Game 1: Wessex Wyverns V Amsterdam Lowlanders, 09:00
The Lowlanders were the seeded team in our group so we knew from the start this would be our biggest challenge. The game was being played at 09:00 so while some (perhaps including our beloved Captain) were still hungover it did mean we had a cool breeze to play in, despite the rock hard surface of Pitch 3.
Wyverns started strongly and held the Lowlanders in their own 22 for some time. However a quick break by the Lowlander backs allowed them to break through on the wing to score the opening try of the game. Wyverns fought throughout but sadly never led The Lowlanders. Two tries from Scrum Half Kev Morgan kept us in the game but it ended 24-10 to the Lowlanders.
Wyverns had put up a good show though with some excellent forward play - Lowlanders couldn’t live with us in the maul and three times Wyverns put the brakes on a Lowlanders' maul, winning the ball, and on one occasion at attacking maul drove the Lowlanders back 20 yards and over the try line and we were unfortunate not to be able to ground the ball.
So now we had a loooong wait until our next game. Due to the fereakery of the draw we had 5 hours to kill and spent it blazing in the sun and sipping (mostly) non-alcoholic beverages.
We were able to watch our next opponents - Roma Liberia - take on our first foes in a one sided tussle that the Lowlanders easily won. This gave us confidence for our next game and we were happy we hadn't been rolled over by the Dutchmen.
Game 2: Wessex Wyverns V Roma Liberia RFC, 15:00
And so, our next match… By this point we had been sat in the sun for some hours. The sun was lower and blazed over Pitch 1 where we found ourselves. If we had thought Pitch 1 had been hard, this was a different proposition.
However, we were confident that we were the better team and that a win would take us into the second tier Plate competition on Saturday. Unfortunately, fate had other ideas…
The format of the tournament was such that the seeded teams played their games early in the morning and then around lunch. This meant that after that there were some experienced rugby players wandering around with little to do. Sadly for us they found something to do in assisting Roma Liberia…
The Roma team were supported by players from seeded teams such as Straffe Ketten and Amsterdam, so Wyverns found themselves up against a different sort of team than we were expecting. This showed early on as Roma took a quick lead, scoring three unanswered tries and taking the score to 15-0 at the break, with at least one of their tries coming from a Straffe Ketten player. Sadly two of these came while Captain Kev Morgan was in the sin bin for (alleged) persistent offside and Wyverns struggled with 14 men.
An inspirational (and slightly loud) half time talk from manager, Andrew Lewis drove the team out to the second half (enthusiasm or fear of Lewis?) and play started coming together. Tries from Kev Morgan and James Firmin pushed Wyverns back into it and with only ten minutes left we were level at 15-15. Sadly, Roma were able to bring on fresh legged substitutes and they had the energy to push over the line once more, while exhausted Wyverns suffered from the blistering heat, for a winning try (from another Straffe player) and to take the score to 20-15 to Roma Liberia.
The Wyverns were understandably disappointed. Partly in our own play but also that we had been beaten by a team that had reinforcements we were unable to call on. We had hoped to progress into the Plate competition but were, instead, in the Bowl competition. However we knew that was still going to give us at least one more game - to be played the following day - and one more chance to prove how far we had come in our 10 months of existence.
To be continued…
Picture by: Patrick Hughes