It is very clear that what makes the Occy’s so special is the friendship shared. That camaraderie comes from two places, a love of rugby and a passion to represent Wasps FC. We all know that rugby players and supporters are a breed a part with passion for what can only be described as a brutal game but with the manners to help up your opponent up after smashing them to the ground. The rivalry with certain opponents is fiercer still and Ealing Trailfinders, by nature of being one of our closest neighbours, is also one of our greatest encounters. Four years of battling and we have yet to beat them, except for last Friday night! Fair to say we have a decent bunch of regulars to choose from and selection is always going to be contentious, between fielding everyone in the squad and the desire to win an important game, it is a fine balance of diplomacy and tough decisions. I’m not sure even Eddie Jones gets it right week after week. One thing the ‘management’ have agreed is that every person selected for a game would play at least a half. We also have the fortunate position of a number of Wasps Legends, that have not hung up their boots yet and wanting to still wear the Wasp jersey.
So Friday night we arrived at ‘Southfork’ the home of Ealing vets and with much excitement stated to warm up on the floodlit all weather pitch, conditions for a November evening could not have been better with not a breath of wind, Fitzy made his stirring captains statement ‘Erm, This is our game gents, play to our strengths, move the ball around the backs and lets take it to them’. Like a true Liver boy he believed in his team and backed them all the way.
I’m not sure the team understood his accent as for the first 25 minutes, instead of silky back play the men in White and Gold flocked around the ball. A comment was overheard on the sidelines that the U9’s have better self organisation, however there was a collective lightbulb moment and the men started to play some simple but effective rugby, forwards take it in one or two phases then swing the ball out wide. Once the backs started getting a bit of clean ball the tries started coming. It was close though, Ealing had a number of useful forwards, one of which must have been wearing custom made shorts. However our forwards were tenacious and kept getting the ball back in the loose play. Our scrums were well fought but Ealing were clearly dominant in the line out. However apart from their right wing, their backs lacked speed, depth or agility. And Callixte had their wingers number, quite literally, I think they shared contact details as they were were that close in every race to the ball. I’ll be honest it was hard to keep track of the score as tries were being scored one end to the other and with no conversions going over the margin was never more than five points.
Half time saw a personnel change and the Legends came on to provide fresh legs to a hard working pack. The changes were seamless as we continued to creep ahead and it was quite clear Ealing were getting worried, their perfect record against us was in jeopardy. The Ealing supporters were tetchy at some of the decisions, even questioning the referee, who happened to be on an exchange from Sri Lanka, and was obviously feeling the cold as he physically couldn’t blow the whistle at times!
There were some spectacular passages of play, Callixte try saving tackle in the first ten minutes, Shrek and Brittons hack and chase, so quick, even they were surprised! The sheer hard work and grunt by our back row comprising of Tony, Dan, Bully snr, Dazzler, Fireman Sam and Balls out Antoine was awesome, especially considering Bully snr had to be collected by Bully Jnr after going to the wrong venue! With a special mix of youth and experience in the front five, they may not have won all the set pieces, but boy did they disrupt everything else with huge shifts from Paul S, Paul M, John ‘Occylee’, Sean and Nick (Beardy Man 1).
As my favourite saying goes ‘the forwards win the game but it was the backs that decide by how much!’ With Seb providing an ever reliable service at 9, Devo, Daws and BJ showed Ealing what a running game should look like. With speed merchants Callixte, Dylan, Murph and Bish it was only a matter of time we started drawing their players wide and providing plenty of gaps for the ball to be carried through. With the addition of Matt, (apparently taught Cips everything he knows), and Peter B (Beardy Man 2) it was quite clear this was the Occy's night! With only two yellow cards given, one to a man who should known better, the game was played in great spirits. Ealing were wonderful hosts and it was a magnificent win!
Lachlan 'Jok' Dunbar
Tries; Dan Evans (2), Matt Wardle, John Oclee, Andrew Bull, and James Dawson.
Updated 12:59 - 4 Dec 2018 by Kate Hallett
Conversion; Matt Wardle