Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Battle of Clacton

Millwall's First Team was once again enganged in a bitter battle that was described by one of the players as "The Battle of Clacton". 
(As a Spaniard he recognises battles when he sees one).

The great invention known as SatNav gets us to a lot of our away games - this time it was no different. Unfortunately, it still relies on manual input of the destination's postcode. Well, turns out that we did not actually want to go to the Sponsor of Clacton Rugby Club – but that is where our fearless leader guided us to.
(Note to “You know who you are”: Don’t just take the first post code you come across on an opposition’s website – especially if it says: Sponsored by!)

However, we still made it there in plenty of time.

As we all know Millwall had quite a tough season at the beginning so the team was well aware that the game against Clacton was an important one. If the goal of staying in the League is to be achieved we needed to win! But over the last few weeks the team had transformed and was ready to show Clacton what playing against Millwall really is about.
Clacton tried early on to put some points up against Millwall and were close to our try line more often than one can comfortably watch from the sideline. But our defensive line was strong and you could easily read the expression "You shall not pass" from their faces and determination to not let Clacton have what they were after.

There was a moment in the game were I momentarily questioned the loyalty of our number two. Here he was, standing on the sideline ready to throw the ball. He does and it lands 2 metres behind the opposition's side ...
However, he was quickly proven innocent and the gale-force wind was to blame for the uncontrollable path of the flight of the ball. 

Although we spent the majority of the first half in our own 22, great field kicks from Gareth Williams allowed Millwall to explore part of the other side of the pitch as well. Unable to take advantage of it however, the first half ended with neither team scoring.

It is what they always say you should do, but apparently no one really ever does. You play on and you only stop when you hear the referee’s whistle.
A few minutes into the second half there was a knock-on from Clacton, everyone saw it, everyone stopped … or so they thought. Referee didn’t see it, the guy didn't stop and so he scored a try which the referee awarded!

Well, I guess sometimes you learn the lesson the hard way…

But we had to do it this season already, so we will be able to do it again – come from behind to snatch victory. And trailing 5:0 is not too daunting a number to catch up to.
The first chance was when a penalty was awarded to Millwall for Clacton having hands in the ruck.
Tee, Ball, Set-up … everything was perfect. I would not have wanted to trade places with Rowe Griffith for that penalty kick. But he did what he knew he had to do. He ran up to the ball, kicked it and he scored! 5:3!

We had some really good chances to put some more points on the score board in the second half as our scrums and the front row for this game was fantastic. To borrow the words of James Eason: “The front row secured solid balls from the scrum against a much bigger pack” and “Millwall’s pack overcame a size disadvantage to dominate the set pieces” was Mikka Paling’s impressions of the game.
I am not so sure whether that is exactly the same impression Mike Delastie got from it: “Millwall Scrums took more balls against the head than a prostitute”, but I believe that as a hooker he must know.

Judging from that picture Clacton’s front row really was a lot bigger! But not always is size everything. Sometimes it's the bigger determination and will to win that counts!

On one occasion we were about to no, not run the ball over the try line,
but were very close to “hopping” it across. Not so sure whether that is a normal Rugby play, or whether John Noonan was already practising for his stint as Easter Bunny. We will never know but you can judge for yourself when the video will be uploaded on Facebook.

With a second penalty being awarded to Millwall for, again, Clacton having
hands in the ruck (will they ever learn?) we had the chance to win. He
did it before, and he did it again. Rowe Griffith scored and put Millwall
6:5 into the lead.

Keeping our defense up to the last minute Mike Foulds hit the nail on the head: “The boys dug deep and showed a lot of heart. It was a statement of intent from a Millwall team determined to avoid relegation this season”.

In a battle injuries cannot always be avoided.

After a horrendous sounding clash of players in the first 15 minutes James Eason had to come off the pitch. Luckily nothing was broken.

Towards the end of the second half, Gareth Williams fought his way through five Clactonians until he was brutally stopped with a cheap shirt grapping action from behind, a high swinging tackle from the side and as he went to the ground knees came flying in straight to his head and knocked him out cold.

But I am happy to be able to report that after a short visit to the A&E all his vital signs were given the all clear, and after a little bit of a headachy Sunday he is going to be okay.

It was again a pleasure to watch Millwall win and I can only agree with Martin Ward's thought of the game: "Millwall won through guts and determination" and there is nothing to oppose Jamie Rockman's citation: "A hard fought contest with Millwall being eventual deserved winners".

It is great getting the postive vibes of the players. To share Tom Clarke's take on the game he says: "They boys showed great determination to come out on top. It's the perfect illustration of how far we've come since getting turned over by them earlier in the season".
Well, just to put this win into perspective. The first game against Clacton this season we lost 10-80. Therefore beating them on their homeground is a great achievement.

So Sean Allen was right when he said: "It was a close, physical game in tough conditions, but we pulled together as a team and got the win."

The only thing left to say is: "Well done Millwall". Let's keep up the good
work that Dave Roberts provided to put us back on track.

If one particular person would have been present to watch the game, he would have easily described it with his favourite words: "Unnecessary roughness! Penalty flag!" Should we be worried that he actually is a referee? For Rugby!

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