Chiswick Rugby Club's 50th Anniversary Celebrations

Scattered (scatty?) recollections of ageing fan David Lovell

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Riverside Lands, Dukes Meadows, Chiswick, London W4 2SH

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On a day more suited to a gentle game of cricket, it was appropriate that golden boy Andy “Blind Peters &” Lee, accompanied by son Jake, was the first player I bumped into at Riverside Lands. The tan and coiffure were to remain in place throughout the afternoon for Andy, and after token appearances for the Golden Oldies and for the Vets, it was as a substitute in the big match that he got his biggest cheer, a scything tackle being in sharp contrast to his usual unruffled calm and elegant play.

Tim “Teflon” Yearwood’s recollected one of the year’s cock-ups. “That was sort of, sidestep, dummy, dummy, sidestep, clear run for the line, everyone was cheering, everyone was shouting “you’re in Tim, you’re in”. I dived, and realised, (sotto voce), I was five metres short”. The spritely Jeff Luckman couldn’t remember when he first played for the club, but appeared to have total recall of his numerous operations (Question: - Who’s more afraid of a surgeon than a twenty stone opponent? Answer – Everyone). It’s strange that Sam Hood gets to be called “Robot”, when the Jeff’s appellation “Bionic” would appear to be more modern. Or is it?

The admirable James (All round nice guy) Oliver was “too flustered” to contribute a personal memoir, but since he spent the whole afternoon rushing around organising things, when he wasn’t showing the Vets, and everyone else, the art of forward play, he is forgiven. The esteemed Physio Jo, draped casually over the clubhouse railings, a soft drink to hand summed up thus “ It’s been like holding your breath for the entire season. No pause for thought. Everybody’s worked hard, played hard and had a whale of a time.”
One of the pillars on which the Club has been built, Sue Goodenough, was next. “ In 1964 we had a tiny little shack in Spelthorne, no bigger than a small garage, which was our clubhouse. I saw the move into Lazards, at Sunbury, and then back to Chiswick. Unfortunately I was here the night that the fire happened, and we lost our old clubhouse. It’s wonderful to see this lovely new building being used. This year I think the new clubhouse plus the enthusiasm of our first team players has produced a cracking anniversary year.”

A far too fit looking founder member, Doug “Soixante” Neuff, ( outside half) reckoned that the best team was that of 1958. “ Great year. Still the team keep together. There’s only one of us popped off. We had Bertie Kitchener at scrum half, Mike Hutchinson and Roger Ridout. We’re still in contact, and we had this dinner above the East India club a couple of months ago.” Doug went to Chiswick school in 1948, and recollected how a number of old boys, including Tony Pannell, went up to Loughborough before playing for the Old Meadonians Rugby Club (as the club was originally called, of course, before becoming Chiswick Rugby Club) . He recalled the enthusiasm of school staff B.P.Jones, Jock Ironside, Alistair Jones, and how everyone involved at the time had to do spells as captain and secretary. He reminisced that at Spelthorne the players had to run from one hut into an old barn containing a plunge pool that was always cold because R.R. had forgotten to turn the hot water on.

Roger Willingale, four years as club captain, recollected how three yards of gauze stuffed up a broken nose can cause problems. The last of the club’s pony-tailed players Tom Bartholomew, joined the club in 1986 with Phil Allen and Tim Foley, and reckoned that the pitch, where the “Golden Oldies” were now warming up was like Time Tunnel. He complained, rightly, that the oldsters should have been made to play in long shorts with a leather ball, and only awarded three points for a try. When Tom said he hadn’t been aiming much higher than the thirds when he first joined, I pointed out that Dan Luger had played for the fourths in 1993 ( match score 105-24 ).

Roman Zakrevsky, confrontational winger extraordinaire confided that it was Dave Rotherham at Chiswick School taking him to a Rugby League competition that had first got him interested, and then, like many others, he was persuaded by Keith Luckman to join the Chiswick Club.

Chiswick G. O. v Grasshoppers G.O.

One minute from kick-off, and an explosive break by No.12 for Grasshoppers led to the first try. A drop-kicked conversion followed – 7-0 (or 5-0 ?) Breath taken, and Peter O’Neill surges from the back of the next scrum in the approved style. Minutes later and a Grasshoppers’ throw is taken by Andy Lee (every inch the ringer in a different shirt from everyone else), and Golden Boy strides effortlessly to the line. All square. Stuart “Twinkletoes” McClachen twists and turns upfield to link with Martin “Todd” Cox, but his pass out is spurned by Gary “Hold Me Back, Scouser” Fielder. Syd Williams burst out and gave Tim Yearwood a run, but a subtle change of pace failed to fool the defender.

The second half featured a Chiswick maul, guided by Dave “Goose” Goodenough and a couple of breaks by Syd Williams and Bryan Monk before the next, very unfortunate, break. This was one in the upper arm of Ken “I’m Not A Scrum Half” Alcraft, necessitating the moving of the match to the second team pitch. (Physio Jo, with support from Ian Walker on the sunshade, and others, remained with Ken for ages, the ambulance having missed the turn and gone over Chiswick Bridge). Whilst Chiswick pondered the problems of Osteoporosis, etc., Grasshoppers got on with the game and scored another try, duly converted. Suitably miffed, the home team responded, and some deft handling allowed Jeff Luckman to put Tim Yearwood away down the line, the sprinter finding the right line to dive over this time. Gooses’ conversion kick was a little under-hit. Trevor Smith, Ian King, Jack Sane and Phil Allen all figured prominently as Chiswick fought to pull the match back, but it was the visitors who nearly scored another try just before the final whistle.

Chiswick Vets v Grasshoppers Vets

The visitors started off very neatly, but Chiswick worked their way back upfield. Golden Oldie Mike Hutchings, having been delayed on his way, was on the field to demonstrate his silky skills as Chiswick drove forward, but it was Trevor Smith who helped set up the next move, and Steve Osborne found Tom Lovell with a long pass. Tom went outside one player before switching inside to Adrian “Twinny” McKay, who scored exuberantly. Frank Small slotted the conversion. Mike McMorran saved Chiswick from an immediate responder, tidying up beautifully after Tom Lovell failed to get his fingers on a wickedly spinning ball in the in-goal area.
McKay was the provider for the next try, putting Phillips in from close range. Phillips himself drop-kicked the conversion. The Chiswick Vets had a formidable back division on show, and were always a threat. The forwards showed they could play a bit as well, and after a thundering break by James Oliver, Simon Egan joined the backs and eventually put Oliver in for a very popular try. Phillips’ place kick conversion attempt was abysmal.

Phillips and Tom Lovell then linked to put Slattery in for a simple try. Brother Jon Lovell, on at scrum half, was involved in the next try. Slattery made the break, and Jon Lovell sent the ball along the line to Egan who put Tom Bartholomew away. Feet from the line he passed to Adrian Pitman for the score. Grasshoppers kept trying, and were rewarded when a Chiswick player bought a dummy. The conversion was good. The home forwards were really putting on a show now, with Phil Allen and Dave Perkins prominent, but it was McKay who eventually benefited again for the final score.

Chiswick 1st XV v Invitation XV

With the Vets rowdily filling the large marquee in front of the clubhouse, there were still over a hundred spectators enjoying the sunshine as Chiswick produced a typically laid back start, letting the supercharged opponents break down the blind-side for an award-seeking try (how many seconds?). Scrum half Nico Fryer did well to pin the winger in the corner, keeping the score to five points.

The Chiswick machine slowly warmed up, and as the pressure increased the opponents began to give away the odd penalty. Keith Luckman put in a couple of splendid touch kicks to set up dangerous lineout positions. Brynley Price, thankfully back after his broken jaw episode, was not immediately dominant in the lineouts, however, and the first opportunity went begging. The home pressure continued, and Al Pickering, Marcus Rowley and Marc Jones all got close to the line. Price took the next lineout cleanly, but Jan Joubert was bundled into the corner flag. Graham Robbings got close, but the Invitation XV defended stoutly.

John Gibson was a wall in the midfield for Chiswick, but was missing his usual midfield partner Ben Cheston, these two having produced many moments of magic this season. As Chiswick kept surging into the opposition’s 22, Shane Donaldson was prominent with a couple of well-directed runs. Fighting hard for a score, captain Marc Jones linked with Ian Walker down the right wing, only for the unfortunate Walker to damage his collarbone in a tackle. The mummified Walker went off escorted by two lovely girls, as the rest of the team sweated on the arrival of the water bottles – are we sure he was injured?

Supersub Slattery arrived on the pitch – result now not in doubt.

Elliot Pickering was doing a good job of emulating his amazing brother ( I hope I shall be forgiven for saying that ) with surging runs into the opposition players. Then Luckman got sucked in after Al Pickering had been brought down in midfield, and Robbings took over at fly-half. Marcus Rowley was close at hand and jiggled several yards upfield. The ball was then fed out to Jones with a little space for once. Al Pickering supported on the inside, took a determined tackle and got in an accurate scoring pass to --- lock Aran Delaney! (Where did he come from?) This passage typified the sort of try Chiswick have been scoring all season, and which makes them great to watch. Luckman’s kick was pushed wide. A couple of minutes, and he makes amends with a simple penalty kick : 8-5.

Ed Buxton proceeded to show that the Invitation XV had not read the script, with a try after a period of desperate home defence, easily converted. Chiswick were kept under pressure, with Robbings’ tackling ability invaluable to the team. A stroke of luck suddenly came the good guys way. The referee managed to disrupt an attack, and the loose ball was hammered upfield ( anywhere, anywhere!) by Luckman. The predatory Jones set off, accompanied by four of the opposition. No contest. As required, the ball bounced in favour of the minority, and the crowd (yes, really) were not sure whether to laugh or cheer – both were acceptable, as Jones touched down. The conversion failed.

Tom Alcraft was now on at scrum half, and almost immediately took a tapped penalty and put Rowley in for another try ( he did have a few defenders to push back over the try line, but made it look easy). This time Luckman succeeded. 20-12. Nothing daunted however the Invitation XV came back at Chiswick, and found a large gap in the middle of the home defence. The conversion was a formality. One point in it.

No real problem, if you recall. Tom Alcraft gets a long pass out to Keith who finds Slattery on his inside. Supersub sidesteps one and accelerates unstoppably past another for a final scintillating try, which Luckman just had to convert. Chiswick finished with Andy Lee, Marco Chraplewczyk, and Gavin Nichols on the field as the crowd basked in the sunshine, admiring the beautifully mown pitch, with the sprinkler on the Hockey pitch in the background, the stalls with burgers and beer, the children with Thierry Henry shirts or baseball bats, and a lot of tired, but satisfied players, who had done us proud.

Just to add a personal thank you to everyone involved in organising and achieving this occasion, enjoyed by all.

David Lovell


April 29, 2008