Though the pitch was sodden underfoot, the sky was clear as PDMS Southern Nomads continued their Cheshire Plate defence with a powerful and efficient semi-final performance against a physical Oxton Parkonians side who were still smarting from their defeat at the same stage last season. With a number of first teamers missing, Nomads faced a gargantuan task from the outset, especially given that flanker-come-centre Jimmy Cubbon looked more like a homeless person than an athlete during the warm-up as he battled on through illness.
The home side tried to use their size and aggression to gain the upper hand at the breakdown and set-piece, but Nomads matched and then bettered their attempts throughout. When Parkonians won an early penalty which cannoned back off the post, the diminutive Danny Bridle was on hand to expertly snatch it up and launch an immediate counter attack. Such was the courage of Nomads’ all day long as Bridle, Ean Mousley and Rob Keelan stole or slowed down Parkonians ball all afternoon, which meant they were never allowed to gather enough momentum to trouble an excellent Nomads defence.
After a solid Parkonians scrum, makeshift centre Cubbon, who looked to still be ailing from his illness was caught out of position as his opposite number, Liam Sadler skirted round his outside, but when Sadler was clattered by fellow centre Gerard Landels, Cubbon was on hand to do what he does best and snaffled Nomads a penalty which Mark Young coolly slotted from 35 yards out. Another successful Young penalty from wide on the left doubled Nomads’ lead after some great work from Dave Horan and the pack at the restart.
Cubbon looked like Lazarus reborn as Nomads pulled ahead. Unfortunately there is a reason that he has been a great Manx ‘flanker’ over the years, rather than a centre; with a dummy scissors pop called by the excellent Young, Cubbon set off miles too early (disappearing before Younger had even caught the ball). Fortunately some quick thinking from the fly-half including a pinpoint pass and some nice line-running put Landels through in spite of the two-on-three scenario, as Quasimodo casually split the centres and then bypassed the fullback to score a converted try, the first half thus ending 0-13 to the Manx side.
Despite a strong headwind in the second half and some clever Parkonians kicking, Southern Nomads were able to keep their advantage thanks largely to some heroic tackling from Dave Horan and Conor Stevens. On one such occasion, Parkonians’ 18 stone number eight charged round the side of the scrum at a tremendous pace. Suddenly he was disappearing back some fifteen yards beyond the scrum being carried by the 8 stone (when wet) Stevens who was audibly chuckling as he bossed the behemoth straight through his opposite winger! A try was leaked in the second half to a pick-and-drive from flanker Danny Blyth after a series of penalties and unforced errors, but when Colin Kelly made a clean break for the second time in the game (but didn’t try to bosh the fullback this time) and shipped it to Landels, another converted try re-established Nomads’ commanding lead.
Another unconverted Nomads score came after Ste McHugh flopped over from a yard following more good link-up play between 10 and 13.The front five were now getting the better of their opposite numbers all round the pitch and the front row of Ally Kelly, Jack Sleight and Colin Kelly were making telling contributions. Eventually, the referee grew tired of the high penalty count on both sides, so when he spotted a Parkonian connecting with two punches, before responding to Mousley’s invitation to ‘have another go,’ with a head butt, he acted decisively… and asked the home team if they would like to substitute the player. He was subsequently switched into the front row.
With less than eight minutes to go, the referee decided that there was no advantage coming from Mousley’s side-entry to a ruck, and sauntered thirty yards across the pitch to where Landels was stood with his hands on his head, watching the forwards beat each other up from a slightly offside position. This heinous and blatant disregard for the rules from a habitual troublemaker (who was already sporting the bruises from a number of (no doubt justified) off-the-ball hits) could not be tolerated, and whilst the penalty was taken from the site of the side-entry infringement, the insidiously evil centre was finally given his marching orders!
With their man advantage, Sadler the centre managed to score an unconverted try, but the true character of the Nomads shone through as they held out. When Mark Young collected a double-miss bounce-pass from Cubbon to finish the game majestically in the corner with a try he was unable to convert, the game was over.
1 to 22 played their hearts out for the Nomads, and a win was the result of a huge amount of effort and hard work and the only result they really deserved. Dave Horan and Conor Stephens were awarded ’men of the Match’ for their work in attack and defence. They were both the target of Parkonians big ball carriers, but they tackled heroically and consistently drove the opposition backwards.