Sunday, October 15, 2006

You're not supposed to tackle them around the head

What a wonderful game of rugby we saw this afternoon.

The newly crowned NL3 Champions Bramley were out there parading their trophy and had a so-called "friendly" game lined up against a touring team from the Manly area of Sydney, Australia, led by the ageless, timeless, Cliff Lyons who played throughout the game even though he must now be well into his seventies.

It was a slight mis-match, the season ended last week for Bramley and several first team players were missing from the squad, and there was an "end of term" feeling about the side - having said that the aussies were certainly the equivalent of at least one, maybe two divisions above Bramley, they were bigger and significantly faster and played with the ease of a team that has bonded together well whilst on tour, it shows in their interaction on the field of play.

So skill wise Bramley were always in a deficit position, but when it came down to the part of the game lovingly referred to as "the biff" by supporters who remember the bygone era of rough tough rugby, then Bramley matched everything pound for pound.

Rugby League at Superleague standard has become sanitised over the past 12 years, no longer do we see big hard men with lumps missing from their faces playing the game, no longer do we see mass brawls erupted spontaneously at every match we go to - its not like that any more and whilst it is the better product for that, some of us do still miss watching a bit of biff now and again.

Today Bramley unpacked "the biff" tactics and set about their antipodean guests with a fervour that had the decent sized crowd baying for blood from the first contact, and although the aussies rose above it and refused to engage in the slog early on, by the time that one of their players was helped from the field of play, (just before half time), after suffering from a perfectly executed, and perfectly illegal, grapple tackle, it was obvious to all of us that the aussie calm and collected facade was going to crumble in the second half, so much so that I suggested to my compatriots standing with me that we had better move away from the fence as it could get dangerous in the second half.

And indeed it did - wonderful stuff to watch, every tackle above the shoulders, sometimes the first tackler holding his victim around the throat while a second tackler hit him again, and this was no WWE or WWF or whatever initials those over-steroided puffballs in American Choreographed Wrestling use these days - this was serious full contact biff, just like it used to be.

With a handfull of sin bins and two sending offs the game concluded with lots of points to the aussies and very few to Bramley, but no-one cared, the crowd were enthralled and entertained, the best £4 I've spent for a long time, and in the true tradition of rugby league both teams applauded each other off the field before swapping their shorts in a not-seen-before ritual that excited the ladies, presumably the shirts weren't theirs to swap, and trooping off together exchanging laughs and back slapping.

What a wonderful game this rugby league is.

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