UCS Old Boys
Man of the match:
Our match away at UCS Old Boys took us by surprise from the moment we arrived. With many of our players struggling to find the ground, and UCS undertaking and early and extensive match warm up, we gave ourselves little time to prepare and get our minds right for the game. The pitch was the smallest pitch we had ever seen, with barely visible blue markings, and a less than ideal slope which made it all that harder to work with on a warm and sunny day.
We started the game uphill and with the sun behind us. Within the first 20 mins UCS had managed to break through our defence all too easily, twice, converting both their Tries.
Rather than wait, our manager Darren Ead quickly made essential substitutions. Winger Dan Johnston was subbed off for Andy Charman. Andy was placed at Inside Centre, Micheal Foley moved to Fullback and Nathan Thomas moved to the left wing. This strategic genius enabled us to play the ball in their half, and we immediately resumed to our aggressive attacking style, freeing up James Sykes and Carl Lavin to perform their brutal runs, reminding UCS just how hard we hit. We upped our kicking game and kept the ball in their half, with Alan Gray, Foley and Robin displaying their pin point kicking precision, which gave Winger Darren Coley more chances to run at their backline and defend from the front. As the UCS defence began to back off, Nathan Thomas scored a great first half Try, converted by Fly Half Robin Bye, to take us into the second half at 14-7 down.
Understandably disappointed with our performance, our Captain Kim Watson, and notable team leaders in Simon McGuinness and Darren Ead, all gave a half time team talk to remind us who we are and what we came here to do.
The second half saw more examples of strategic genius from Darren Ead. Further substitutions were made with Chris Butterworth coming on at Fly Half, who arguably changed the game and lifted the team to a whole new level.
From here it was Try after Try for the Grizzlies. UCS were treated to an exceptional lesson in true Grizzly Fighting Spirit. Our forwards went from hard hitting to ruthless aggression, creating space for James Sykes and Pat O’Brien, who both easily shrugged off the challenges on offer from a shaky UCS backline. It was from here on that every Grizzly gave 10% more despite already giving everything we possibly could to get us back in to the game.
Our captain Kim Watson and manager for the day Darren Ead had identified the high intensity and commitment on the field and helped the team maintain this momentum by making further crucial substitutions. Dan Johnston returned to field determined to put right a less than acceptable and short first half performance. Feeding off the Grizzly fighting spirit, Dan put in an effort matching the rest of the team, and topped it off with a Try thanks to a well-timed pass from Darren Coley. Another Try from James Sykes helped secure the win despite further Tries from UCS who began to take advantage of a Grizzly team who were running on empty. The Grizzlies maintained their commitment to win, with our captain Kim Watson ensuring we maintained our discipline and concentration in defence.
Despite missing key players such as Steven Sibley, and despite losing Pat O’Brien and Gareth Williams to injury during the second half, we managed to not only win the game but show the league that this year our team is more focused and determined to give everything until the final whistle.
It was Eric Thomas who said “When you want to succeed as bad as you want to breathe, then you’ll be successful” – and today, every single Grizzly fought til their very last breath.
MoM – Dan Johnston (winger) for his change in attitude after being subbed off for a poor performance
DoD – Chris Butterworth for missing a conversion right in front of the posts (costing him a 100% conversion rate for the game)
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