Queens’ vs John’s
RUGBY: Redboys scrape through on a windy day at Queens’.
Queens’ 9 – 10 John’s
With a strong breeze blowing down the length of the pitch, it was clear that this match was always going to be as much about clever rugby as about brute force.
Following a crushing defeat at the hands of Downing the week before, the Queens’ boys seemed keen to reassert themselves as a top division team. John’s meanwhile, having lost a significant number of players since last year, looked distinctly smaller than their former Cuppers-smashing selves, and according to one spectator, resembled “some sort of Where’s Wally convention”.
John’s started with the wind on their backs, and consequently the majority of the early play took place in the Queens’ half. It quickly became clear that the difficult conditions would give each side 40 minutes to impose themselves on the score line as the wind blew in their favour. The match was typified by unpredictable line-outs, bodged clearance kicks and the occasional handling error, most of which were picked up by the female ref, despite the attempts of chiselled Queens’ man Calum Roberts to flirt his way out of infractions.
Despite their advantage, for a long time John’s struggled to get anything past the solid Queens’ defence, with Steve Conacher and Richard Lismore-John putting in important tackles at crucial moments. The first real action came when a misjudged Queen’s kick gave the Redboys a lineout perilously close to the try line. The well-drilled forwards executed a stock manoeuvre and charged home, only to be held up under the posts. During this piece of play, John’s boy Will Crinnion dislocated his shoulder and had to retire for the rest of the game. A few minutes later the Redboys’ pressure paid off and yellow-booted Jamie Crawford broke through to put 5 points on the board, quickly followed by 2 more thanks to Jamie Cliffe’s conversion.
With 5 minutes left of the half, Queens’ pushed towards the John’s line and were rewarded with a penalty 25m from the posts. Despite the strong headwind, Mike Griffith slotted it away for 3 points. At the break, it looked as though Queens’ had successfully staved off John’s for the first 40 and were now in a position to reel in the points. After the restart, the style of the game did change, but John’s were able to retain a significant proportion of possession, stopping Queens’ from clawing back any quick points.
A series of fast turnovers and clearance kicks kept the crowd trotting up and down the touchline, but eventually John’s were punished for not rolling away, giving the boys in green another penalty. With the wind gusting behind him, Griffith once again tapped it over, bringing the score to John’s 7, Queens’ 6.
This clearly spurred Queens’ on, and shortly afterwards they made two breaks through the red line, only to be halted by unfortunate handling errors under pressure. With 10 minutes to go, John’s were once again pulled up for indiscipline, and Griffith took another 3 for Queens’, taking them into the lead.
Faced with the very real prospect of defeat, the Redboys surged back into the game, spending the next 5 minutes looking for holes in the Queens’ defence. With 3 minutes to go, a penalty was awarded to John’s in front of the posts and TPJ took them back into the lead with a straightforward kick. After the restart, John’s quickly regained possession and ran the clock down, leaving the final score at John’s 10, Queens’ 9.
John’s will undoubtedly have been shaken by a close encounter, and with a scoreline so heavily dependant on conditions, the return fixture next term really could be anybody’s game.
Photographs by Rose Harvey