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All Stars beat the weather and Vandals in season opener

Michael Fish famously predicted the Great Storm of 1987 wouldn’t amount to much. Eagle-eyed Vets kept their eyes on the telly throughout the week hoping the forecasters had their Friday evening calculations wrong. They were to be disappointed.


The heavens opened, the wind roared and 24 men made the trip across to Vandals. Arguably the strongest vets squad in years, especially in the back line. Keen to get going, Cobham lined up for kick-off some 15 minutes early only to be told by the ref that it was an 8.00pm start.


With the howling conditions, this was to be no sporting spectacle. You felt sorry for the supporters on the sidelines. A slippy ball and a turbulent wind meant a lot of dropped balls and plenty of scrummaging practice (especially for Mark Duncan - his summer excesses allowing him a first run out in the front row).


Miles Hill kicked and chased and kicked and chased only for one excellent touchdown to have been deemed in touch - by his own friend and linesman. These vets are an honest bunch (Ed: he was in touch!). And then - in the briefest of flashes - a sharp line cut by Jeff Mace, beating three men and four tackles, to go over between the sticks. Owen Ashton converted (0-7). Would this be the opening of the flood gates?


No. What followed was Somme-like attrition. Vandals had the wind in the first half and made it tough for Cobham to get any ball. The entire second quarter of the game was spent inside Cobham’s 22. Tackle after tackle. Scrum. Tackle again. Heroic defence kept Vandals short of the line and the ref blew for half-time.


Now Cobham had the wind. The plan was simple: get the ball, kick for territory. But “everyone has a plan until they are punched in the face.” There was some tough tackling as Owen Ashton tidied up at the back and some pleasantries exchanged with the sidelines. And then, in a moment of brilliance, a clearing kick from Vandals found its way into Ashton’s arms on the halfway line. One step, and a casual knock; the drop goal sailed between the uprights and pleasantries were returned to those on the sideline. Fairy tale stuff and a sliver of cool light in the dark storm.


Both teams tried to make a mark on the game but today was about defence. Running across the pitch was met again with tackle after tackle, scrum, a squinty lineout. A try saving tackle by Rich Marshall and then great hands from Rich Neish almost had Cobham in at the other end. More last ditch defence with three minutes to go. Vets putting themselves in harm's way to help out their mates: battlefield material. But Vandals just couldn’t get through and the ref - in his third ever game - blew the whistle to signal the bar was open.


A turgid affair, one to put in the drawer marked ‘not quite memorable’ but an away win against historically tough opposition in a howling gale. Thanks to the Weybridge lads for their hospitality.


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