Boxing Day Rugby Match, 2004 0
Boxing Day at any rugby club in the country is when the true spirit of the sport emerges and its innate entertainment value is brought out by the bottle (seems a better way of putting it than bucket load). Just as Christmas is a time for families to come together the traditional Boxing Day sporting event sees anyone that has ever been involved in the wide community of rugby turn out to meet old friends and for some festive fresh air and exercise. The outcome is usually hugely amusing, the rugby flowing and people discover their shortcomings under benign and understanding circumstances that all can enjoy.
These days it is often the only game of rugby a veteran plays in the year. An old trooper who has long hung up his boots will root them out of the cupboard when his son or his daughters’ husband comes home for the holidays in a desperate attempt to keep in touch with his youth and to show he can still do it. It is a well known fact that a rugby player never retires. It is simply that the gaps between matches get longer and longer. Indeed at a recent holiday in Center Parcs this rugby writer dug out his old shorts to play badminton with his kids and not only did they refuse to play with him in his old gear but they frogmarched him to the sports shop to buy a more modern, longer and therefore trendier and more acceptable kit. Harrumph.
At Lincoln Rugby Club, Boxing Day was a beautiful crisp winter’s day. Even though the midday the sun was low in the sky and the ground was largely frozen around fifty players old and new turned out to do battle on the ice rink. If this had been a league match the game would have been abandoned before it started but there was one hundred percent consensus that the game was important enough to carry on.
Because Lincoln only have the one strip there was some objection because of the cold conditions to the notion of playing one side in “skins” and it was decided that one team would just turn their shirts inside out. As Chairman of Selectors Keith Younger read out the teams individuals would troop over to one side or the other just as they still do in school during the break when the two captains pick their own team. Those not chosen were not too dejected because they knew that they could keep their coats on for another half an hour on the touchline.
This truly is a family day at Lincoln Rugby Club and a number of families turned out to play. In the vanguard was Geoff Newmarch who brought three grown up sons along for a game, followed by Adie Smith and son Tom. Other father and son pairings included the Smalls, Dudleys, Woods and Woodthorpes. The Younger brothers added a fraternal slant and Malcolm Withers at the young old age of 68 turned out in a museum piece of a scrum cap that has preserved his good looks through six decades of the sport.
Referee John Kirk turned out in a Father Christmas outfit that bulged so much after his Christmas lunch the previous day that everyone present felt that he would never get down that chimney again unless he put in a real effort at slimming in the New Year. John kept the game flowing as never before – nobody really wanted to slow down for a scrum or lineout because it was too cold.
At half time as the teams changed round and those players yet to have their turn came on several bottles of port were distributed together with oranges soaked in chilli vodka. If anyone minded the vodka no-one mentioned it and in fact it was so cold that it may be the case that no-one actually noticed the difference from the normal healthy orange segment.
As for the game itself? It ebbed, flowed, it entertained, kicks were booed and individual performances were cheered, many tries were scored and nobody kept the score. Old timers received knocks that reminded them why they didn’t play any more and of all the players on the pitch no one person gets a specific mention other than Pete Webster who likes to see his name in print. Well played Pete. Well played everyone. See you in 2005.