Cronk Cunis Cup 2003
The Tournament now in its seventh year was held on a sunny Sunday morning at Richmond RFC. With over 30 teams drawn from the old boy associations of various different schools, 30-minute games and both a cup and a plate to play for it looked as though it would be an eventful day.
The OP team gathered together by the gates, a motley crew who to the untrained eye would have easily been mistaken as a squad of overweight, unfit, has beens but who to the trained eye appeared as steely eyed rugby kings, with the exception of a certain Mr. Engman who kept protesting “Honestly these door to door sales have made me lose a stone, I only weigh 15 now, box of frozen prawns anyone?”
The news had got round that we were to face Wellington in the first round, a school that wins the Daily Mail Cup on a regular basis and that had won the Cronk-Cunis tournament for the last tow years. A ripple of fear ran through some of the younger boys, but with a few wise words of reassurance from the Assistant to the Head Water Boys Assistant (Nick Farren) on the journey over to the pitches, calm settled in and with the donning of school colours in the form of the OPRFC shirt confidence begun to rise amongst the starting fifteen. Confidence reached fever pitch when wild rumour swept the crowd that Wellington could only field seven players, one in a wheel chair and six welsh, meaning that they might have to forfeit the match resulting in a famous victory for the OPs! Alas it was not to be, Wellington managed to round up thirteen players and the match kicked off thirteen a-side. Benedict’s held their own from the kick off, with Will Lunn administering some punishing tackles and the pack led by Captain Chris Allum not allowing Wellington (or their professional No.8) any space to manoeuvre. Several times Wellington pushed forward threatening to score and several times the Ops simply soaked up these attacks and reorganised themselves. Benedict’s moved up the field and with about five minutes to go in the half and from a line out an error was forced, Chris Allum scuffed the ball through and chased on, the Wellington Pack gave chase and caught, but it was to late and Allum had stretched over the line to score. Morale was instantly lifted and there seemed to be no doubt that Benedict’s could now beat these supposed champions. The conversion was missed for the OPs, and with the crowd growing tempers frayed and a certain OP was yellow carded, Wellington took this advantage and scored just before half time. The scores stood at five apiece at the start of the second half and with the arrival of another Wellington player Farren was allowed onto the pitch to bring the sides up to fourteen each. The game started again and Wellington immediately took control, the OP defence attempted to halt the onslaught with Sam Codrington and Magdalena at scrum half managing to take the ball forward and make some ground, but Wellington were now on a roll and four tries were scored in the next fifteen minutes. The final score was 27-5, Wellington moved onto the next round of the cup. This was the smallest margin they won by on a day that they won the cup for the third time year in a row.
This loss meant that morale dipped, however such a distinguished result meant that the OPs had now qualified for the plate tournament. With an hour and a half till the next match the team sat down and sat back thinking about how they should play the next game. With the exception of James Kennedy who was approached by Hurstspearpoint and went off to play a game for them with mutterings of “might see the ball this time” only to return half an hour later with mutterings of “what a gash team”.
The squad was further strengthened by the arrival of James Haston and O’Donnel and the team moved back to the clubhouse where they were to play campion on the stadium pitch. With the enlarged squad it meant that some of the players could return to their original position. With Molony, McGarty and Haston in the back row, Callum and Adrian in the second row and Allum, O’Donnel and that well known priorian Gurner in the front row the pack was a formidable one. With the arrival of a proper number eight it also meant that Nick Farren could move out to his natural position on the wing where he was to wreak havoc. The match kicked off in front of a large crowd, once again the back line controlled aggressively by Magdalena, tackled without respite (notably Lunn, Engman and Codrington) and the charge at the front led by alum meant that within minutes the OPs were on the score sheet. Every attempt campion made to get back in the game was shut down by the OPs unmercifully and again the OPs scored. The critics on the touch line (and there were many) who doubted Farren’s ability to be on the wing were quietened when after a series of death inducing tackles he went over with the grace of a ballet dancer and the speed of a bullet adding to the mounting score. Despite this showboating the rest of the team did not relent and with some hard hits from Molony and McGarty and some incisive running from Kennedy and Codrington there was no doubt that the OPs had this one in the bag. Campion did wriggle in a consolation score but with the final whistle the OPs were through to the quarterfinals.
After a sapping match against Wellington and such a monumentous effort against Campion injuries and tiredness were beginning to creep in. Allum had to drop out due to a shoulder injury and the team lost it’s captain, Molony treated the gasping crowds to a display of multicoloured vomiting, many others were feeling the pain and Colin’s knee was slowly inflating, as a result three ringers were found (a number two below the rules allowed and well below the number some of the other teams were carrying especially our next opposition) to play in the next match against Cardinal Vaughn.
The match was on the other side of the clubhouse and everybody anticipated an easy victory against a school that used to regularly concede cricket scores at schoolboy level. The match started well with Nick Farren scoring an apparently outstanding try from inside his own 22 whilst I was at the bar buying a drink. It seemed on my return (almost at half time) that the OPs had found their running rugby with Codrington splitting the Vaughn back line and later going on to skin his opposite number and go over the line. However to the close of the half Vaughn cam back and scored a try and as the half time whistle went the score stood at 10-7 in the OPs favour. The second half was a much closer and harder fought half with the referee making a number of interesting decisions in Vaughn’s favour, and with O’Donnell continuing his theme of picking ‘discussions’ with members of the opposition the OPs found themselves moving backwards. Another try was scored by the OPs and Lunn after another outstanding display of tackling was replaced by Engman. The match slogged on and it looked as though the OPs might have it, however after some more lack discipline the OPs found themselves just off their try line facing a penalty which though dubious Vaughn managed to squeeze under the posts and score a try. With under twenty seconds to go in the match and the score 15-15 Vaughn converted and won the game.
Though there was obviously disappointment at the loss, it was clear that the team was also proud of reaching the quarter finals and only losing very narrowly in what is effectively a national tournament. In the last seven years the OPs have reached the quarter final of both the plate and the cup at least three times and in 1998 the OP team actually won the plate. There are clearly many schools and old boy teams who won’t forget the OP colours.
The day wrapped up nicely in the Red Lion where the OPA had very kindly provided £200 worth of beer tokens, the lamp shades were swung and many tales were told. Fines were conferred for charges ranging from “Having no business on the wing” (Farren) to being “oh so toight” (Haston). The night progressed along nicely and after Allum attempted to serenade the manageress he was asked to please never return again.