Rugby Cuppers Glory – if not in victory
The headline is that Teddy Hall won the final, 20-17 in extra time, and we did not. But, and please trust me as I was schooled in the virtues of impartial journalism (the BBC), it was St Peter’s who shaped the afternoon.
We had a larger number of supporters, who made a great deal more noise, played more musical instruments—sometimes even in tune—and sang with a great deal more brio, even if not all of it was entirely without some vigorous Anglo-Saxonisms. But more to the point: we scored three tries to two and we were the better team for most of the match. And we had the whole caboodle won three times. But I congratulate Teddy Hall, and the overall standard of the match was very high, and, to my eye, hugely more entertaining than the Blues match at Twickenham in December.
The first fifteen minutes, it must be admitted, were played within 20 metres of the St Peter’s try line. They were a bit heavier and ploughed forward, but the St Peter’s defence was magnificent – it was so throughout. They couldn’t score and shortly after we arrived in their half we did – a slick exchange through the backs, and bingo. The conversion looked fine but some malign puff of wind led the ball to smack the upright. Which turned out to be quite important.
They got that try back with an unaesthetic forwards affair, converted, but for the next forty-five minutes we simply ran around them, through them, under them, above them. It was great fun and two more tries came, another one through the backs, and then a tight affair in the far corner which most of us could not fully fathom but could nevertheless greatly enjoy. So 17-7. Only one winner.
Their fans were (a tad) surprised and upset. Teddy Hall is not supposed to lose at rugby. Some beer was tossed in our direction, with not much affection, and sadly not the Leffe Belgian stuff I like. It was a bit of a pain.
But they manufactured another forwards try and, with the game almost at an end, they were awarded a penalty, which they kicked. There was time enough for us to have a penalty, but that didn’t work out. So 17-17, and then extra time.
I resisted going on to the pitch to recite Alf Ramsey’s famous 1966 Wembley World Cup speech at full time: “You've won it once. Now you'll have to go out there and win it again”. And it all looked fine. St Peter’s camped just outside their line for the entire first period of extra time, but we couldn’t quite make the penalty work, and then they won it with a dropped goal in the second period of extra time. So, good for them, but we were absolutely terrific.
A few thoughts to end with: Why does Teddy Hall recruit so many college rugby players – in the way Oriel does for college rowers? What is at the root of the rivalry (sic) between Teddy Hall and St Peter’s?
An almost great afternoon