Maples Rvs, Steppingstones too strong for opponents

| 21/05/2014

(CRFU): The semi-finals of the National Touch Rugby Championships 2014 were played out against a backdrop of searing heat at the South Sound Rugby Club last weekend.
First up saw tournament favourites Maples Reserves take on Island Air. At this level, touch rugby is not the pastime of a few ex-rugby players looking for a runaround but rather a fast-paced, well-drilled game where adherence to a structured game plan is essential. And none come better drilled than Maples Reserves. Captain Adam Huckle may appear amiable and avuncular on the surface but let that not fool you for inside there is a man with a rabid appetite for the win.

His team has been training all season and so when Andrew “John” West scored after 30 seconds from the kick-off there was a palpable and ominous feeling that this was going to be a long afternoon for the Island Air team. A quick second by Australian Ian Smith (no, not that one who plays Harold Bishop in “Neighbours”!) confirmed their early dominance and for a while it looked like Island Air might go into a tailspin. Chandra Friesen managed to grab one back for the ‘Air after a nice dummy break by the buffed and blond Neal Ainscow, but it was lean cuisine for the team in black.

Maples Reserves pose a threat right across the team whether it be the lightning speed and Riverdance-like feet of Nicky Keogh; the circa 1957 Elvis hip swivel of Neil Montgomery; the languid low-rider running style of Jyoti Choi or the Highland Terrier-like scampering of Andrew “Westie” West. Tries came at regular intervals but none more significant or controversial than the ‘Reserves fourth try, where Choi, having collided with Island Air’s Sheila Crosby and taking her completely out of the game, then exploited the defensive gap caused by her being prostrate on the floor to eventually score himself.

It was an unusual occurrence and although unintended was significant none the less. Referees Henshaw and Shelver debated long and hard and eventually the try was given. More than one eyebrow was raised in the stands at that decision. A half-time score of 7-3 paid tribute to the tenacity of Island Air and Neal Ainscow in particular but the crowd felt the writing was on the wall. It did not make good reading for Island Air.

The second half became a procession with tries for Dan “Des” O’Connor (3), Wiki “Pedia” Hitchman (2), and Elvis Montgomery.  By the end, Island Air were more lost than Flight 370 and I doubt even the full resources of CNN and their myriad of search-and-rescue analysts and experts could locate their chances of winning this one. Final score 14-4 to Maples Reserves.

The second semi-final saw SteppingStones take on Heineken Brew Crew. A quick glimpse at the team sheets showed this to be a game of seasoned Touch players full of guile and nouse (SteppingStones) against a team dependent on youthful vigour, pace and energy brought to it by its band of inexperienced by highly skilled National Rugby players (Heineken Brew Crew). Therefore it was a shocking blow to the ‘Crew when five players were withdrawn from their roster due to National Squad commitments, leaving an average age approaching 40.

Stripped of all their most potent weapons they were like a gunslinger going to a stand-off with rolled-up newspaper. They might make a make a couple of hits if they could get close enough but hardly deadly. And yet it was Heineken who scored first. Steve “the Baker” Henshaw crossed the whitewash in the first minute and briefly (well for just two minutes) Brew Crew dared to dream. However, that dream soon turned to a nightmare as Scott McCarty (3), Simon Raftopolous (4), Morgan Shelver (3), Rudolf Weder, Shaun McDermot and Emily Davies racked up the tries. Time and again SteppingStones would break through the aging defensive line on halfway and with no speed in the chasers they would canter on to score at a trot. If it was a boxing match the referee would have stopped it as Heineken were taking metaphorical punch after punch. They were beaten and at times looked broken. Final score 13-2.

The final game saw a 5th and 6th place play-off between Maples and KPMG. Both teams have struggled this year through either a lack of experience, players or general fitness against the bigger guns in the League.

Maples have looked good in parts this season and they probably saved their best for this game winning by 11 tries to 1. The try of the game, indeed the try of the day was scored by their dynamic strike runner Nino Dilbert. He had been having a good game running in four excellent scores from nice offloads but his individual try in the second half was something to behold – literally poetry in motion. Picking the ball up just over halfway he span, toe-looped, salchow-ed and axel-ed his way through a KPMG defence left to clutch at the thinnest of straws.

It was mesmerizing stuff and his own team just stood in awe and wonder as he pirouetted through to score a magnificent try. Ably supported with scores by Michelle Bailey (2), and Finn O’Hegarty (2), Paul “Barrel” Johnson and Ruan Van “Rental” Vuuren it proved all too much for KPMG. They never gave up though and a consolation score for Mark Bakker was well deserved.


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  1. Anonymous says:

    lovely stuff!