This was a very tough game and I will ache for the rest of the day and probably a bit of Monday as well, and I doubt I will be the only one!
Although both sides showed a few changes this was always going to be a hard game. In the home fixture Brocks were well and truly beaten but they turned the result around to run out deserved winners.
New Ash Green started strongly from the kick off and pinned Brocks back in their half but we gradually established that we had the dominate set piece and worked our way up the pitch. The scrum had the edge from the start and gave the NAG number 8, Dan Staner, and their scrum half very little go forward ball on which they thrived in the previous fixture. The lineout had a couple of early wobbles but once they were out of the way we secured good ball and Tony Cornwell
spoilt a lot of their ball at 2. After this early pressure we worked our way up the pitch through the scrum and lineout to get ourselves into the NAG 22. From a driving lineout a couple of snipes round the edges led to Kevin Mockler
being stopped just short of the line, Simon Baker
and Dave Gearing
ensured we won quick ruck ball and Ian Blunden
picked up and drove over through a thinning NAG defence. This was just the start we wanted, we'd got through the early pressure from the home side, established the set piece and got some points. Brocks now pinned the NAG side back into their half for an extended period. Some of the play we ran was much appreciated by the watching spectators, long phases of play through many plays without mistake shows that we're not just a set piece side but although the play went on we couldn't break a committed and determined NAG defence. However we made life a bit awkward for ourselves after getting ourselves into the lead, a no arms or late tackle on their lively winger, still not sure what the referee decided on, lead to Ian Blunden
taking a 10 minute breather. One man down should have let NAG back into the game but the Brocks defence and scrum ensured we did not concede during this 10 minute period and Ian was back on with the score still 5 nil up and in the right place on the pitch. NAG couldn't break out of their area of the pitch and eventually the pressure did tell. It didn't come from multi phase play but from a well established move from a 5 meter scrum. Even though they knew what was coming the NAG defence over committed as Paul Holman
broke from the back of the scrum and allowed him to score as they all went to tackle Kevin Mockler
. NAG did manage to get out of their half as they, like Footscray last week, started to take tap penalties to get some flow into their game. They had a couple of strong running centres who were ably supported by strong back row runners but the Brocks tackling through John Duffy
& Danny Rankine
was equal to their power running. And if they did manage to stay on their feet the support tackling of Paul Holman
and Ian Campbell
ensured we kept the ball in the air and they couldn't get any quick ball from these strong runs. Near the end of the half NAG had broken out of their half of the pitch and got a penalty in our 22 and ran it quickly, we stopped it but illegally and conceded a 5 meter penalty. Andy O'Grady took the charge but was met by Dave Gearing
who took enough of him so that the rest of the defence could roll him onto his back and hold him up in goal. This perhaps with hindsight was a pivotal point in the game, 10-5 at half time could have made a lot of difference. Brocks had held out and buoyed themselves in the process.
The second half saw a similar pattern of play, Brocks set piece ensuring we went forward and they got back foot ball. But now with the wind behind us Ash Baker
could pin them back when necessary with long kicks down the pitch. The defences from both sides were still working hard and despite the observation from the NAG supporters that our pack would run out of puff we never did. NAG were running the tap penalties still but the Brocks back line defence was still up to it. We should have had a couple, if not 3 scores from the backs, but running some multi phase play and sucking in the NAG defence we managed to butcher our chances. Twice we had 3 on 1 attacks but the passes never went to had and we knocked on twice. The third chance saw Chris Fowler cut through their defence he seemed certain to score with Zack Baker-Waterman
in support but again the chance was lost. NAG turned the ball over but it squirted out of the side and Dave Gearing
drove their defender over the line to get an attacking 5 meter scrum. We knew we had to kill the game off here, with chances being bombed and only 10 nil up NAG were still in the game. From the scrum and the following phases of play Paul Holman
again went through the defence to score, this time the conversion was successful and now 17 nil up the game was done. However this was no signal for either side to let up on the commitment. Sore shoulders for both sides defences as the hard runners kept coming. Dan Staner never stopped for NAG, despite going down at least twice for treatment and the defence from our midfield never yielded. Again we pressed into their 22, this time Brocks took a quick tap and Tony Wheeler
went for the corner but the defence forced a knock on. NAG could not escape the strangle hold in their half of the pitch and eventually a later scrum in the 22 allowed Tony Wheeler
to successfully score in the corner. The game finished on a fractious note with both sides bickering but it didn't spill over and the final whistle went with Brocks established in the NAG half of the pitch.
It was good to see the Brocks old boys, Dan Staner, Matt Love and Andy O'Grady, in the bar after and we shared a few beers as we dissected the game afterwards. Both teams deserve credit for the commitment shown over the entire 80 minutes.
There is no let up for Brocks, next week it's Shooters Hill and that'll be another tough game.