Fulham played Manchester United on 2 November, 2013. This photo was taken on 23 April, 2017. The Norman Arms closed in early 2014. There are some less than favourable comments to be found online about the state the place was in then, contrasting with some nicer words a few years before. It’s still boarded up now and history records that Fulham lost 3-1 and were, at the end of the season, relegated.
Over to Hastings and Bexhill rugby club which is now the home of Hastings Conquerors American football club. Their visitors began life as the Chiltern Cheetahs in the mid 80s and lay claim to being the third oldest continuously playing club in the UK whereas Hastings are one of the newest. No matter, old and young now face each other in the same division which, assuming I’m reading this right, sits at the foot of the British American Football pyramid.
Truth to be told, there were pleasures here today but a close contest wasn’t one of them. Hertfordshire got ahead early and then scored often. On each down they seemed to have a few yards head start before Hastings closed them down. When Hastings had the football they didn’t seem to have the same level of coordination and, in the first half (I left at half time owing to life getting in the way), picked up only one first down which they immediately blew by coughing up an interception touchdown.
The final score was 63-0 so a happy journey home for the visitors but a tough day at the office for the Conquerors. But, at least, they now have an office which is a very nice place to watch sport. The rugby clubhouse serves a nice pint, the balcony is a splendid place to survey what’s going on, and, should they get a close game going, they will get more folk to stick around. There was interest aplenty from a healthy contingent from Hastings & Bexhill as well as a good group of preconverted supporters. I’ll certainly be back and I may even make it past half time.
“Is this your first time?” So asked the Sussex groundhopper as I made my way through the muck covered path behind the goal to set up a position to take some photos. I tried to appear quite the veteran of East Sussex soccer but my interlocutor, even more recently arrived, made my experience look puny. This is someone who goes to Battle Baptists and Hollington when the heights of the County League get too dizzy. I can’t compete with that. I just took some photos instead.
But what of the game? Well, we waited for a game of football to break out but it wasn’t that sort of afternoon. There was a lot of effort, a lot of physicality and a lot of passion. What there wasn’t, for most of the time, was anything resembling sustained, coordinated play. In the first half, when the tackles flew, that was kind of fun. In the second, as Westfield tired and neither team did much to inspire, it was less fun. But I can’t be too sad. Any match which features an exploding sugar bowl has to be worth remembering fondly. For the record, Sidlesham won 3-1, overcoming an early deficit to run out deserved winners.
Nobody is going to claim what we saw today was a classic but, as the man who goes from game to game to game will no doubt agree, that’s not why we’re here in the first place.
Modern life is rubbish.
Sunday morning. Some are finding their salvation in services, others stand before secular art and search for signs of truth.
Smarter people than me might think of Inclosure Acts. Or maybe they’d dwell on the need for rules to decide who owns what fence and whose responsibility it is to maintain a fair and sound border. We might get flippant and discuss boundary disputes and or think of Les Dawson talking over a garden fence with Roy Barraclough. Maybe we could wonder about how thin pieces of budget wood implant themselves as solid, defined boundaries even as we watch foxes dig under them.
Welcome to rugby union in Sussex Division Four (East). We’re so far down what passes for a pyramid here that it’s hard to work out what level we’re talking about. At a rough guess it would take something like eleven direct promotions and a thousand pages of red tape for a team down here to make it all the way to the top. Today, all anyone was really bothered about was whether the visitors would make it all the way to fifteen. They didn’t have even enough men and relied on a fair few (estimates varied) from the Hastings areas to get up to strength – and even then needed the Cinque Ports touch judge to step up to the plate when fatigue meant more numbers were required. It is to everyone’s credit that whilst it was expectedly ragged at times, there was a pretty decent game of rugby to watch at all.
St Leonards Cinque Ports won 31-10. I know this because the twitter feed told me. I lost count when I didn’t see the indications following a couple of conversions. The man who runs the twitter feed also runs the line, leads the training, takes match notes and, today, gets to play some rugby for his club’s opponents. There are hundreds like him in all sports up and down the country every weekend. That doesn’t diminish the individual effort – rather, to me, it shows what an under appreciated army we have sustaining sport in this country.
The match was a bit odd. Lewes probably had the majority of possession, almost certainly had the majority of territory, and yet were never really that close on the scoreboard. Ports had a well organised defence (although a team who’d met each other before would have stretched them more) and some excellent quick breakers. That was the difference.
It was a lovely day to watch some rugby. Obviously my solution to the numbers problem would have been to get them to drop to 13 a side and cap the phases allowed before losing possession at six but even allowing for the obvious deficiencies of insisting on too many flankers there was some good football on display at times. The sun shone brightly and it was pleasantly warm. The match was hosted by Hastings & Bexhill and it’s the first time I’ve been up there and not immediately been afraid that I was about to blown from Kansas into Oz.
All in all, a very nice afternoon. I took some photos (here). I may be back. After all, someone has to be there to see St Leonards Cinque Ports make all those promotions until they can face Wasps on equal terms. Just so long as they never ask me to make up the numbers …