Lions roar away at Harrogate
By Dean Keenan
Lions away at Harrogate 08/09/2018 Come together – The Beatles (1969)
Welcome to the first (or maybe the last) of random reports following the various Billingham teams as they compete during the 2018-2019 season. Having stepped up from Colts last year the pressure is on to provide more rugby content but this I feel is a bar to high and I shall set my own target of trying to get the names and spilling accurate.
So the week shifted as fixtures came and went, having originally been expecting a 3rds home game to watch it moved into a potential 2nds game with then a glimpse of a 3rds encounter then to the 2nds being confirmed. All the signs were there as watching Pointless during the week, one of the head to head questions was which Yorkshire town was Agatha Christine found in after going missing? It remained unanswered and was quite a low score. I should have known at this point that the road led to Harrogate and just in case you read the books, spoiler alert the scrum half always does it.
So left I Billingham having dropped a player off to get the team bus and we travelled over to hit the town for food, this meant that I arrived at the club as the Lions wandered up to the far pitch for kick off. At this point the rain that had started on the A19 was still in effect and the first hat of the season was employed to protect the barnet. For some reason the rain seemed lighter on the other side of the pitch so I wandered around there half way through the first half. A good group of supporters were gathered together with the subs with the usual ex-colts crew if full voice.
I missed the actual kick off due to sharing an umbrella but enjoyed the first half which was very evenly matched. Both defenses’ looked to stifle chances as the Harrogate squad were good size units and early tackles were needed or momentum lead to good yards. Billingham employed runners around the ruck but headway was limited with Harrogate intercepting runners behind the gain line. Given the conditions handling was tricky for both sides with Harrogate stripping the wet balls out of hands in the tackle and knock on’s being spread amongst both sides. A Billingham early injury saw a nasty knee balloon up with two of the ex-colts faithful being pressed into carrying a player to the club house, which must count as weight training. A little thank you to the hard working physio staff at this point, who try and keep body and minds together as the season progresses. When Billingham did move the ball a chip tactic was employed but Harrogate swept up the ball and kicked accurately to clear the danger. It was, careful technical phrase approaching, quite a ding-dong.
As half time approached a penalty was given that enabled Harrogate to get good position within the 22. The line out was taken and Billingham opted not to contest so that any driving maul would be called as offside in front of the ball carrier. No call came and the Harrogate pack engineered the try which was followed by the conversion, followed instantaneously by the half time whistle.
I felt like a winger who was unlikely to see the ball but was there to soak up the rain as water trickled down my neck. This thought quickly passed as the team jelly babies were shared with random strangers on the line and very nice they were too. At this point we tried to get the twitter feed of the 1st team match to find it was a similar tight position, both teams needing to keep the graft up in the second half.
Into the second half with a few changes made Billingham get off to a good start as pressure from the kick off get good field advantage and Harrogate given a penalty just inside the 22. This is duly dispatched to give a 7 – 3 score line with the whole of the second half available. The to and fro continues with either team having chances to stretch their scoring but misdirected kicks, lack of support or knock-ons frustrate both teams. Billingham having asserted their dominance in the scrum loose an advantage as they go to uncontested. Then the forwards gather momentum with a break and well supported drive which sees quick ball moved, Harrogate scramble to cover but the ball is moved on again and a double off load sees Billingham in under the posts, for a converted try.
It’s still all in the balance as Harrogate unleash the wingers who look tasty but pull up injured after making the 22. Billingham look to shut up shop with the forwards taking it round the corner to drive it up the touchline. A few penalties against the 14 men of Harrogate mean that Billingham use up valuable time camped on the Harrogate line; however the try that would seal it is not to be. Harrogate get one more chance and drive up the middle, luckily the defense holds firm and from the scrum the ball is kicked dead. What a cracker, the effort across the park in the conditions from both teams was massive and the low score does highlight the chances that both teams had.
So the usual handshakes and tunnel are exchanged on the top pitch then the 2nd team jogs down to the 1st team pitch to see that they have pulled off a tight one as well. Both teams huddle as a squad which emphasizes the club set-up as the interchangeability/strength/depth of players/spirit is a shared value.
Lots of comment after the match, people have even flown in from the US of A to watch and many take the chance to dry out on the outside but lubricate the inside.
So no time this week to discuss, what no pen or paper, of all the toilets in the world I bump into you in this one, danger stand back from the touchline, bus home carnage, check the weather report, Well done all the hippo runners, better get a polo shirt, Are you going to write one or what?, who’s missing love island now, and jelly babies mmmmmmmmm.
Report by “An Innocent bystander”
“The strength of a team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.” Phil Jackson.