The two teams were all smiles after the match, but it was the Exiles XV (green shirts) who won the Memorial Trophy
THE WARM sunshine and calm skies of Christmas Day a rapidly-fading memory, two teams braved the biblical conditions at Penns Place for Petersfield Rugby Football Club’s traditional Boxing Day match-up between the Club President’s XV and an Exiles XV.
The Exiles featured a strong showing of club old boys, some university returnees and a few current players to make up the numbers.
Given the conditions – a howling gale blowing the heavy rain horizontally across the already-sodden pitch – it was a miracle any players turned out at all. But not only did they do so, they were joined by a large crowd of supporters and referee Mike Gray.
With the match shortened to two 20-minute halves and a quick turnaround at halftime, the game was played at a harum-scarum pace, with both sides spilling the bar of soap purporting to be a rugby ball and daring the sort of moves that would, in ordinary competition, have given their coaches a scare.
Both sides reversed the roles of backs and forwards, so the spectators were treated to some unusual sights, such as giant lock Franko Tomic playing at scrum-half, and prop Dan Luff plying his trade on the right wing.
The Exiles also had an ex-prop playing at stand-off, but with Nick Todd’s silky skills and useful boot, this wasn’t such a stretch as it would first appear. Fortunately for the ‘home’ side, Todd was suffering from the same handling problems as the rest of the players and spilled his fair share of ball.
The first half was a mixture of howlers and entertaining rugby and ended with the President’s XV 5-0 to the good. The try came courtesy of an embarrassing mix-up when two defenders sought to see the ball beyond the dead-ball line, only to have their pocket pinched at the last moment.
After the quick turnaround – no chance for the traditional port and mince pies – the Exiles came out fighting and the tide turned against the club side. Three tries in relatively quick succession put the game out of reach of the President’s men who played on gamely to the end.
While this might not have been a great advertisement for running rugby, it was a terrific one for the spirit of the game – played by everyone with a smile on the face and celebrated equally hard by both teams at the finish.
At the final whistle, the Exiles had continued their dominance of the long-running fixture, marked in recent times by the presentation of the Andy Millar Memorial Trophy by Celia Millar to the Exiles’ captain for the seventh year on the trot.
Hopefully, next year’s match will continue in the same vein but until then the rugby club can look forward to the second half of a league season that has started very well.
The first team are next in league action on Saturday away at Eastleigh’s second team, the side they beat 124-0 at home in September, while their second and third team colleagues have to wait a week longer, when all three sides are at home.