St Ives into Semi Final Papa Johns
Papa Johns Counties 2 Championship Quarter Final
St Ives 9 :6 Gordon League (Gloucs. north) AET
You could not have scripted this match with the most fictional writing. A rarity throughout this season is rain on match day especially during a home game at St Ives. But today was different. At least it was pretty calm, with a slight breeze to favour the side playing towards the clubhouse.
Gordon League were much the bigger side and conditions did not bode for a match full of running rugby where the St Ives backs could stretch the heavier visitors. Our visitors. Gordon League were created out of the establishment of the Gordon Boys' Clubs in the 1880s, named after General Gordon of Khartoum. Across the country most clubs waned but not at Gloucester. Here in 1888 Miss Waddy and a young assistant named Ernest Browning founded The Gordon League Rugby Football Club as an integral part of the existing Boys Club.
Back to the match and a series of penalties gave the home side some early territory. One of these bought a 5metre line out. But the line out was lost, and the massive boot of the travellers' no.10 was clear for all to witness. Throughout the game lines out become a very simple method by which the visitors regained possession. The scrum too was proving a struggle, although few penalties were given away in this facet of the game.
Conditions would seem to be of more benefit to Gordon League, but their extra weight did not see them get behind the home defence, but for a couple of occasions. Scrambled defence forced the visitors into touch just before the try line. In another key moment of the first half the referee failed to give a try as he was unsighted. Undoubtedly, the away side were dominant on the tackle line with ball in hand. They began to get on top. However, half time came with little incident or pressure in the 22s and it remained scoreless.
With most of the game being played from 22 to 22 it was clear that, but for favourable decisions from the referee, St Ives were struggling to play to the standard they would be used to. Nerves, heavy pitch or opposition? It was not clear. Two penalty goals put the visitors out in front 6:0 and tries looked even more remote in this low scoring clash.
A penalty in the 22. Surely St Ives would kick for goal with their increasingly woeful return from lines out and difficulty at the scrum, in spite of two yellow cards dished out for a high tackle and a deliberate knock on by the visitors. The 'quick' penalty produced lost possession and a turnover at the first tackle. Why didn't we kick for goal. Two further attempts by Grant Thirlby brought 3 points on the first and a glance wide on the second. It was 6:3. With the last play of the match St Ives received another kickable penalty. Up stepped Grant to put it between the posts. 6:6.
What happens next?
Gordon League ran off the pitch, after a minor celebration. Victory to the away side, all else being equal. Not so says the referee, but no one is sure. Minutes pass. Eventually, a couple of phone calls and Google searches later, GL return to the pitch and St Ives have another chance to 'get out of jail'.
Extra time assumes and the pattern is similar. St Ives try to pick up the pace in drying conditions, even a little sun. Gordon League rely on kicking for position and regularly asking a player to drop to one knee with an injury whenever the home side applied any pressure. But make no mistake. The away side were better and should have won.
In the second period of extra time, with no addition to the score St Ives manged to play advantage from a maul induced penalty. Nick Prout, from a long way out near the stand 10 metre line, took a speculative drop kick towards the clubhouse. Never in doubt, it sailed through and for the third time in the match St Ives supporters had something to really cheer about. Several minutes and penalties to GL later, with much defence required, the home side were relieved to hear the final whistle with Man of the Match, Matt Burrell, squirting the ball into touch. The final score of 9:6 rather flattered St Ives, but nevertheless St Ives have a semi-final in a national competition.
Last week the draw was not completed until Monday afternoon. But the clubhouse was full of anticipation after the match. It could be either East Grinstead, Wensleydale or Teddington in the semi-final, all of whom also won in their respective quarter final matches. It was soon realised that St Ives were drawn away to Teddington in Middlesex, London, who defeated Warminster by 7:42 points away from home.
Watch out on Facebook for further details of the travel arrangements and the side selected for this potentially history making match.