The format today was to play 3 30-minute halves (which I know, yes, technically makes them thirds, but I'm going with convention here). I haven't been training, so I didn't think I could give more than 30 minutes anyway. I didn't think I'd get much playing time. Just before the game, though, the coach came up to me unsolicited and told me I'd get my 30.
Yeah, I got my 30…and then some. Five minutes into the second period, the starting tight-head prop was knocked out. Literally. Took a knee in the head from the opposing prop, and that was lights-out for him. I was the only other prop on the bench. "Derek, start warming up."
I was a panicky mess. I ran to grab my scrum cap. I ripped off my sweatshirt and warm-up pants. I ran onto the pitch and then realized that my mouthguard was still in my warm-up pants. I ran back to grab it. Then I was handed a jersey and couldn't make heads or tails of it for a few seconds. Finally, I put on my scrum cap, took it off, put it on, total of three times; I kept thinking I'd put it on backwards, but I had it right.
Right off the bat I lined up in a scrum as tight-head. I've never played tight-head. I practiced tight-head exactly once, late in the fall season. I had an idea of what I was supposed to do, but only a very vague idea. They are two completely different positions, with completely different techniques. As tight-head I have to bind with my left arm, my weaker and injured arm. The bind kept breaking and our scrum kept collapsing, all because of me. Finally, I convinced the loose-head to switch with me. Yes, he needs practice at loose-head because he'll be the starter for our playoff game in two weeks, but he at least has played a little tight-head.
What a difference! I know how to play loose-head, and I'm mostly healthy now. I got praise from my teammates today because of how well I played loose-head.
But fatigue soon became a factor. I can run laps and do crunches all I want, but that's not going to put me in rugby shape. It's easy to put one foot in front of the other for a few miles. When you play rugby, you also have to hit and lift in addition to all the running, a lot of which is sprinting. I would have been okay if I'd only played 30 minutes. 55 minutes took everything out of me. I could feel my quads giving out. If a ruck didn't happen directly in front of me, I could not will myself to it quickly enough to help. The two times I handled the ball I was able to find some wind to run, but I couldn't have run far. There was one play where I had perfect position and form to make the tackle, but no legs to drive with, and the opponent simply shoved me backwards and out of the play with his forearm. How embarrassing!
I didn't get hurt, though, and that's the important thing. I got faceplanted once in a collapsed scrum, but all that meant is that I may have a little turf burn on my right cheek and I spent the next five minutes picking synthetic gravel out of every facial orifice. I also had one opponent walk on my back when I was down on the ground after a tackle; so, I got a free adjustment and he got penalized. I'll be sore for a couple of days, but it's just fatigue. I can deal with that.