A beleaguered Dirtrackers team journeyed across the Wessex plain to meet 3rd placed Somerton last Saturday. Albion could only muster 12 men to start the game as several regulars had been kidnapped by the United XV en route to Bristol Barbarians who in turn had already lost players to the 1st XV due to late injury calls. However the 12 did themselves proud with several players well out of position.
Skipper Frost took the view that he would play with 12 men in the first half notwithstanding Somerton’s gracious offer to make up the Albion side. As it happened and quite naturally Somerton took clear advantage of their numerical superiority to put Albion under the sword in the opening minutes racing to a 19-0 lead within the first 10 minutes. However after that, Albion knuckled down and kept matters in more perspective. Tackles started to hit; pressure was applied and Somerton became hesitant and awry with their passing and handling. Nevertheless they still managed to score at reasonably regular intervals to lead 50-0 at half time.
Albion’s pack, although hampered due to the lack of a man, strove manfully in both the scrums and line-outs and although pushed off the ball, never yielded in terms of technique and here was a tribute to the rather makeshift front row of Ruddle (a regular), Coates as an admirable hooker and Pearce – a novice in this area. In behind Burrows and Miller worked hard in the second row and Frost was his ubiquitous self with Hicks always in the van.
All of these players handled and ran well in the loose with Ruddle rumbling, Coates shimmying as if he were playing at 10 and Pearce undoubtedly producing the best match of his career; Burrows and Miller went on solo forays; Frost took the ball to Somerton and took it off them when they had it as well as being his usual nuisance self in all directions. Hicks steadied the scrum ship and made sure that any possession that came Albion’s way well remained with them. Outside the scrum the half backs contrived to yield 114 years of age between them.
The absolute veteran Berry (65) demonstrated his dexterity – a tribute to his life-long commitment to scrum-half play – with some delightful quick hands and speed of mind, allowing his partner Walford (49) to make some searing breaks which caused Somerton some consternation. Wilkins came out of nowhere to weave wonderfully well in the centre and Rogers, making only a second appearance of the season, defending excellently as well as taking the ball on when the opportunity arose. Pike (61) acted as the rover sweeping up whatever came his way, both in terms of kicks from the opposition and the Somerton players themselves. These three at the back contrived to do the work of 5 and did it rather well.
At half-time Albion made up their team to 15 with Steve (a friend cajoled by Walford to join in) coming in on the wing and defending stoically for a man who had not played for several seasons; Da Silva – a dashing flanker who showed why he appeared in Albion’s 1st XV earlier in the season – he is Somerton related and did a fine job; Somerton also provided a young full-back who also played his heart out. Somerton advanced their score with 2 quick tries in the opening minutes of the second half but after that parity was finally achieved and Albion attacked strongly and snuffed out anything else which Somerton had to offer. Somerton scored their last try some 20 minutes from the end to lead 67-0 but Albion had the last word when after some mesmerising midfield mania with the ball moving from hand to hand, Da Silva dashed through from fully 50 yards to score at the posts for Frost to add the extras. Albion deserved the score and their Somerton opponents were the first to acknowledge it.
Albion calculated that the average age of the starting 12 was 39.5 – even with the addition of the 3 extras at half-time an overall average of 38 ruled!
Defeated but certainly not down and out. The alternative was to yield 5 points and no one would have had a game. What better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than in the pursuit of the game and the ball. Here was a game also excellently refereed by the young Bridgwater referee Max Weston whose use of the advantage law was quite outstanding – on one occasion each side thrice infringed but the other took advantage on each occasion and play continued non-stop for several minutes.
Albion will be hoping that their resources are not stretched too far for the home match against Wiveliscombe II on 9 March.
Team: Pike Rogers Wilkins; Walford Berry; Hicks Frost Burrows Miller Ruddle Coates Pearce. Replacements: Steve, Da Silva and a Somerton man.
Scorers: Try – Da Silva. Conversion: Frost