Not since the Battle of Barnet in 1471, when King Edward IV defeated and killed Richard ‘the kingmaker’ Neville, has Hertfordshire seen a battle such as that which transpired on the 3rd November the year of our lord 2018! On this day the mighty Swans traveled to Barnet Elizabethans, the borough of Barnet was formed in 1965 under the 'London Government Act 1963', from the Municipal Borough of Finchley, Municipal Borough of Hendon, the Friern Barnet Urban District of Middlesex, the East Barnet Urban District and Barnet Urban District of Hertfordshire, at first the borough had no name until Keith Joseph, the Minister of Housing and Local Government, eventually chose Barnet.
The Swans arrived keen to avenge the defeat in the same fixture in January last season, the warm up was short but sharp and we were ready for kick off, in our side today Dylan Brown took his place in the front row, packing down next to the experience of Matthew Lee at Hooker (making his return to the 1XV after nearly a decade).
So at 2:30pm we kicked off, a successful chase from the Staines drop out meant an immediate turn over in the Swans favour, the backs then unleashed a move straight off the training pitch (much to coach Rockey's delight), sending outside centre James Knill through a hole just outside the Barnet 22, by the look on Jocks face he was quite surprised he had been put in that much space! He cantered under the posts and converted his own try, first blood to Staines.
As to be expected Barnet came back strongly sending their big second rows through the middle, but some solid defending especially from the back row and the aforementioned Dylan stopped them in their tracks, Barnet then started to fling the ball around and scored 2 decent trys after some nice moves in the centre, both not converted (this is an important fact). The game was swinging Barnets way. With the half drawing to a close Staines needed something before the break as we were playing with a huge advantage from the slope and the wind, great work at the breakdown by captain Luke Rogers (who harassed everyone and anyone all game as usual) meant a turn over to Staines, Andre Thomas-Richards scooped up the ball thought about passing, then saw the slightest glimmer of a gap down the blind side and took it! He lit up his afterburners and burned 2 players before jotting down almost under the sticks for Jock to convert. Midway through the first half we lost Fraser Young to injury and Larry Oliver entered the fold.
Half time 10 - 14 to the Swans
Early in the second half we lost both David Knill and James Grosvenor to injury so Jason Lee came on and slotted in at 10, James Knill moved to Full back Andre onto the wing and Mat Irvin came into the centre with Pascal Baptist. Barnet continued to press and some good hands saw their winger just make it over in the corner, despite the valiant efforts of captain fantastic, who injured his shoulder in the process, again the conversion was missed from out wide, Barnet in the lead 15-14. Now it was the time for the pendulum to swing back in the Swans favour, Jason was pulling the strings at 10 and a lovely flat pass saw Andre in space for him to go over in the corner, this time jock could not add the extras 15-19 to the Swans, at this point Captain Luke could no longer continue and as the bench looked like something akin to a hospital in a war movie there was no-one who could replace him so Staines would have to defend our lead with 14 men for the remainder of the match. Rather than dishearten the team Luke's exit roused them into an extra effort and some solid running from the pack, coupled with some good interplay from the backs moved us into the Barnet half, the ball came to Jason at 10 and he weighted a perfect gruber kick which popped up perfectly for Andre who went through for his 3rd of the day. James Knill stepped up and slotted the conversion to put us 2 scores clear, 15-26. There were about 10min left for Staines to hold out but with the legs tiring and a flanker down (Matt Irvin doing well flitting between wing and flanker!) this was going to be a LONG 10mins, Barnet were still running strongly and starting to make the extra man count, Staines simply ran out of numbers and Barnet crossed for the score under the posts, Barnet decided to attempt a drop goal in order to get the ball back in play quickly and luckily for Staines he shanked it some 10 foot wide from 10 foot in front! 20-26. With the clock ticking down the Swans were throwing everything they had at Barnet in defence but Barnet kept coming and recycling the ball well, once again Staines ran out of numbers out wide and despite some great covering from Lee Reeves (making his welcome return to the 1XV after breaking his leg v Saracens last season) Barnet dotted down in the corner. It was a very wide kick and the Barnet kicker struck it well but it drifted just wide to huge sighs of relief from the Staines traveling support and those on the pitch. There was still time for Staines to kick off and Barnet drove into our half putting pressure on, luckily we managed to turn the ball over and Jason asked the ref how long was left and he said 8 seconds! So he picked up the ball, jogged towards our try line for a few seconds before booting it into touch, Barnet were left to rue the missed conversion in front of the posts and Staines were able to high foot out of there with the bonus point victory!
This was a thoroughly entertaining game with both side contributing to the spectacle. Final score Barnet Elizabethans 25 Staines Rugby 26.
On Friday the Vets dust off their boots under the lights at the Reeves v Bank of England would be great to get a large crowd down, what else have you got to do on a Friday?