Monday 14 July 2008

Avondale 10 - Otter 11 (London Premiership 14th July 2008)

Finally, a game worthy of the price of admission; Rocky didn't even finish his chocolate digestive.

Otter looked to have a stronger squad than for the season's opener, nearly 3 months ago, when the visiting Avondale team ended up winning relatively comfortably. Once again Avondale were without their sharpshooter 007, but also, for a change, without the ever reliable Bind and Brooks. Strangely Moorhouse, the bedrock of their defence, also sat out the game, performing duties at the table. With two competent referees to keep order this had the hallmarks of a decent polo match, and Rocky and I had a small wager (I always keep the odd dog biscuit handy) as I fancied Otter to reverse their previous defeat.

Had this been greyhound racing, a trainer would have been sent to trap 1 early in the event to rouse the dog in white, who had clearly dozed off. Otter started by far the stronger side and at 0 - 4 half way through the first chukka, my antenna that had sensed a decent game appeared to be picking up the wrong channel. Otter were all half a yard quicker than their opponents and again and again managed steal the inside advantage and tap the ball into the vacant net. Avondale rallied slightly at the end of the quarter to pull a couple back, but still ended up 2 - 5 down at the change.

I need not have worried. Captain Fantastic managed to conjure the will to win from the lacklustre home team and the motivation that was sadly lacking from the start, reappeared in the second quarter. Goals from the strangely subdued 'sniper' Jacobs and two trademark backhands from Konrad from fast passes directly from the Avondale keeper quickly levelled the scores. The first of the backhands literally punctured the ball as it hit the far top corner of the net at barely sub-sonic speed and a replacement had to be found. Avondale managed a fourth in the quarter from the big ginger bloke who's bike I stole to ride home on (always worth popping a decent pair of bolt croppers in ones laptop bag) plus two good saves, one on each post from their evergreen keeper and finally in the last second an outrageous miss into a completely open goal from Otter closed the quarter at 6 - 5. Otter must have been kicking themselves. They had definitely played better polo as a team but the individual brilliance of the Avondale players and finally a defence that began to pay attention, with the long arms of Standley catching more than his share of ball, and we had a game worth watching.

From this point on there was never more than a goal in it, and a good sized pool of saliva collected at Rocky's feet as he sat rapt throughout the second half. Avondale looked the less fit, but their lack of aerobic prowess was more than compensated for by the skill of their attacking players and a persistent defence from one and all. Frank 'the tank' Ford, for whom an otter is generally only an appetiser, had earned a penalty in the second quarter and both he and Konrad earned one apiece in the third, somehow keeping Avondale ahead 9 - 8. "The Sniper" spent much of the third quarter on the bench looking decidedly unwell.

Otter levelled early in the fainal quarter and then edged ahead, only to see Avondale pull it back level after some persistent chasing from their captain and pressure on the Otter keeper forced him to submerge the ball and present Avondale with yet another penalty. A well worked extra man from Otter finally put them in front with only a minute to go and the game looked over. But, once again Avondale managed to work the ball to their right where the magician Konrad somehow completely fooled his defender who from where I was sitting just suddenly seemed to decide to take up a position behind the Hugarian rather then in front of him. Another penalty with 20 seconds on the clock and "The Tank" stepped up to the plate with the scores at 10 - 11. Perhaps he'd overdone the feeding and had grazed on one otter too many, who knows. The shot bounced up and rattled back off the crossbar to relieved cheers from the visitors, who ran down the clock to take a well earned victory.

What a pleasant way to spend a Monday evening.

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