Wednesday 22 February – a Varsity fixture to forget
Facing a Coventry side with three semi-professionals and the confidence-booster of a 56-0 victory this time last year, Warwick Rugby League faced an uphill battle in their Varsity fixture last Wednesday. Factor in conditions best described as ‘difficult’ and a tricky afternoon was in store.
The opening exchanges suggested that Warwick were about to be on the receiving end of another heavy defeat. Sustained Coventry pressure was repelled again and again, but to no avail; the first try of the afternoon was quickly followed by another. The latter was conceded when Coventry’s left winger found himself with space to run into – he would pose a constant problem throughout the 80 minutes.
But Warwick certainly gave some back. Number eight Dan Barber repeatedly pushed his team up the pitch, always gaining an extra few yards when taking the ball into contact. Freddy Thong crunched the aforementioned left winger in full flight, drawing roars from the touchline. Warwick’s nemesis soon got his own back with another try in the corner to take the score to 16-0.
The losing side continued to push and there was little between the teams as the game approached half-time. Pathetic fallacy even played its part, with the clouds parting and the drizzle dying. A Coventry knock-on under their own posts gave Warwick a first real glimpse of the opposition’s try-line, before some huge hits slammed the door. Coventry were more ruthless and three minutes before the break a well-judged chip gave their dangerman the easiest of finishes. The conversion was unsuccessful, but a 20-0 lead reflected the pattern of the game.
Coventry were clearly enjoying themselves, to the extent that their left winger celebrated his fourth try with some frankly embarrassing attempts at the worm
There’s an old saying that bad things come in threes and that’s how it seemed to Warwick at the start of the second half. Coventry broke through the line three times in quick succession, with Charlie Mathews and then Yousif Shehabi brilliantly chasing back to haul down the opposition player. Yet Warwick had no last-gasp answer to the third line break and Coventry’s number six went over under the posts.
This made it 26-0 with half an hour left to play; hopes of a comeback were fading fast. The upbeat mood on the touchline grew despondent when another try followed. Coventry were clearly enjoying themselves, to the extent that their left winger celebrated his fourth try with some frankly embarrassing attempts at the worm.
Yet Warwick stuck at it and were soon rewarded with the try their efforts deserved. It looked as if they had been thwarted on the line, but Barber advanced those extra few yards once again to dive over. The home side had kept their cool throughout, but one bad refereeing decision was too much for Warwick’s Connor Clayton. His protestations were greeted with a sin bin, which turned into a red card when Clayton aimed some ‘colourful’ language at the man in the middle. At this point the entertainment of the pitch was more exciting than on it and no one really noticed the Coventry left winger score his fifth and final try.
The final whistle blew on a resounding 46-4 win for Coventry. Warwick can hold their heads high though – at least they didn’t blare out DJ Khaled’s ‘All I Do Is Win’ at full-time.
Wednesday 1 March – still in the race for promotion
Despite a tough 58-20 loss against Birmingham this Wednesday, Warwick are still in with a great chance of promotion for the first time in three years when they take on Northampton at Cryfield on 15 March.
The team arrived in Birmingham knowing that a win would see Warwick top the league and gain promotion to Midlands 1A. After wading through swathes of mud to reach the changing room, Warwick hit the warm-up hard, preparing for a rematch against a team they had defeated 38-20 earlier in the season.
An expansive game of Rugby League took place, aided by the unusually sunny Birmingham weather and a wide pitch. Straight from kick-off Birmingham’s fantastic offloading game punched holes in a Warwick defence hamstrung by pre-match injuries and their impressive centre punished a high tackle with a brutal hand-off, setting the tone for a real blood-and-thunder match.
Captain Ashir Mir continued to run hard and straight, bursting through numerous tackles and obliterating one particularly unfortunate Birmingham player
It wasn’t long before Warwick were 16-0 down but the team fought back as full-back Charlie Matthews put in some fantastic kicks for our wingers to run onto and score. However, this fledgling comeback was cut short as the massively physical nature of the contest left a number of Warwick players unable to continue. Despite this setback, captain Ashir Mir continued to run hard and straight, bursting through numerous tackles and obliterating one particularly unfortunate Birmingham player who attempted to stop his rapid progress. As the first half ended Warwick had closed the gap and the momentum seemed to have shifted.
In the second half Birmingham maintained their composure, pushing the limits of the offside law to score an interception try and spreading the ball out to the wings and touch down. The game drew to a close with Birmingham further extending their lead, their wingers finishing a number of neat moves. Birmingham’s excellent handling and brave resilience to the battering Warwick defence saw them run out worthy winners.
Despite initial disappointment, Warwick heads soon turned to the game against Northampton. A big win will see the club take the title and win its first silverware for three years. I for one can’t wait to watch the team put on their finest performance of the season and show the league above that we’re ready and waiting for them next season! Big hits, big tries and big hearts, that’s Warwick Rugby League!