Match day once again saw a flurry of late withdrawals. The Stegosaurus must have been worried he would have less people on his side than Julie Bishop at the Paris Climate Conference, but last minute help was at hand. The ever-reliable Archangel Gabby was present, as was international superstar, Rihanna. Having just that day been given the go ahead to ease myself back into sport, I turned up gingerly hoping for an easy introduction, while we also had Aaron (nickname pending) rounding out the side. Now unless you support Reclaim Australia, you can probably count to five and have realised that is not a full team, but that is all we had.
Still, sometimes when you are undermanned, you can still get lucky and Steve Bradbury (If Abbott wasn’t replaced as PM, I reckon the colloquial term for winning by default would have changed from doing a Bradbury to doing a Shorten) your way through against a weak or over-confident opposition so there was always a chance I thought.
Then the Stegosaurus pointed out we were playing against one of the best teams in the division with a percentage of 400% and my limited optimism was about par with Eeyore. But without anything else to do, we set out to give our best, and that we did.
Through excellent communication and desperate cover for each other we held a very effective defence for the early part of the game and kept the ball in our attacking half for a majority of the time. In order to cover any gaps, our players were crossing from side to side more often than that famous chicken people ask so many questions about. But by aggressively closing down space, we didn’t give our fast and agile opponents enough space to really exploit.
Despite my gloomy pre-match prediction, it was not a real surprise we actually took the lead, with a well worked attacking play which started on the left before swinging to the right late, finding Aaron with enough space to run around the wing and score. Unfortunately, this may have energised the DCs and our lead disappeared quicker than Tyson Fury’s world boxing title, with a more systematic set of attacking plays that saw a desperate Untouchables defence hold out on the right but leave itself woefully outnumbered on the left. Scores level once again.
By now, the Untouchables were starting to tire a bit (well I was) but we fought on stubbornly, regaining the lead with the Stegosaurus and I bursting through the DC line at half way and working our way over for a try (still can’t quite remember which of us put the ball down in the end) before our opponents could re-form an organised defence. I was breathing fire (not in a Smaug the Dragon way, it just felt like I actually had fire burning my lungs- enough of an experience to know I will never go near cigarettes anyway) by now, but even late in the half, on heavy legs, Rihanna sold a dummy that was snapped up quicker than her concert tickets, and ran through to extend the lead the 3-1!
Half time was a welcome break. While this is often a time to discuss tactics, today it was more a chance to just bask in a bit of self-congratulations for what had been an unbelievably good half and enjoy the fact that we didn’t have to run for a few minutes (maybe my teammates used the time more constructively, but that is all I did anyway). This was no Bradbury lead. Our opponents were good. They were fast and deliberate in their attempts to target weak points, but they were regularly foiled by a last minute desperate touch from an Untouchable defender. The three tries we had scored were all the on the back of quick work in the ruck pushing the defence back or breaking through it to bring us up towards the end zone.
The Untouchables started the second half with the ball and again worked deep into attack during the opening forays. We were held back for the first couple but reclaimed the ball at halfway and came again. And again. Finally a wrapping play gave the Stegosaurus room to run around on the right wing and make it 4-1.
The next time the Untouchables touched the ball it was 4-2, after the DCs blitzed from the opening, lining their three fastest players up together and bursting forward, finding a gap that we could never quite cover. We returned with equal fire. Archangel Gabby and Rihanna spearheaded the next breakthrough by the ruck, setting us up with the defence planted on the try line. When some of the defenders made less progress forward than the Abbott government for the next couple of plays, a penalty was called and the Stegosaurus was quick to play on and score before the defenders were onside. He brought up his hat-trick soon after when another quick series of passes near the line caught the defence offside again and allowed him to receive a short pass and dive over.
I was deep in the hurt locker by now. I hadn’t pushed my lungs this hard since originally hurting myself in July, so this was hardly the game I had envisaged when the physio suggested easing back in. I was pretty sure everyone else was hurting too, as we were incrementally losing drive and penetration forward, with little handling and decision making errors creeping into the game.
We continued to defend stoutly though, with the Archangel breaking up a lot of attacks on the left in particular. Our communication was critical, any breakdown here would be as disastrous as the breakdown in the Basslink connection. Even so, fatigue and numbers began to tell and the DCs looked like scoring every time they got the ball in the latter part of the half. They scored two more late tries and could have had one or two more if not for desperate defence. The final siren sounded and the exhausted Untouchables were almost too tired to be sure if they had won.
They had though, reclaiming a few valuable points in their march towards the finals (hopefully). I have to say a massive thanks and congratulations to everyone who played because it was one of the best team games of touch I have played in. Should also give credit to both referees, who despite being very young, did an outstanding job I thought. Assuming my body survives the Christmas break, I look forward to the next game in January.