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Apr. 16th, 2005

I have an early appointment with my bed tonight -- yes, my bed, not a hospital bed or some cold steel bed in the morgue -- but I will take a moment to blog about today's game. The word "blog," spoken out loud, somewhat conveys how we felt after each of today's games. Matter of fact, I'm sure I heard one of the guys use this word in what sounded like a dry heave.

In every figurative and literal sense of the phrase, we got our asses kicked. We actually got within 5 points towards the end of our B-side game before they scored another try to win by 10, but the game wasn't as close as the score. The only time the score was that close in the A-side game was when Boston scored their first try within the first few minutes.

I thought I played well in the first 10 minutes or so. Yeah, I got schooled on my first scrum, but I made a few tackles, played my lanes well, got in on a couple of rucks. I even carried the ball when we were close to their endzone. Alas, when I was tackled, I had a sea of black shirts over me. When one gets tackled, one has to release the ball, but one's teammates ruck over the player to make sure the opposing team doesn't get the ball. I held the ball an extra couple of seconds, but no dice. The old-timers were over me, and I had no choice but to release the ball which I knew they'd recover.

As the game wore on, I got fatigued, and runners were breaking through my arm tackles or juking me. I made an observation while watching Boston's A side play Washington's A side in a Super League (the closest thing to professional rugby in the U.S.) matchup: the guys who are in the best shape, the speedy little backs, spend most of the game standing around and watching except for a few bursts when the ball works its way back to them; but us fat asses, the forwards, we're constantly running around and making tackles and driving into people, and when we're not we're lifting people into the air on line-outs or we're (literally) risking our necks and backs contesting scrums. It's a very physically taxing game! (And briganski is shocked to see me go to bed this early!)

The guys we played are the Old Boys for Boston. They've got probably 20+ years of experience. These are former Division I and Super League players who just happen to be over 40. They may not be as strong or as fast as they once were, but they certainly know what they're doing and have skills. By the end of the first half, I was getting the hang of scrumming against their prop. He totally owned me on technique, but I had him on size and maybe strength, so he was only moderately kicking my ass. But they changed props at the half and put in a fresh body that is probably 20-30 pounds heavier than me. I was no match. To complicate that, we changed locks in the second half, and the lock behind me wasn't getting tight on my ass. So, I was being driven back by the opposing prop with no counter-drive from my lock. And, as if that weren't enough, on several scrums, the ref didn't wait for us to get properly set, so I was at a further disadvantage on the signal to engage.

I did not have to start in the A-side game, which was the best news of the day. Fergo, bum ankle and all, gutted it out. I wouldn't have lasted very long. Few of our guys did. Our opponents were tough mothers! They may have been Boston's B side, but they are better than any A side we will face this year. And they were extremely physical and aggressive. Within the first couple of minutes, one of our starting backs had to go out with blood pouring down his face from a gash on the bridge of his nose.

The A-side game was a war of attrition. Guys were dropping like flies, and B-side players kept having to fill in. At one point, I was standing on the sideline when one of our "alums" who had only recently showed up at the game wondered out loud, "Where's the B side?" I turned around to face him and said, "I am the B side!"

With about 7 minutes left in the game, after Boston had scored another try and I was bringing water to the players, Dozer asked me, "Derek, how do you feel about jumping in on a little A-side action?" I didn't want to go in, but I answered the only way I felt was appropriate: "If you need me to, I can come in for you." Justin, our captain, said to Dozer, "It's already too dangerous out there. If you can, I need you to gut it out for a few more minutes." He was trying to protect me and didn't want to throw inexperienced me out there against one of top teams if he didn't have to.

A couple of minutes later I heard Justin shout my name from the middle of the field. "What, do you need water?" "No, we need your body!" Oh shit, I guess I was going to see some A-side action! That's when I noticed Dozer was down along the far sideline grabbing his knee. I made sure I had my mouthpiece and grabbed my scrumcap. In my hurry to get in there, I forgot to grab Dozer's jersey and put it on. Fortunately, I was wearing a green shirt, so nobody said anything. (Our team colors are green and orange.)

I was only involved in one A-side scrum, but they decided to make it an uncontested scrum because of the new guy (me). However, two of my best plays of the day came in my few minutes of A-side game. One, I delivered a pretty good shot on a ruck, helping us maintain possession of the ball. Two -- and this is really a very minor thing, but I hadn't executed it well in practice, so I was glad I was able to in the game: A maul had formed and our guys were driving. I came in from behind and hit the maul as I'm supposed to. I got the ball out from the ball carrier in the maul and smoothly transitioned it to my right hip while continuing to drive forward. Keith was able to get the ball cleanly from me to pass it to the backs. In practice I had always either had difficulty getting the ball out of the maul, fumbled it trying to get it out on my hip, or placed it too high. I did it textbook this time and was very pleased by that, even if it was a minor thing in the overall scope of things.

And now we are a very beat up rugby team much in need of rest and healing. Most of us were lucky in that we're only physically exhausted, bruised, scraped, and very sore. But we did suffer one broken finger -- he said he heard it snapping as he tried to make the tackle -- one gash that will probably require stitches, and a couple of twisted knees.

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