Our young and chisel chinned fly-half Steven Reece, as all bloody fly-halfs on the planet, was in his playing kit from the day before, which for most of us had been a rugged and desperate twelve hours of intense physical contact involving both humans and Mother Earth. He on the other hand was, apart from a few sprinkles of mud splashed up the rear of his shorts, from where he had evaded any need to tackle the day before, as pristine as if he had come straight from the laundry…..tosser.
Anyway, Steven, in all his Percil splendour, stood centre field with the referee and used his heel to create the traditional muddy kicking tee on the spot, long before any of those plastic aids appeared. He then looked about himself as some ancient Greek General might have done surveying the lay of the land before the battle of Heydudeopolous, nodded to the ref as if they were old mates and bent down to place the ball on the mound. Then in a display of almost unparalleled Omen-like zeal, Stephen proceeded to vomit massively over the ball. He didn’t flinch or move or redirect the flow, nor too did his involuntary reflex decide to retain any of the semi-solids or liquids he had consumed until the entire contents of the Old China Hand breakfast with whiskey chaser, had been deposited in all its glory onto the still erect hallowed elliptical ball.
Reece was mortified and out of breath from his exertions. But in a truly repentant and begging manner turned to referee and sputtered…. ”Oh my God, I am so sorry, really so sorry sir”
To which the referee looked down his aquiline nose, and with a slight smirk and in the manner of Colour Sergeant Major Bourne in Zulu, boomed;
“Never mind Son, never you mind …..you’re not receiving!!”
The National Team took the field and we inspected each one to see which was our opposite number or at least distinguish forwards from backs and that would have been a difficult task even for a qualified anthropologist.
Even including the subs standing on the side lines, they were all, to a man, about 5’7” tall, hugely muscled in the shoulder, bulging thighs and with those characteristic Mongol expressionless faces with their eyes like slits against either blazing sun or blinding snow and they walked with a threatening gait and hands opening and closing like carpenter’s workbench vices.
Well someone kicked-off and that’s about it in terms of rugby, because it was like a bar fight from the moment the whistle’s pea stopped spinning until half time. What became apparent was that we had wildly underestimated the local team’s store of testosterone and chauvinistic intent as to which of their XV on the pitch was the Alpha male, bugger, they were all vying for the title.
In the scrums and mauls and rucks and lineouts those grasping powerful hands were a menace to deal with, but ball we did win and quickly spun it out to our backs where we figured our long legged giraffes would outpace those genetically modified turkeys on the wide outside.
Again our homework was sadly prepared because they evidently had no intention of chasing the ball all day on the wide outside…they would bring the ball to them by a ruthless scheme of systematic elimination. Even elementary investigation by our Committee would have uncovered that THE Mongol National sport was ….wrestling.
Not that wrestling crap on TV, but wrestling with a capital ‘W’. When each of our backs passed the ball, Ghenghis didn’t watch its flight even with his peripheral vision, he simply grabbed the last passing player, bear hugged the air out of him and then in a death-throw clinch he would arch his back and pile drive our player’s head into the unforgiving plastic carpet. Well thank heck I was a slow moving forward was all I could muster, as yet another three or four of our backs lay, well, on their backs, with the odd one still embedded in the shagpile. This went on for the requisite 40 minutes and then the whistle blew for half time.
The Referee always has the last word
Referees come in all shapes, speeds, sizes and varying degrees of capability ranging generally from ‘bloody good chap’ to ‘where did we get this bloke from’. We didn’t have any of them…we had a certain Mr Grant Signal.
If it is possible to maintain control over thirty steaming, wily, guileful, devious old rugger players whilst gasping, farting and stumbling about in the tropical sunshine with just enough breath to belch through a whistle then that was the man we could maybe put up with...nope ...we had Grant Signal. …our Champion Referee and bloody proud we are of him!..
And so to the Kick Off. What followed was a 35-minute revisit to Agincourt, Cressy, Malpalquet and some other forgotten hand to hand bloodbaths during our conquests of Canadian and other Froggy lands. Suffice to say that within five minutes of the ball in play the Frogs were down to twelve and a man in the showers for biting. Another joined his soapy mate not ten minutes later for eye gouging.
Hope stirred in our loins as we considered that we could, with Grant’s mad happy whistle, beat these bloody Gauls if we could get their team down to say, six. It has to be said that the renowned ignorance for the Laws of the game or fair play-on rules utilised by Grant was getting the better of Froggy patience and, as the world knows all too well, that is a fragile thing at the best of times.
Thus came the straw that broke the proverbial Foreign Legion’s camel’s back – at the next line-out the Breton had leapt in the air and viciously elbowed our jumper in the face who crumpled in a spurting fountain of claret and the long, shrill Signal whistle was heard loud and clear like an air raid siren.
As Grant was gasping, gagging for breath and formulating the right French words, to our horror, their hooker knelt down behind Grant’s erect frame and as the red card was brandished for the umpteenth time and the words “Off with you!” were uttered, the big bloke with the offending elbow pushed Grant in the chest and in a super slow-motion fall he landed flat on his back in the mud.
Without breaking hypothetical verbal stride, Grant, still in the rigid red card brandishing mode, lowered his right armto near his starboard buttock and in the still kneeling Frenchman’s leering face said: “You’re off too…. you Froggy bastard!” The game was then abandoned.
From the Glossary of Terms:
‘Taking it up the blind-side’
A ruse used by highly talented forwards and a compliant half-back, to take the ball as far away from one’s own Backs as possible and at the same time confusing the opposition by running stupidly close to the touchline. Normally results in a Line-out. Not to be muddled with chasing the chocolate star-fish!
Device for getting the ball back in play. Creators obviously never had to lift those fat bastard Locks themselves. Diabolical number of Laws surrounding this set piece.
A bet on a nag.
A ball hoofed up in the air with little regard for its destination or purpose. Backs use this to escape being tackled.
A drop kick
A useless individual.
The Drop Kick
The almost impossible human trick of dropping an oval ball on its end in muddy or stony ground and co-ordinating a running kicking motion at the same time. The purpose is to score three points in open play. Only attempted by selfish, glory seeking fly halves…oh and Zinzan Brooke. (He’s a Fat Boy and therefore excused.)
Bangkok’s best English-language newspaper.
The things that Zinzan was aiming at. Also used by forwards to re-orientate after a particularly long scrum or a hoof to the head.
No known adjectives can succinctly cover the use, purpose and promotion of these individuals.
The miraculous simple sea-squirt fabric used with water from The Bucket on tuckered-out Fat Boys.
The Final whistle
Sadly the end of the game but the joyful signal that 90% of the reason for playing rugby has just started.