Having spent Saturday afternoon watching a spirited London Broncos lose to Widnes Vikings followed by a somewhat scary evening at the theatre watching Let The Right One In at the Apollo Theatre, I set off to Enfield to watch my ‘other’ London rugby league team the Skolars take on Gateshead Thunder. I had high hopes (as I do for pretty much every game I go to) as Skolars had beaten Oxford RL on their previous outing scoring a hefty 52 points.
Skolars were welcoming Danny Yates previously on dual registration at St Helens and Rochdale Hornets and returning from a spell in France. He’d only arrived during the week before the game so it was going to be a big ask for him to slot into the team. Mike Bishay was in the 7 shirt for Skolars, a player I haven’t seen much of at Skolars this season, it felt at the start that the same issues of players unfamiliar with each other may rear their ugly head. Gateshead Thunder had a very familiar figure in their no 7 shirt, one Jamie Rooney, I player I’ve always considered to have a great deal of class. I’m not going to write a long report but it’ll become plain that the Thunder 7 will be mentioned more than the Skolars duo.
London Skolars gave their fans cause for hope as Tely Pelo, who always gives his all went very close. However it was to be Gateshead, starting as they meant to carry on, who opened the scoring after taking possession from the ‘scrum’ after an early 40/20; Sonny Esslemont got his name on the score sheet and Jamie Rooney converted to add the extra 2. Rooney put in a kick which seemed to hang in the goal area on the next Thunder attack, it seemed that Dennis Tuffour had seen the ball out well, but he was deemed to have touched it. This gave Thunder just the platform they needed to run in another try; Paul Stamp ran straight through a non-existent defence to score. The kick was missed. Skolars had what was to be a rare attacking opportunity but the ball was dropped in the tackle. Gateshead stormed forward after a high kick at the end of their set of 6; it did seem to me that a number of players were offside but Joel Farrell took the ball and ran in to add 4, fortunately for Skolars the kick went wide.
The points were starting to pile up. And it felt like literally moments before Thunder surged forward again, this time Jamie Rooney put the ball over the line, he was 1 of 3 who could have scored. He was kinder to himself on the positioning for the kick and converted his own try. My notes are rather sparse at this point – I think I knew the way the game was heading. But suffice it to say…… Thunder scored! This time Jason Payne was the man with ball in hand; Rooney converted taking the score to 26 nil with a mere 24 minutes on the clock! The scoring fest continued as Rooney added to his personal tally, showing he has great strength to add to his skill as he took several Skolars players with him, he added the 2. My notes at this point say ‘Men against boys in a very major way!’ Michael Butterfield was the next to score, touching down in spite of the fact the ball went to the ground before he took it, the only blessing for Skolars was that it was another try in the corner and Rooney missed the conversion . The teams went in at half time with the score London Skolars 0 Gateshead Thunder 36.
I think by now reading through my account of the 1st half you can sense an unusual lack of enthusiasm on my part for writing too much more, so this 2nd half is likely to be one of the briefest accounts I’ve written. Skolars showed a small amount of character by getting on the score sheet 1st in the 2nd half with Sam Druce burrowing in to put the ball down; Courtney Davies converted to give his team the 6 points they were to finish with. I’m now pretty much going to list the try scorers for the further 30 points amassed by Gateshead Thunder (sorry any Thunder fans reading but it’s just too painful to recall in detail). 1st try – Louis Sheriff, kick missed. 2nd try – George Clark (notes again, ‘a ridiculous try – he just seemed to step through and over Skolars players!’) converted by Jordan Meads. 3rd try – Louis Sheriff again, converted by Meads. 4th try – Ricky Hough, kick missed. 5th try – Louis Sheriff to see him score his hat trick! Paul Stamp took the kick and scored. 6th try – Jordan Meads scored, kick missed. So, adding that all up?
The final score – London Skolars 6 Gateshead Thunder 66. Now you can see the reason for my reluctance to go into too much detail. Gateshead have a lovely set of fans and they saw their team put in a great performance to make a very long journey worthwhile. I can only wish them a lot of luck for the rest of the season. Skolars are going to need an awful lot more than luck to salvage anything from their season. Without wanting to sound like a broken record they looked, again, like a group of strangers assembled before the 80 minutes; expected to achieve the level of familiarity needed to win a game of rugby league. To finish on a positive note, Danny Yates showed a hint of the skill he’ll hopefully get a chance to show in future games and several players including Pelo playing at prop for the full 80 minutes didn’t give up. Lots of work to be done before the next game! Oh, and I got a photo with the rugby league legend that is Stanley Gene!