Carlisle 19 Colts 31
Billingham Colts 2017-18 10/03/2018 Away at Carlisle
Report by Mr Munns
Last train to Clarksville – The Monkeys 1966
So it’s March and despite last week it is officially spring meaning that another season draws to the business end with league points in the balance and potential cup runs to be extended. Having a run of fixtures unfulfilled hopefully there is still time for some interesting encounters following coming up short at Morpeth last time out. This report has a bit of the final show about it and will feature various snippets collated from far and wide. It was with a tear in my eye that I pondered potentially the last bus trip not only of the season but of the years following the various age groups around the district and beyond. It is time to take stock as the road has been less than straight forward but it if it was easy then everyone would be doing it, so those who remain I doft my many hats to you, it’s been a blast. But before we get too hung up on melodrama off we go.
So as usual the meet at the club was on time with a fabulous bunch of supporters getting comfortable on the bus including the non-resident supporter who had been left “in charge” by his wife. The usual informed banter took place including tour outfits, France V England, how many players do we actually have today and is Alfie the new Radders? Having lost players to work, AWOL, injury and the first team the squad theory would be put to the test. Shauny was also elsewhere so Jeff took the helm plus Dave (shaved legs) was brought into action. The back of the bus was similarly a hive of activity as the tunes were back on with a wide range of genres ranging from ghetto bangerz (as the yoof call them) to John Denver. Weather was a bit wet and grey with remnants of snow in the back ground.
Drizzle in Carlisle so as warm up was undertaken by players the plush surrounding of the bar were tested by supporters while listening to Manchester Utd supporters watch the match, in Carlisle???? So wandered out prior to kick off to survey the pitch, which was the main one so the stand beckoned , question, do you sit in a stand, stand in the stand or stand outside the stand, answers on a postcard please. Billingham emerged, 17 squad members with rotating subs to stand in the rain waiting for Carlisle who were used to the weather as they stayed in for a while longer. The stand filled with a goodly crowd supplemented by the Billingham faithful as Feathers attempted to kick start his documentary career, not really Spielberg yet is it? As the rain fell on the stand roof with a gentle pitter (pitta?) and patter, the ref in black with florescent trim looked to get the game away. Billingham play from the club house end, from right to left as look out towards the back of the football stand.
Carlisle get the game underway and for the first 15 minutes at least are camped inside the Billingham half as Billingham defence holds up under pressure from relentless phases. Clearing kicks don’t get far as quite a breeze holds them up allowing Carlisle to build on a platform. A couple of missed tackles cause concern but by and large the defence holds firm but will the early effort with a small squad count later on. So against the run of play Billingham look to play it out down one wing with Coops making a nice break, the support makes the ball available early with Sam on to Luke along the line. Jo then steps in, jinks his way around one then just out runs the others for the first try. Converted by Luke for 0 – 7. Rain stops, I head down to the touch line from the stand, to stand.
Carlisle kick off, which Ben H collects and drives in, Billingham now look a better proposition moving the ball well however the play is still within their own half. Due to the swirly wind and wet ground gathering the ball cleanly seem to be a bit tricky for Billingham and Carlisle employ this kicking tactic well. Scums ebbed and flowed as well as line outs so as usual the ruck area was the battle ground. Carlisle put in several attacks with disruption from Harry L stemming the flow, but being unable to clear the lines pressure builds. And just when you thought Billingham had weathered the storm a Carlisle runner broke through the middle to go under the posts. Converted into the car park, it warmed the home support up for a 7 – 7.
Billingham line up changed for the kick off, punting the ball into the Carlisle half with a good chase. An early chance on the far side with Jo beating a couple again is well defended. Then a penalty gives a chance for a better field position a cracking line out take sets it up, first ruck sees a bit of handling on the floor but then the forwards stretch their muscles with a tenacious Harvey carry, then Isaac brakes up the middle and unselfishly pops the ball to the Flying Finn, Luke is again on target for 7 – 14.
Carlisle kick off and a slippery ball sees them regain straight away, set up and score to balance scores at 14 -14. Billingham kick off and again put the pressure on straight away, Carlisle attempt to move it but knock on. A steady scrum provides the platform with the backs attacking then back to the forwards to drive forwards, Isaac is in there again but the ball is kicked away in a ruck close to the line. Ref awards a penalty try and flashes a yellow, talk about drama, Billingham attack again with Leon looking particularly dangerous but the half ends at 14 – 21 to the visitors.
Everyone takes a breather and I wander around to the far side as I arrived I am greeted with “He’s not right in the head.” It’s a bit soggy on the far side but the rain is staying off, we may have more luck with the wind at our backs. Carlisle Coach patrols the touchline commenting on our forwards passing, Feathers confirms its only 98% of them, which puts his mind at rest.
Billingham kick off the second half and knock-ons are exchanged early. Billingham give a Carlisle runner to much room and support runners move the ball down the wing, with work to do Carlisle put some great passes together to score in the corner unconverted, the early score gives 19 -21.
The next period of the match was very even but Billingham had a few chances that were missed as the Carlisle defence moved up and passes were forced, however great play from both sides. You just had the feeling that the next score may be the breaker and so it was. Billingham started the play down the far side, the ball was hacked on once then hacked on again with Jo the fleetest of foot to get downward pressure. Unconverted it gave Billingham room but not enough given the way both teams were playing at 19 – 26.
It was all of nothing from both sides in the final quarter, with Billingham having to defend well and be very controlled at the ruck. Two aspects were very pleasing, the decisions of when to go after the ball to get the not realising was very measured, as was the defence. Tackles were going in to limit the ground made and then boom Harry B with a cracker that knocked it back behind the gain line. Everyone was making an effort, Storm Munns looking like a forward( yes honestly Burnsy) with his Freddy Flintstone legs, the backs supporting and defending the ruck, the forwards were all over the shop with tackles and the guarding around the ruck. After that effort when the break came I’m surprised anyone had anything left but a break down the far side saw Leon scoop the headlines with a well-deserved try. Unconverted it moved Billingham to 19 – 31.
It still wasn’t over with Carlisle still asking the questions and Billingham with defensive work to do, when a penalty was awarded Luke asked the ref and hammered the ball out for full time. What an absolute belter, everyone turned up and the team play was brilliant. For those who haven’t been mentioned sorry because all 17 grafted no passengers. If it had been a draw, which looked possible at many points then that wouldn’t have mattered because the effort was there in spades.
I understand the pies were warmer than the showers and it was a bouncing bus back to the club, as we watched the England match via the BBC website. So if this was the last trip go out on a high.
No room this week for Deadman’s gum shield, the disappearing wallet trick, it wasn’t me officer, Fray Bentos sponsorship, window shopping prohibited, fish finger sandwiches, I ain’t going as a Wookie Dad, John Denver singalong, just smile at them Lewis, Sorry for you having to hear that Sue and fluorescent camouflage (it will never work).
It’s not going to be easy. In fact at times it will be hard as hell but keep working for it because it’s going to be worth it.