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Jacob Dirnhuber
Lower Sixth
School House

Ryan Bresnahan Memorial Match

Ryan Bresnahan Memorial Match

A mild night at Clifton Rugby Club on the outskirts of Bristol was the setting for the second annual Ryan Bresnahan memorial match, where an excellent £2,200 was raised for ‘Life for a Cure’. BGS were looking to avenge last year’s defeat and the omens were positive, with both of the young teams winning for Clifton 2 tries to 1 and 3 tries to 1 respectively. Clifton were impressive, in both games, both sides playing with an unexpected maturity. One notable event in the first game was a promising interception and try by JJ Hughes in the 2–1 game. The stage was set, the atmosphere was boisterous, and come kick-off, everyone in the ground was looking forward to what promised to be a spectacle between two of school rugby’s great rivals.

BGS were the brighter of the two sides during the opening exchanges, pressing with intent and breaking with ease and fluidity. Their high-octane start soon paid off, winning a penalty before Clifton had a chance to even launch a meaningful attack. Ollie Darvill’s subsequent conversion saw BGS record their first points of the evening. BGS were more ruthless in the tackle and more incisive in possession, leading to many in the crowd believing that Mike Brook and company were on their way to yet another victory. Fortunately for Clifton, it seemed that these thoughts were limited to the spectators alone. The newly christened ‘blue army’ rallied, and got the luck their commitment deserved when they won a penalty of their own after a period of scrappy play in the far quadrant of the BGS half. Will Watson’s conversion was unerringly accurate, tying the scores at 3–3 with it all to play for in the remainder of the half. For the next few minutes, both teams seemed to lack the penetration required in order to breach their opponent’s back lines.

After yet another period of inactivity whilst the ball was recovered from the stands, the game (and as a result, the crowd) sparked into life again. Johnny Graham’s mazy runs had not gone unnoticed by the spectators, and Charlie Bullimore seemed to decide midway through the half that he wanted in on the action. Receiving the ball just inside his half, ‘Butch’ charged into enemy territory. The tantalising vista of unoccupied green, just fifteen metres away from his current position, appeared to have a similar effect to that of a red rag to a bull. The fact that there were three BGS players blocking his path was of little consequence to the new crowd favourite, who by this stage appeared to have built up the momentum of a small freight train. Leaving three maroon-clad players in his wake, Bullimore ploughed through the well-drilled BGS ranks, only to be slowed by the two players he was dragging and eventually stopped by two more jumping in. Whilst his heroic surge was ultimately in vain, it served as the catalyst to reignite what was until then a rapidly stagnating game.

For the next ten minutes, the game was played at a higher pace, both teams more aggressive in possession and tenacious in the tackle. The raucous atmosphere, boosted by Bullimore’s run seemed to motivate the teams even more, if that were even possible. For the first time, the game was a real spectacle. However, after a succession of line-outs (one of which had to be postponed whilst Mike Brook recovered his left boot), Luke Watson received a knock to the head that forced him off in place of Kwame Fordwar. Injury wise, things got rapidly worse for Clifton when Will Barrett was forced off with a dislocated shoulder, to be replaced by the heavily bandaged and now concussed Luke Watson. It is worth noting that both sets of supporters did themselves proud with the subsequent standing ovation for the beleaguered outside-centre.

Clifton soon won another penalty, in the same spot as their earlier one, but much to the chagrin of Clifton’s supporters, Will Watson fired narrowly wide. It proved to be one of the final acts of an uninspiring half of rugby.

When play resumed, Clifton were playing downhill, which, in the words of Kwame Fordwar, was ‘worth ten points in itself’. It certainly showed, as Clifton, like BGS had at the start of the last half, dominated the early exchanges, rarely letting BGS past the half-way line. However, their pressure was in vain, with BGS happy to soak it up and try to break down the right flank. The next ten minutes were symptomatic of the second half, Clifton with most of the possession but actually doing little with it. These somewhat dreary periods of play were occasionally punctuated by darting runs from Johnnie Graham and Jack Fairs of Clifton and BGS respectively, but they had little impact and the players ended up carrying the ball into dead-ends. Perhaps the high-pressure first half had a negative effect upon the stamina of the respective teams. BGS seemed the more fatigued of the two sides, and Clifton seemed to be aware of it, content to allow BGS to tire themselves out chasing the ball.

The undoubted highlight of the second half was a sensational 40-yard penalty conversion from Will Watson that well and truly brought the crowd to its feet. Clifton’s supporters were less than optimistic when Watson stepped up, but it appeared that the hours of personal kicking practice on the Close were worth it, as Will despatched it between the posts with aplomb. However, he couldn’t repeat the trick two minutes later from an almost identical position, disappointingly sending the ball spinning a good five feet wide of the left post.

Clifton finally secured the points with the only try of the game with a few minutes to spare. Max Cresswell pumped the ball deep into enemy territory, where the on rushing Kwame Fordwar caused Fred Herrod to hesitate enough for the rest of the Clifton team to pile in. A scrum was awarded, and the ball fell loose behind the try-line. Ollie Bowden, opportunistic as ever, was the first to react, diving forwards to touch the ball and sending the cup to Clifton for the second successive year. Will Watson unsurprisingly converted from close range to make it 16–3.

The game was by no means a classic, with the majority of the points coming through kicks in a tight yet hard-fought game. It was far from the entertaining and open game of last year, but what it lacked as a spectacle was more than compensated for by the passion both on and off the pitch.

The Clifton Rugby team with Ryan’s family

See the official news story.

4 October 2011

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