London Skolars v South Wales Scorpions

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My weekend started with a spot of cricket at the Oval where I saw my team Essex beat Surrey.  I at least did watch the cricket unlike 75% of the crowd who seemed to be more interested in watching the beer snakes appearing round the ground.  I knew that the crowd at Enfield Town for the London Skolars game would be imbibing the odd pint of real ale but that to a man the game would be the main attraction!  First there was the small matter of the All Blacks v England.  Setting an alarm on a Saturday morning will have to be a feature for the next few weeks!  A great game of rugby union with so many positives to take for England; the selectors will have some difficult decisions to take before next Saturday!  Having had decent weather on Friday I was hoping for more of the same for my live rugby fix; we had an enormous storm in the morning but I still went for the no strap marks stylie!  Has to be done!

The weather in Enfield didn’t let me down; I hoped to see a great game.  Scorpions hadn’t had the best of starts to the season 9 games played, 9 lost.  Skolars had faired only slightly better with 2 wins to their name.  My Twitter interactions before I left home had included a few with Mike Grady the Scorpions coach; he was sure his team had a win coming.  How right he was!  Skolars started well with Illiess Macani making an early run, the move was very promising but was halted as Skolars were penalised for crossing.  Scorpions attacked spreading the ball across the pitch something that was to be a feature of their game; Matthew Wilcox glided across the line to score. Paul Emanuelli added the extras to put the visitors ahead.  In a rare error by Scorpions the ball was dropped over the back line giving Skolars a great attacking platform.  Tely Pelo made a strong run through the middle of the Scorpions defence and they gave away a penalty.  Will Lovell who’s appeared for London Broncos this season capitalised on the good attacking position and scored.  Courtney Davies’ kick sailed past the right post.

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Illiess Macani showed his skill under the high ball from the kick off but the set for Skolars came to nothing as did the set in response from Scorpions after Connor Farrer had made a great run through.  His pass was a little wild and the ball was lost.  Pelo made another good run for Skolars and the first of a few high tackles on Dave Williams went unpunished.  Connor Farrer made another great break looking like a Welsh Rob Burrows, with a low centre of gravity.  Skolars defended well but gave away a penalty; Michael Connor found himself largely unmarked and ran through easily to score.  Emmanuelli added the extras to put his team further ahead.  A theme was starting to appear and Kyle Scrivens was the next to score for Scorpions as her ran in unchallenged; again Emanuelli scored the 2 points.  My notes for the game say ‘not going well for the home team’ and that was largely to remain the way.  Scrivens looked to have scored again but this time the pass was deemed to be forward.  Scorpions had another promising attack, spreading the ball as they progressed, but they seemed to get a bit confused and were penalised for crossing.

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Skolars had a go at spreading the ball rather than battering the middle, a tactic that had largely failed to work.  Mufaro Mvududu ran through, he was tackled but extended his arm to score. I suspect that the try would have been checked for a possible double movement had there been a TMO.  Davies again missed the kick.  We had a run of dodgy tackles by both teams ignored by the officials; it’s my opinion that not punishing poor and dangerous tackles often leads to matters being taken into the players hands.  I really hoped that wouldn’t be that case.  The teams went in at half time with the scores on London Skolars 8 South Wales Scorpions 14.

Lamont Bryan who had appeared for Skolars made a couple of strong runs at the start of the second half.  Martyn Smith was able to take advantage of the ground gained as he dived over the line to score.  This time Davies added the 2 points closing the gap to 4.  The game score wise was fairly even at this point, however the difference between the 2 teams was in their shape on the field.  Skolars seemed to be struggling to hold their line both in attack and defence, in common with the friendly I saw them play against Oxford they looked like a bunch of strangers, gathering in the middle of the field like bees round a honeypot.  The next try was made through sheer individual brilliance as well as a lucky bounce of the ball; Emanuelli turned try scorer as he kicked the ball through twice for himself, touching the ball down.  I hope he heard the applause from the whole crowd, it was great to watch!  He kept his unblemished kicking record to take the score to Skolars Scorpions 30.   Greg Wilde was to add to the Skolars agony as he ran straight through 2 Skolars players to score, and yes, Emmanuelli added the 2!

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In a move that about summed up the afternoon for Skolars Macani looked to be the next on the score card but he somehow dropped the ball as he was going over the line.  Connor Farrer gave his impression of Rob Burrows again to score yet another try for the team from Wales, he ran low to put the ball down, with 2 defenders pretty much hanging onto him.  And….. Emmanuelli scored the conversion, of course!  Skolars seemed to find some determination as the game was coming to its conclusion; Osian Phillips was taken into touch from the kick off.  What happened not long after defied belief in the context of the game, Mufaro Mvududu ran in to score, except he didn’t because – He dropped the ball!  Will Lovell did score a last gasp try for Skolars and the kick was successful, but it was too little too late.  The final score was London Skolars 18 South Wales Scorpions 46.

A huge score for the Scorpions considering how their season had been going, I talked to their coach Mike Grady following on from our Twitter conversation after the game.  I knew little of his background so he filled that in for me, He’s from Widnes where his family are still based, he’s been involved with Warrington Wolves, York, Oldham and Rochdale and spent some time in France.  He was brought into the Scorpions set up 3 weeks before the season started.  His players are all Welsh, and having coached the Wales A team Mike knew a fair bit about the men he’s coaching.  In the past Scorpions had dual registration players and men based in the North, this team full of Welshmen has one of the best team spirits Mike has come across.  With no real pre-season it was going to take a while for the team find that first win, but I have a feeling that this will be the first of many.  London Skolars may well need to take a leaf out of the Scorpions book, they looked like a team of strangers, if that doesn’t change the rest of the season may well be very painful!

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