Despite the inclement weather, Hurst v Brighton was back on for the prestigious Padwin Cup. As of late my youthful exuberance for literary mastery that once adorned our beloved Pelican has been lacking and having not played for the Burgundy and Blues for some time I had forgotten how much fun is to be had in this annual fixture against an opposition who was tenacious to the end if lacking any serious flash of rugby ability.
The field at Hove was testing to say the least, a solid base of frozen earth loosely splattered with a muddy soup on top and with the occasional dagger shaped flint sticking out of the sludge meant most participants were nursing both deep cuts and sizeable bruises. Yet this is what Christmas rugby is all about, an excuse to adorn our bodies with a few more battle scars before heading to the bar with bragging rights over our old rivals.
The mood was relaxed, in fact it was basically sedentary as we kicked off, fortunately Hurst were in a similar mind frame and the opening exchanges were pretty lose and wildly flamboyant by both teams, as backs attempted thirty yard miss passes and drop goals from far to far out and forwards trudged around in the slop having a good old lean wherever possible. Eventually Adam Phillips began to show half an interest in the game and such is his mastery of this football game given to us by Rugby that he began to ghost through holes and send our power runners in the form of Will Harris and Tom Aiken into gaps behind the stretched Hurst defences. Aiken and Phillips both went over in the first third, both which were converted, James Baldwin was causing problems to Hurst on his wing as his pace was hard to match but despite going close twice he couldn't quite manage to get over the white wash. Nick Buoy played excellently at fullback and showed his experience and still sizeable ability to go over twice in the second third with Tom Hayward starting to also show promise in attack. In the final third, Timmy Walford, a most impressive scrummager and bone crunching tackler, skipped in with the finesse of a Gazelle/HGV hybrid, whilst Ben Maidment showed a new found gear to run in and over a few helpless defenders to put the result beyond all doubt despite a late try by Hurst.
Final Score 36 - 7
Brightonians retain the Padwin Cup.
I'm pretty sure scrum half Adam Davies also scored, and if he didn't he deserved to, he was quite spellbinding to watch. Here there and everywhere, making tackles on men twice his size, he gave Mr Phillips and eventually Tom Aiken when he switched from twelve to ten excellent service all day and his blistering breaks around the break down and set piece set up excellent momentum for our large back row to carry the ball over the gain line every time. Mr Davies was aided by total and utter forward dominance, quite embarrassingly at some points. Hurst surely won less than 25% of their own scrums and probably the same in the lineout's. Alex Rodgers, Alex Yeo and Timmy Walford showed they are not only all bulls to look at, but beautifully gifted animals at work, once yoked and made to plough the way they are unstoppable. They were aptly supported by Alex Keighley and Sam Susman, who both handed out some serious punishment themselves in loose play and the scrum. Myself and Alex Shaw offered plenty of physicality in the carry and at set piece in the second row, whilst Strudwick, Maidment, Bruce and Canneaux always looked several levels above their opponents in the back row specialists department.
To be fair, had we taken this game seriously and not been playing out a re-enactment of the Battle of Ypres in terms of the condition of the pitch we probably would have racked up close to a century over Hurst. Yet that's what makes this fixture so great, a chance to play with other Old Brightonians who are all very capable rugby players and simply enjoy the moment. As long as we win, someone puts in a few hits, watch a bit of the Adam Phillips / Tom Aiken show and totally out muscle our opponents upfront, we're happy to get on with the important job of winning boat races (2nd year in a row, cheers Hurst), and enjoy the reunion.
Now for a few thank yous, firstly to Tim Loadsman, once again showing up for duty, once again running touch, he's much like the late Peter Rumney Esq. A model Old Brightonian and true gentleman. Thanks also to the Aikens for helping with the logistics and administration, they are utterly dependable and so important for the continuation of this club we all hold so dear. Finally a big thank you to Hove RFC for their generosity yet again in lending us their super facilities, without them it would be very hard to continue this fixture and I know Old Johnonians are as equally grateful as we are.
Catch up with you all soon...