Panama (spwebdesign) wrote,

I'll skip straight to the big news, so that those of you who are bored by rugby details don't miss it:

I was named the B-Side's
"Man of the Match"!!!


I got up early for the nearly 3-hour drive down to Norwalk. I wanted to leave at 8:30, but I was supposed to give a teammate a ride. My calls to him were going straight to voicemail and he wasn't calling me, so at 9:15 I decided I could wait no longer. I wanted to get down to the pitch in time to catch a good chunk of the women's game that preceded our own, so I hauled ass on the freeways, averaging 80 to 85 m.p.h. I would have been fine if only the directions I had had been a little better. I spent about 45 minutes only 10 minutes away from the pitch because the directions were missing a vital step and so I kept driving around in circles. I had to stop three times to ask for directions, too, because the locals kept getting me closer and then putting me on the wrong path. I finally arrived at the pitch, just as the men's team was starting to warm up and the women's game was coming to a close.

The A-side game was a hard fought affair. We took an early 9-0 lead on 3 penalty kicks. By halftime it was a 12-12 tie, as we scored another kick and they scored 2 tries, one of which was converted. The more experienced team took over in the second half though and beat us 24-12. I came close to having to sub in towards the end of the A-side game. Fergal, who normally plays my position went down, but he was playing lock today instead of prop, so Dan went in for him.

Because we only had 5 B-siders make the trip, one of which was a 46-year-old who had just started practicing this week, the powers-that-be decided to play only one 25-minute B-side half. The A-siders were too beat up to play more than that.

I made the most of my limited playing time. I had decided that week that I wanted to hit somebody, and so a few people suffered the consequences!

On one particular play, Connecticut was about to score and I was the last defender along the sideline. I knew that I had to tackle the ball carrier and drive him out of bounds. If I could knock him past the touch line out of bounds, our team would be awarded a throw in. So I crouched and then exploded into him. I heard a few sympathetic grunts as I nailed him in the midsection. But then I also heard several cheers, so I knew something had gone wrong. The player I hit made a phenomenal play: As I dove into him, he was able to pitch the ball back to a teammate, who went into the end zone untouched for the try.

On another play, one of Connecticut's big men was rumbling towards our goal line, dragging two of our defenders. I couldn't let this guy score a try on us like that. So, I ran up to them, grabbed him by the midsection, and swung him around my body, slamming him into the ground.

Keith, the A-side starter at loose-head prop, had told me in practice that if I ever saw an opponent's ribs exposed in a ruck or maul, to drive hard into them. Towards the end of the game, a maul had formed. One of the Yankees found himself on our side of the maul, battling to prevent our drive but with his ribs completely exposed to me. I saw this and remembered what Keith told me. So, I took a 3-step running start, lowered my shoulders, and ... BOOM! I know he didn't appreciate the hit -- he was quite vocal about that. But he got his payback a few moments later. We got the ball out of the maul, but our guy was tackled behind where I was standing. I can't make a play in support of him if I'm offsides, so I ran back towards him to get back onsides. As I neared my teammate, I felt a huge mass slamming into my back, catching me completely unawares. I was close enough to my tackled teammate that one could justify the backside hit as a ruck to clear me away from the ball...even though I couldn't legally make a play on the ball since I was still offsides. It was borderline, but it didn't hurt and it gave the big oaf the satisfaction of paying me back for my hit, so I shrugged it off. Seconds later the final whistle blew.

I was also involved in several rucks and a couple of mauls. I was aware of what was going on on the field at all times, now that I understand the game. I was doing a good job of not getting sucked into defensive rucks unnecessarily, of maintaining a solid line of defense, of shifting the backs to the outside of me when the ball was inside, of lifting on line-outs, and of getting a good initial pop on scrums. The B-side lost 17-0, but I think that was more indicative of the fact that we played with several fatigued A-siders than of poor play.

During the drink-up after the game, I was pacing myself, only drinking two beers, because I knew I had to drive. Being named "Man of the Match" for the B side, besides coming as a total shock and surprise, screwed those plans up. I had to face Connecticut's B-side "Man of the Match" in a drink-off involving a shot of some unidentified dark liquor and a chugged pint of beer for a chaser. I couldn't very well decline, especially after one of my teammates shouted, "Don't let us down now, rookie!" The other, no doubt more experienced, drinker slammed down his pint glass just before me. And I had to find someone sober enough to drive my truck...not an easy proposition at a rugby party!

Fortunately, Keith's dad, who lives in Connecticut, was there and had only drunk one beer. We went back to his house afterwards, him driving my truck, where Keith and I showered before heading off to Mohegan Sun for another teammate's suprise 30th birthday party. I stayed there much too late flirting with a gorgeous woman (model-like looks, very provocative outfit), whom I "saved" from a drunken scumbag who was hitting on her. She warned us that she had a boyfriend and so the flirting would amount to nothing, but that she didn't mind the attention as long as we were clear on that. She, a few of the guys, and I had a fun, flirtatious time for a couple of hours before I finally started the two-hour drive home.

Phil, the birthday boy, hadn't been at the post-game drink-up and didn't know who took the A- and B-side honors. When he saw me at his party, though, he asked, as if he expected it, if I had taken B-side honors. I asked Keith and Justin what I had done to deserve being named "Man of the Match." Keith said I played hard and caught the captain's attention. He said that to be named "Man of the Match" after only my fourth game is quite an accomplishment. Justin, the team captain, simply said that I played well; there's room for improvement, but he is impressed by how quickly I've picked up the game. Another teammate, Dan, remarked that the guys appreciate and respect someone who's willing to stick his nose in there much more than someone who's got skills and is afraid of contact.

In Justin's post-game recap, he wrote the following:
Men of the Match:
Derek Henderson - B-side
Derek has only been playing for about a month now, and has shown excellent development and dedication to the club. His game on Saturday showcased his rapid development. We look forward to seeing more from him in the future.


It looks almost a certainty that I will start in Saturday's A-side game. We're going down to the Philadelphia area to play the Media RFC, who is a top Division I team. I think they've lost 1 or 2 games in the past 2 or 3 years. This will be a huge test for me, even bigger than playing against Boston. Boston may be a better squad, since they're Super League, but against Boston I played their Old Boys/C side. Their C side is good, but they are still the Old Boys. Saturday I will be facing the A side in a full forty-minutes-per-half game. I'm going to have to work hard in practice and really work on my scrumming technique, because the guy I will prop against will be good and will probably be trying to bring me down to collapse the scrums. And right now I know of only 15 players making the match, so we don't even have enough for substitutes right now. However, I feel like I'm as ready as I'll be, and I will give it my all.
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