PJFRFC battle to the end, and their front five dominate
A tenacious PJFRFC keep improving, against a dominant Dorking side
PJF knew they were in for a hard day at the coal face as they welcomed top of the table Dorking to the Pightle. The PJF team sheet had been weakened by the autumn international which required several key players to help prop up the Twickenham bar. However, new talent had been added to roster in the shape of school leaver Morgan and yet another of Jules’ cousins, Delano, thus furthering Jules’ long-term ambition to rename the club ‘Sri Lankan Exiles RFC’ by 2026.
Alarm bells were sounded immediately as the first PJF arrivals at the club house were met with a 20+ strong Dorking team all ready and raring to go. As the PJF players readied themselves in the changing room, they were treated to the sight of the Dorking team, each one bigger and more grisly than the last, start to trot out to begin their warm up routine. This prompted stand-in captain Tom White to make his first tactical decision of the day, by gently closing the changing room door to prevent any further loss of morale for the home team. This had the duel effect of preventing Dorking witnessing Aiden’s warm-up routine, which consisted of a ham and cheese slice, followed immediately by a Turkey and Stuffing sandwich.
Late arrivals meant PJF were unable to run through the drills they would normally have practised, and while it did not affect the final result, it may have contributed to a less than flattering score line. PJF started off the game and met the Dorking kick return with a thundering tackle by Kian. Dorking recycled the ball well but were met with further resistance from PJF. Delano, in particular, demonstrating he had inherited more than his fair share of the Emmanuel tackling genes. Despite a gallant first 7 minutes, a strong running Dorking side were able punch holes in the PJF defensive line and put away their first try of the match. This set the tone of what was to be a long day for the 2nd XV. Time and time again, solid and determined individual tackling by PJF was undone by an organised and better drilled Dorking side who put the ball through the hands, ran the lines and found the gaps.
The defensive theme of the first half was repeated in the PFJ attack. Some quite breath-taking individual attacking brilliance from the likes of Tom Parker, Del and Shane was squandered as the hard running was not adequately supported by the rest of the team. PJF were unable to build momentum, and turnover ball by Dorking placed the home team repeatedly on the back foot. Reprieve from the pressure was only granted in the set piece with both Neil Leather and Kian dominating the skies over Old Coulsdon, and a tractoring PJF scrum holding firm against a large Dorking pack.
At 38 minutes, PJF were over 50 points to the bad and there was concern all round. Not least for the elderly touch judge who certainly hit his 10,000 step count as he shuttled back and forth from the touch line to behind the PJF posts with alarming regularity. The tide was only stemmed in the dying minutes of the half as a long kick into the PJF 22 was gathered by Morgan, who produced the most outstanding run of the game. He jinked through 3 flailing Dorking tackles and galloped into the opposition half. A brilliant offload to Kian kept the momentum going, as Dorking were treated to 2 doses of marauding millennials. Morgan was able to gather again before finally being felled by the Dorking fullback, but not before offloading to Neil Leather, who had kept pace with the younger legs and was able to touch the ball down. PJF were able to end the half, knowing that some honour had been restored.
The second half however began like the first - a defensive display of individual brilliance, which was unable to compete against the superior tactics of the visiting side. Tim Wood, Reece and Tony were all impressive at slaying their Goliaths, and didn’t take a step back all game. Jules continued to pop up all over the pitch scything down men twice his size, yet constant offloads to the Dorking support runners continued to fragment the PJF defence.
With 20 minutes to go and PJF playing for pride, they were awarded a penalty on the 10. PJF elected to scrum and suck in the Dorking defence. The front 3 of Simon Mander, Dave Mole and Tom White - never the most outspoken of people off the field - turned into the bully boys on it. Time after time, PJF opted to scrum and turn the screw on a mewing Dorking pack who seemed shocked not to be having it all their own way. The visitors gave away penalty after penalty as the 8 PJF Hercules marched the mere mortals of Dorking down the pitch. A revitalised home side then began to play the rugby that they all knew was within them. Continued grinding forward play allowed Aiden to release the backs who lunged through the Dorking line. The difference now was the presence of PJF support, who helped clear out the rucks and maintain the momentum. Tom Parker made another of his incisive lines, releasing Delano who crunched through a now scrambling Dorking defence. PJF could not be contained and Shane was able to cross the line and ground the ball between the posts.
The result was never in doubt and had been settled early on in the first half, yet PJF walked off the pitch with heads held high. The final score was 12-73 which all, including the opposition, felt did not reflect the 80 minutes that had just been played. The consensus among the PJF players was that the performance on display would cause serious problems to almost all the other teams in the new league.
Rugby is a game of battles. Battles in attack. Battles in defence. Battles in the rucks and battles in the set pieces. The 2nd XV should be proud of the battles they won on the day, and while it was not enough to win the war, there was plenty of positives to be taken into the next game.