A couple of weeks after my slightly overwhelming, and let’s face it, pretty ineffective debut, I moved onto match number two – another friendly against a ‘beatable’ team. Whereas I spent my previous match like a rabbit in headlights, I had a lot more fun at this one and spent the whole time charging up and down the pitch and shouting at anyone who would listen. And as I found out afterwards, this is apparently what’s required of a back…
I was feeling pretty psyched up on arrival, and felt a pang of disappointment when I was told I would be on the bench – I’ve been training every week, learning the rules (as many of them that are fathomable, anyway) and know I’m fitter and faster than some of the other backs who were in the starting line-up. It was my first lesson, I guess, in having to prove myself, however small the stakes, against girls who have been members for longer and feel they deserve a place on the team. Infuriating, but such are the foibles of amateur sport, I suppose.
Anyway, as it turns out, I was on the pitch from the start after all, after one of our team (a nurse!) pulled a calf-muscle two minutes before kick-off from not warming up properly. Our coach was furious, stomping around telling us all off for chatting and gossiping (well, duh – we are girls) when we should be concentrating on stretching, but I was too delighted to take much notice.
I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the 80. I was playing at No. 11 and reckon it could really suit me – sprinting up and down the wing, creating space and only having to mark one tiny girl opposite me. Easy! I’m still really bad at tackling – too much of a scaredy-cat – but I reckon I can now handle being tackled. You just have to remember to let go of the ball when you hit the ground so that a beefcake doesn’t stamp on your face. And as I shimmied past one defender and dashed for the try line with a person hanging off each leg, I felt I’d really made some progress.
I didn’t actually score a try, of course – serendipity may have prevented me, thus far, from injury, but there’s only so much luck a girl can expect – but I did get stuck in at various critical moments and didn’t wuss out when it started raining (really heavily, dammit) at the start of the second half.
We ploughed on through the mud, like the gallant little soldiers that we are, but sadly a win proved elusive and a couple of late tries from the opposition sealed our sorry fate. The most frustrating thing about this was that it dawned on me what was going wrong but I didn’t feel I could do or say anything about it. Basically, for whatever reason, and despite a blinding first half for the forwards, we lost every single line out in the second half. Honestly, it was a total mess. And as our kicker kept booting it into touch, because neither she nor our No. 9 had cottoned onto this fatal error, we edged ever closer to defeat. So there I was, poised, ready to run and full of beans with nothing to do but stand there like a drowned rat and watch the opposition take possession over and over again.
With hindsight, of course – and this is where my inexperience betrays me – I should have spoken up. So perhaps, wise sage that I am, I shouldn’t get too big for my boots and expect too much too soon. Some of the backs may be slackers at training, but they would have had the guts to step in!
Still, it was a good team effort overall and for a novice like me, there were some rather splendid moments. And despite their inability to throw in a straight line when tired, our forwards are a pretty impressive bunch. Frankly, I’m glad I’m on the same team as them!
We retired to the clubhouse for food and drink – I can’t believe how tiring this match malarky is – and prizes were awarded to back- and forward-of-the-match on each team. And you’re not going to believe this, but I won back-of-the-match! No sh*t! Mrs Jonny won a prize for rugby! Being a total cynic, I reckon it says more about the standard of my team than my prowess on the pitch, but still… I was very chuffed.
My pride at this accolade turned to horror, however, as I was instructed to down yet another hideous pint of snakebite & black. Whilst standing on a chair. In front of both teams. I’m not a complete wall-flower or anything, but this was pretty scary stuff for me and not really the kind of thing one does anymore, being a respectable grown up and all. I managed about a third of it by the time the other winners had drunk theirs, before one of my team-mates, a flanker, stepped in to rescue me and quickly saw it away. As I was saying, you’ve gotta love those forwards!
So there we go… I am a fully fledged, decorated rugby gal. One more match of the season to go and I can’t wait…