All week long, the weather was ominous. The forecast for Monday through Friday and for Sunday would change like your underwear, but Saturday remained constant: rain and temperatures in the mid-40’s. And I did not mention that the game would be played in Bayonne, which would guarantee winds whipping in off of Newark Bay. As this was to be the last Rugbypalooza of the season, drastic measures were called for. I called up our Creator. No, I am not referring to God or Allah or the name of the Supreme Deity of whichever religion you practice, I was referring to Mike Stumpf, the inventor of rugby. Mike promised nothing, but he did offer to pull a few heavenly strings to see if he could twerk the forecast. (now there is a scary thought, Mike Stumpf twerking)
It was not perfect, but for mid-November, it was not bad. Upon arrival, the temperature rose from the mid-30’s and the winds died down. Throughout the afternoon, the clouds would spit, but only to be annoying. Clearly Mike has a connection to the Woman upstairs.
Throughout the Fall season, the rugbypalooza format would ensure that there were enough old, fat bastards to play 15-a-side rugby with a few subs. Maybe it was the allure and aroma of Bayonne, but approximately 60 players showed up Saturday. There were enough players that we could split into 4 teams and rejuvenate the round robin format that was envisioned originally.
The pitch was soft, supple, and green. Not from the grass mind you, but from the goose shit that blanketed the field.
Morris would sit out the first period, as the Greys played the Gents. About 5 minutes in, a Gent left the pitch after taking a teammate’s knee to the face. Eventually the bleeding from the cut the size of the Grand Canyon between his eyes, was brought under control. Cal opted to give the Gent some tough love. “A few stitches and you will be fine. It’s not like you were a good-looking guy to begin with, so you got nothin’ to worry about.”
Morris would take the pitch next against the Gents. They scored early to go up 5-0 and had numerous opportunities late in the stanza to go ahead, but with our backs to the try zone, a staunch Morris defense would repeatedly snuff out the Gents offense. Penalty after penalty would give the Gents new attempts at the 5 meter line. Each time the marauders would be repulsed before scoring. It brought back memories of the great Northampton defense several years back against Muenster. The chief difference is that Morris did not permit the Gents to score. Northampton vs. Muenster? Ask Don Slade, he LOVES to relive that game.
For the 3rd period, Morris would stay on the pitch and play the Greys. They would score twice earlier, but Morris would come roaring back. Off a penalty at the Grey 5 meter line, Uncle Tom would begin the rush that would end with Aussie Mick diving into the try zone whilst brandishing his best Manly Sea Eagle war cry. The game would end as Cal “possession of the ball is highly overrated” O’Herlihy would take the ball into a ruck and then promptly lose it.
As we matched up for the 4th period, teams had devolved into the Greys vs whatever 15 bodies wanted to have a go. Cal again played therapist. Veteran Gent Dave Martin wanted in at anywhere but hooker. Cal opined, “that’s good Dave, because you are not good looking enough to be a hooker.” As Cal drove me to the match, I should probably stop busting his balls at this point. I do not remember who scored, but assume that the Greys won this period as well. I am sure there were some brilliant runs, some sloppy tackling and some knock-ons, but I have it on good authority that it still would have been more entertaining to watch than the Italy/Argentina game. That one was NOT a craicker.
The afternoon was originally supposed to be (4) 20 minute periods. As people still wanted to play and the rains had held off, a fifth period was commenced. Not sure of the scoring on this one either, but Morris did contribute. Deep in the Grey zone, Chris Paul would work a beautiful give and go with Seamus. The leprechaun sprinted down the sideline before dishing back to Chris for the try. A well rested Doc Corney would add the conversion. Some people did have to leave. One notable sin was committed by Stef, who works for a large multi-national beverage company. It was great to see him back on the pitch and he came with a cooler well stocked with his company’s products. He could not stay for the 5th period, which was understandable. But by-jimeneeze sake, could you not have left the cooler at the pitch? Well, take the cooler, but at least leave the beer?
Throughout the afternoon, Matt McCarthy was there filming for Rugby Wrapup. As soon as I have the URL for this award winning revue, I will pass it along. As this was the last Palooza of the season and as it was played in Bayonne, it is appropriate that we close with a few words from the classic Bruce Springsteen song “Rugby Days”
I had a friend was a big rugby player, back in University
He could throw that shoulder into you
Make you feel like a tool boy
Saw him the other night at the local Moose
I was walking in, he was walking out
We went back inside sat down had a few drinks
but all he kept talking about was
Rugby days well they’ll pass you by
Rugby days in the wink of a wee whisper
Rugby days, Rugby days