn into Duncan, with his new streamlined haircut (yes, yes he is…).
Eventually we pulled up outside the Bedfordshire International Athletics Stadium, thinking how great it was to play in a posh stadium… It turns out that the football field was out the back somewhere on the wasteland that’s so bad it was rejected for allotments. Combine this with the cold, wet, muddy conditions and it was time to play football!
Warm ups, then roster check, then coin toss and then… KICK OFF! Finally the 2008 season is underway, after what seems like years of waiting!
We kick nice and deep to the Bedfordshire returner and then the Defence takes the field. The entire offence prowls on the sidelines looking for the chance to get onto the field. Eventually the defence force Bedfordshire to punt the ball away, and we’re on. The first play comes in and new QB, Dan “The Slinger” Singer steps up. His hand trembles, he calls the cadence, i snap the ball nice and cleanly into his hands, he makes the hand off, and we’re off and running.
As ever, the game passes by so quickly, but there were some real moments to savour. Tommy Clarke bagging the first interception of the season, Duncan rumbling up the middle, Paul Gates sweeping round the edge, and the defence gang tackling each rushing attempt that Bedfordshire made.
So with the rain hammering down, we get through to half-time with neither side getting on the scoresheet. We got as far as the 5 yardline, but couldn’t convert, and then a catalogue of errors on the field goal attempt left us coming away with nothing. But we were not deterred, and as the sun came out in the second half, so did our best football. Soon after the restart we drove down the field, and Slider slipped into the end zone from close range – Goat converted the extra-point and we were 7-0 ahead.
Bedfordshire’s rushing game stalled, and we took control of the football again in the 4th quarter. Again, we got close, and again Slider swept around the edge and into the end zone for the score. 14-0.
It could have been so much more, but some silly penalties negated some excellent efforts. Notably when rookie Paul Gates took the hand off, and managed to rush over 60 yards, breaking 4 or 5 tackles in the process, only for the play to be called back for holding. Frustrating in anyone’s book! Someone needs to teach Monty to block…
But, 14-0 it finished. The Gladiators record their first victory in 2 calendar years, and celebrations ensue. Not least by the coaches who get well and truly smashed on the way home, drinking copious amounts of rum and beer…
However, they were sober enough to announce game MVPs on the trip back. Offensive MVP was Alex “Slider” Robinson for his two touchdowns:
Defensive MVP was Matt Selby for making an immediate impact at Linebacker and shutting down the Bedfordshire Offence:
Special Teams MVP was Steve O’Callaghan, for his contributions on all the special teams, and his long snapping accuracy: ( i know the picture is him at the Blades, but i couldn’t find one of him playing on sunday…)
But the Overall game MVP was well deserved, and awarded to Duncan Flack. Despite not scoring, the reliable Running back pounded the ball up and down the middle of the field, recording his first 100 yard performance for quite some time.
So, next on the agenda is East Kent Mavericks in two weeks time. Go Gladiators!