Rugby: Week 4
The finale. What had gone before counted for nothing. This is what mattered. The last week of Ipswich Rugby Club’s Touch Rugby Tournament. Our firm’s name was practically engraved on that silverware. Team Gotelee’s journey towards honour, kudos and glory. All you could hear was your own heartbeat ringing in your ears, dimming the sound of the cheering fans. Adrenaline flowed like champagne at a wedding breakfast. It was our time to shine.
The rain beating against the office window jolted me out of my daydream. The last day of the tournament, and after three successive weeks of sunlit rugby, the weather gods were clearly unhappy about something. An omen? Pah.
Wheezer limped past me in the corridor and ran through the team list. The usual suspects. And suspects in the sense of the sort of motely crew you might see in a police line up: Wheezer, Thumper, Whippet, I SO Scored, Squealer, Disoranno, For The Love Of Greggs and our newest recruit, Call Me Fletch. There were big question marks over a couple of our usual ringers, so I needed to check the injury list. Thumper had strained her neck (presumably a recoil injury from a volley of expletives at FTLOG during the week) and Wheezer was walking with a limp like an old skool pimp. Not good. On the positive side, Call Me Fletch had assured us that his mate (who used to play for Toulouse) might be able to add some technical ability. And a certain Lewis Ludlam, the England U21 prodigy might also be putting in an appearance. No need to cancel the engraver just yet.
The skies were grey at the ground, but no rain was falling. The team arrived in dribs and drabs. Lets hope their play was more cohesive than their entrance. The good news was that we had a bye for the first game. This allowed for a modest warm up and for Call Me Fletch to change into his Gotelee strip. And so strip he did, and to be fair, I’ve never seen anyone’s jaw hit the deck as fast as Squealer’s did. She was rendered speechless, and had to go for a cool down, never mind a warm up.
Call Me Fletch suggested that rather than the team warming up their vocal chords, it might be wise to warm up the muscles. After some stretches, the team were passing the ball and jogging up and down the touchline. There was a sense of understanding of what to do. Call Me Fletch ran through some tactics and then we took to the pitch, to play against our opponents, Ashton KFC. And what a close game it was. 3-2, but sadly in Kentucky Fried Chicken’s favour. Whippet scored one try, as did Call Me Fletch. Call Me Fletch’s influence on the team from the week before was really starting to show. The team’s performance was much improved – dare I say it – they looked like they knew what they were doing. And with KFC having a couple of players with huge turn of speed, a loss by one try was nothing to be ashamed of. So there were some big positives to take from that.
Usually the final whistle of the first game is also a signal for the stretcher bearers to come and retrieve half of the team from the pitch. Whilst Wheezer did seem to be now dragging his left leg behind him, he was also reassuring the others that the 1200mg of Ibuprofen that he’d necked before the game meant that he actually couldn’t feel a thing. The team were subbing regularly, so everyone was involved. There was a genuine air of enjoyment, encouragement and a faint whiff of optimism, despite not having won a single game in the whole tournament.
Game 2. Maybe a draw? Unusually, we played our first team that consisted of rank amateurs, like ourselves. The team really gelled, and there were some impressive passages of play. Steaming into contact if the options were limited, but with some excellent communication. By keeping the ball alive with some deft passing, in what were now grotty damp conditions, the team started to stretch their opponent’s defences and with gaps appearing, the Whippet cut lose and ran in two tries, and Call Me Fletch another. We defended very, very well, and conceded just the one try. Our first win! It’s safe to say that the players were excited. They were practically hugging on the pitch. I’m not sure whether our Equality Policy deals with that scenario. The banter between games was quick fire and quick witted. Despite the persistent drizzle, everyone was having a good time. So was David Dodds (a good friend of the firm and joint MD of Sackers), who was one of the referees, and drinking a pint of Aspalls finest while he did so, without spilling a drop. That’s no mean feat.
Game 3. Tougher opposition and back to facing a team who had regular rugby types in it, but once again, our defence remained tighter than a gnat’s chuff and we lost by a very slender margin. But some impressive performances. I SO Scored made some impressive runs and gained good territory. Thumper was pacey and found spaces and showed intelligence in her passing game, making some cracking offloads before the tackle. Squealer was fearless in her tackling, at one point taking on a very fast moving unit of an opponent, and proverbially taking him out. Highlight of this game was Call Me Fletch diving for a try, only to realise he was 5 metres short of the actual try line. He should have gone to SpecSavers. Despite the loss, the team remained buoyant and undeterred.
In an effort to score brownie points, Wheezer was seen hobbling onto the pitch to feed the referee of our next game more beer, before we started play. Lawyers who think laterally…
Game 4. A rampage. And for once, not by our opponents. Whippet bagged two tries and Disoranno touched down twice (with a bit of assistance from Call Me Fletch). And Wheezer (who slightly soiled himself when he unexpectedly found himself in space) had to run 25 metres down the touchline, only to be run down by a seven year old and tagged as he fell over the line to score his one and only try, which was obviously then disallowed. In fairness, the stream of expletives that followed was both imaginative and impressive. Highlight of this game – For The Love Of Greggs fly-hacking the ball down the pitch (kicking is not allowed in touch rugby), punting it again and then falling and collapsing on the ball after it had gone over the dead-ball line, only to have to jog back whilst both teams laughed at his misfortune. But Gotelee played incredibly well. In the previous 3 weeks, a number of the team had been asking to be subbed – to get themselves off the pitch. This week, it was quite the opposite. There were players who were baying to get on the pitch. And a fitting way to finish their tournament, on top of a thumping win.
Having finished their games with 30 minutes to spare, there was plenty of time for post match bevvies. And this is where the team have always excelled. It’s a pleasure to see good camaraderie amongst work colleagues and new friends of Gotelee alike. Banter. Laughter. Beer. And how the beer loosens the tongue. Most of the banter can’t be repeated here, because it can’t get through the profanity filters on our system. In any event, what goes on tour, stays on tour. But the laughter came so thick and fast that a number of the team were reporting it being a very effective abs workout. The highlight was probably FTLOG waxing lyrical about his best pork experience – his first spit-roasted pig. Closely followed by Wheezer being re-badged as “Spiderman” right at the death of the tournament and talking about his patent pending invention/aid made entirely of straws and gaffa tape, and Thumper listening to the ipod in David Dodd’s pocket from approximately groin height.
The revelry was interrupted briefly by the awards ceremony. Where did Gotelee come? Well we did win a prize – “The Strongest Team”.
The players were delighted. Until they found out later that this was the Wooden Spoon – “strongest” denoting that they were supporting all of the other teams above them, because we were bottom of the table.
A great event, well organised by Ipswich Rugby Football Club. Thank you to them for hosting the event and being so welcoming. The team are looking forward to the next year’s tournament already. Call Me Fletch has been signed for his next season… And Fletch – Team Gotelee thoroughly enjoyed your company, your good humour and encouragement and look forward to yours and their paths crossing for a beer.
And so after an enjoyable and good humoured evening, the last I saw was the players walking into the gloom to go home. The parting shot was hearing Thumper say in a very loud voice “Why are my feet all wet?”. Well she had had two pints.