Monday, July 31, 2017

When a Try's Scored by a Prop

It was mid way through the season
We were just outside the four
And although I know we won it
I can't think of the score.
But there's one thing I remember
And to me it says a lot
About the men who front the scrum -
The men we call "the props".
We won a hard-fought scrum
And the backs went for a run
The flankers quickly ripped the ball
And the second phase was won.
Another back then crashed it up
And took it to the line
Another maul was duly set
To attack them one more time.
The forwards pushed and rolled the maul
Made sure the work was done
The last man in played loose head prop

The ball was pushed in to his hands
He held it like a beer
Then simply fell to score the try
His first in 15 years.
Then later, once the game was done
He sat amidst the team
He led the song and called himself
The try-scoring machine.
But it wasn't till the night wore on
That the truth was finally told

Just three beers in, he'd scored the try and also kicked the goal.
At 7 o'clock the try was scored
By barging through their pack
He carried two men as he scored
While stepping 'round a back.
By eight he'd run twenty yards
Out-sprinting their quick men
Then beat their last line of defence
With a Jonah Lomu fend.

By nine he'd run from near half way
And thrown a cut-out pass
Then looped around and run again
No one was in his class.
By ten he'd run from end to end
His teammates were now bored
He chipped and caught it on the full
Then swan dived as he scored.

By eleven he'd drunk 2 dozen beers
But still his eyes did glisten
As he told the story of that try
His chest filled up, as he spoke
His voice was filled with pride
He felt for sure he would be named
Next week the captain of the side.

By nights end he was by himself
Still taking on his own
The lights were out, the bar was shut
His mates had all gone home.
And that's why I love my front row
They simply never stop
And why I always lend an ear
When a try's scored by a prop.

Life is More Fun in the Tight Five

From Planet Rugby’s “ON THIS DAY” for 9/2/02:

Happy Birthday for former England and Lions lock Maurice Colclough who is 50 today.

Colclough was one of the driving forces behind England's Grand Slam campaign in 1980 as skipper Bill Beaumont's partner in the engine room of the scrum.

Colclough scored just one try during his international career, but that score was a crucial one, helping to seal England's 15-9 victory over the touring All Blacks in 1983 at Twickenham - England's first home win over New Zealand in 47 years.

At club level, Colclough served Wasps and Welsh side Swansea with distinction, becoming something of a cult figure at St Helen's despite being a marked man thanks to his English accent.

But it is his part in one episode that Colclough is most renowned for - the infamous after-shave drinking incident following England's win over France in the 1982 Five Nations Championship.

As with all Paris internationals, the post-match function was a lavish affair and the England players were bemused to see miniature bottles of after-shave at every placesetting on the tables.

With the England players in boisterous mood after their earlier 27-15 victory, Colclough tapped his England team-mate, prop Colin Smart, on the shoulder and challenged him to a drinking competition. The second row then grabbed his bottle of after-shave, twisted off the lid and threw the contents down his throat in one.

Not wanting to be outdone, Smart then followed suit, downing his bottle of after-shave as his team-mates cheered him on. Unfortunately for Smart, he had been the victim of a practical joke by the mischievous Colclough who, earlier in the evening had spotted the after-shave bottles and had replaced his own with tap water.

After a few minutes, Smart could not stand up and was rushed off to hospital to have his stomach pumped.

On another occasion in Paris, this time the night before a Five Nations fixture, Colclough urged his roommate to step onto a narrow ledge outside their hotel window in order to admire the incredible view across the city.

When the player eagerly followed Colclough's suggestion, the second row shut and locked the window behind him, before heading off to the hotel bar for the night, leaving his hapless victim stranded on the ledge some six floors up from the Parisian pavement.

A tale of two beer mats

Beerlog (from

Pint of view - 9 April 2002

A pub landlord has banned beer mats showing a man in underpants stretching a condom as part of a health campaign. The bilingual beer mats and posters have been distributed to pubs and clubs across North Wales by the Health Promotion Division of the National Assembly for Wales. They show a slogan saying: "Protect your prop forward! Use a condom for your protection" and list a number of sexual diseases. "Prop forward" is a rugby term.

Kevin McArdle, the licensee of the Ye Olde Mail Coach in Conway, said: "They're just OTT (over the top). If they took the picture off and had only the words, that would be better." McArdle, a churchgoing Catholic and seven children aged between eight and 19, said "My job is to run a pub. I've put up with having to sell condoms with stupid flavors but I just feel strongly that this is so over the top."

An entirely different beer mat which detects the two most common date-rape drugs by having a few drops of spiked drink spilt on it could be in pubs "within three weeks," according to the company that developed it. The mat is an almost immediate test for the presence of GHB and a class of drugs which includes Rohypnol and Temazepam. Both classes of substance, when combined with alcohol, leave victims open to any suggestion, and induce amnesia that can be long-term or permanent. Made by a firm called Surescreen Diagnostics, the mat has four small, white or yellow windows on it which change colour if a drop of spiked drink falls on the sensitive areas. The mats cost about 60p to produce and the company aims to discuss their use with Scottish and Newcastle Breweries soon.

Bugger Rugger: Why I totally hate schools' rugby, totally

Obviously, rugby isn't for everyone. This article was a surprise to me, a Yank, since I figured all Irishmen liked the game. Humphries' comments about playing second row are dead-on but, oddly, I like the position. - Wes

Pain, heartbreak and sorrow - that's what rugby has brought Tom Humphries. Now he says the sport should be banned and driven underground

From the Irish Times, 30 January 2001

Rugby people. Can't live with them. Can't shoot them. Mainly can't live with them. Can't afford to live with them. Haven't the bloodlines to live with them. Haven't the patience to live with them. Haven't the language skills to live with them. Haven't the desire even. Rugby people have always been college scarves and jutting jaws and silly songs I don't know the words of. C-A-N-N-O-T live with them.

Now, a quick word before we start. Every time I write one of my patented, bitter and twisted chip on-the-shoulder social-cripple pieces about the rugby world, the same smug epistles hit the desk all the way from D4. They tell me (surprise!) that I have a chip on my shoulder about rugby. "You're like a little boy with his nose pressed up against the window - come on in and have a pinty for croying out loud." I know. I have a chip.

Actually I like having a chip on my shoulder about rugby. It is my inalienable right. I will not have a pinty. Thonks. I am happy as I am. I don't like rugby and I work for The Irish Times. It's like being a day trader and working for Pravda. Listen to this. I have tried. I have reached out to rugby. I have gone forth in a spirit of understanding and fellowship and attempted to break down the cultural barriers between rugby and myself. For my troubles, I've had nothing but heartache and sorrow. Let me tell you something I've never told anyone before.

Once, and I am disappearing into a witness protection programme after the next full stop, I played half a season of under-19 rugby with Suttonians. Next time, I'd choose to do my time in jail, as my co-accused did. Despite being a Gaelic player, and therefore able to do some things most rugby people cannot do - i.e. catch a ball, kick a ball, run etc - I was press-ganged into being a second-row forward. This is like choosing to do a heavy lifting job in your spare time. For a few months, I spent my time with my shoulder pushing the buttocks of other men and my arm reached up between their legs. Even after a lifetime in the Christian Brothers, I wasn't prepared for that. My ears were always red and sore and my shoulders ached, but sometimes, to take my mind off all that, the opposing hooker would kindly give me a kick in the face. That's how rugby people run the game and it's how they run the world.

I thrived only in lineouts, those strange Masonic rituals wherein everybody uniformly mistimes their jump for some reason I couldn't initially understand. Clarification wasn't long in coming. After two clean catches, the person opposing you in the lineout would just reach across and pull your hair. Beats gravity every time. Hair-pulling wasn't a very manly thing to do, but neither was weeping: "Ref! Ref! He's pulling my hair." I learned to mistime my jump like everyone else.

For a while, I tried to bring several different coloured pairs of shorts to games in the hope that having the same coloured shorts as the opposition might save my testicles from being squeezed and twisted as we lay in panting heaps somewhere on top of the ball. The biting and hair-pulling I could take. Ball-handling was a no no - even from teams we played regularly. (Note: In the GAA testicles don't actually exist - except as a metaphor for guts. If a sliotar should whicker à tout vitesse into your testicular area, causing the 29 other players on the field to wince and you to double over squealing like a stuck pig, somebody will run onto the field, pour some water down your neck, slap your buttock and say: "C'mon son you'll be grand in a minute." This at a time when you need a general anaesthetic.)

Anyway it all finished between Suttonians and me one weekend when we played in a triangular tournament alongside the giants of the southside, Lansdowne and Blackrock. Now most of the team I played with were actually quite good at rugby and had won the Harry Gale Cup (no less) the previous year. This didn't save us from being treated like bumpkins on our venture across the river. It started with our kits, which were the same colours as Easons bags, and it went on all afternoon, no matter who we played. As luck would have it, on this Saturday morning we endured the sniggering of the Lansdowne chaps and beat them on the back pitch - in Lansdowne. This rightly fouled up the tournament. The plan had been that we would lose to Lansdowne in the morning and then obligingly lose to Blackrock in the afternoon, ensuring a Lansdowne v Blackrock play-off in Stradbrook the next day. Now, we yoiks would be going to Stradbrook. The story has a sad end. We met at noon the next day under Clerys clock. Maybe two of us weren't hungover. The others were pukey or giggly or both. The thought of perhaps beating Blackrock hadn't even kept them in for Saturday night. Why would it? They didn't hate Blackrock the way normal people do. They admired them. So we got pushed around Stradbrook for the afternoon and were beaten by a margin in the region of 60 points. In the second row it felt as if we were going to have our scrawny necks snapped like royal pheasants. For this, I had given up on a junior B football match with St Vincents?

I was deeply ashamed. I never went back. Never told anybody except my spiritual advisor. He quit instantly.

I gave rugby one more chance. Arriving in UCD and not knowing a soul, I put my name down when some jut-jawed, scarf-wearing, acne-free, pinty-type, lady-killing bastard announced that there was to be a class rugby league "to break the old ice, loike". I too would be an icebreaker! I filled out one of the little forms he gave out. I waited. The teams sheets went up on the lecture theatre wall. I skipped across like a happy little puppy. No T J Humphries listed. My eyes welled up. My heart welled down. I sought out the jut-jawed, scarfwearing, acne-free, gout-ridden, Dublin 4, bestiality-is-best-boys, pinty-type, lady-killing bastard and explained my position. Shome mishtake shurley, I said. His brow furrowed. "What's your name?" he asked. "Tom Humphries," I replied frankly. "Where'd you go to school?" he asked. "Fairview," I said. "Where's that?" he asked. (I should point out that his geographical ignorance was no worse than mine. (I got off the bus at RTÉ on my first day in UCD.) "Where the park is," I said helpfully. The park was in the news regularly then for gay-bashing incidents. "Well that's it," he said breezily. "The teams have all the 'Rock guys together, the 'Nure guys with the Belvo' boys, 'Zaga in with Clongowes, Mero with 'Knock and and so on. Roight? So sorry, but you lose out Humpho." "Oh," I said. I'd scarcely understood a word, but realised I had come within an ace of being saddled with a dumb rugger nickname all my life. I went forth and never sinned against my class or my people again.

There were other sad days in rugby's spiteful jihad against me. I lied about rugby to get into sports journalism, pretended I loved it, but soon got found out. I misidentified Brendan Foley as Moss Keane at an old-farts charity game and didn't work again for three months. I described King's Hospital, who haven't once won a small in-bred provincial competition like the Leinster Senior Cup, as the "whipping boys" of the event and the switchboards were jammed for a week by people who wanted to twist my testicles and pull my hair. I was invited to a pre-match dinner for a fixture I was covering involving Lansdowne, but when I turned up and they realised I wasn't quite what they'd been expecting, I was banished to a broom cupboard and given a hot beef roll.

I know these stories may be very upsetting for some sensitive readers, and perhaps there should have been an appropriate warning at the top of the piece, but I can only hope that any distress caused will serve as a warning to others. There has been enough hurt already. Stay away from rugby. It is a plague, sent to us, like the potato famine, to undermine the fabric of our society. The depression-era justification for allowing rugby to prosper (i.e. it's the only way most of these oafs will ever get jobs) is no longer sustainable. The sport should be banned and driven underground.

You can't keep a good hooker down

You might know that if anyone got a flesh-eating disease in rugby, it would be a front rower. - Wes

(From Parade Newsmagazine, 6/11/2001)

Rugby players often share stories of their gashes, sprains and broken bones, but Pat Dunkley of Victoria now has an injury story no one can top. After nearly losing his life to flesh-eating disease last year, Mr. Dunkley recently returned to playing hooker with Canada's national rugby team. He was playing for Canada in Western Samoa last May when someone stomped on his right calf with a cleated boot. "I didn't expect it was anything serious, I get kicked and stomped all the time, but [the disease] just took off really fast," explains Mr. Dunkley, 28. "At the end of our 48hour return trip, I went right to the hospital." Doctors operated four times, grafting skin from the side of the thigh to the calf area, and he was in hospital for three weeks. Despite scars that require him to wear a nylon sleeve over his leg, he has recovered fully. In fact, he played rugby with his hometown James Bay team last September and for Canada in May's Pan-America tournament in Kingston, Ont. The high school rugby coach credits help from coaches and therapists, and a refusal to quit, for his comeback. "You have to give it your hardest effort," he says. "Just like when you are playing."

Mystery prop Murdoch caught up in strange saga

There have been 1000 All Blacks but the most mysterious of them is a huge prop called Keith Murdoch, and now he is caught up in yet another strange saga in Australia.

In 1972 Murdoch caused a sensation when he was tossed out of the All Black squad then, on tour in Britain, he punched a security guard at Cardiff's Angel Hotel. He had just scored the winning try against the Welsh.

It was the first time anybody had ever been 'fired' rom the All Blacks and so deep was the shame, Murdoch did not return to New Zealand and instead disappeared into the Australian Outback.

Reporters tried to track the huge prop down, but he never spoke publicly.

Now Murdoch, 55, is wanted as a witness into the death of 20-year-old Aborigine Christopher Kumanjai Limerick, whose decomposed body was found at the bottom of an abandoned mine-shaft near Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, last October.

The inquest has been adjourned while police try to track Murdoch down.

Murdoch made several fleeting visits to Dunedin to visit his family, but otherwise has lived and worked in Australia, mostly operating heavy machinery. Recently he has been living in Tennant Creek, where the inquest is being held. He was last seen a month ago in the Mataranka area, about 600 kilometres (372 miles) north of Tennant Creek, a police spokeswoman said.

The inquest was told Murdoch was one of the last people to see Limerick alive.

Young Otago prop Carl Hayman became the 1000th All Black in a New Zealand victory over Samoa.


Note that the author mentions the players' positions: front-row forwards. - Wes

Christian Science Monitor, 01/31/2001

 If you think some of the biggest, brawniest US football players can get wild at times, wait till you meet a pack of 300-pound rugby players marauding through the early hours of the morning!

When I knew these "chaps" best, rugby was still a truly amateur sport. A sheer love of the game and a thirst for victory kept them focused and motivated. But because they were free of the rigid discipline imposed on the millionaire professionals on the American gridiron, they could sometimes get pretty rowdy.

One rugby season, I reported for the BBC on a series of matches played in Ireland in the depths of a soggy, gray winter. After a game in the southwestern town of Limerick, I was so cold and wet that I raced back to the warmth of my hotel room and fell asleep. Within moments, it seemed, I was wakened by loud voices and a hammering at the door. It was a posse of burly forwards determined to extend their victory celebration to everyone in the touring group, especially teetotalers like me who had never fully participated in their after-match parties.

Instinctively, I uttered a silent prayer that went something like this: "God, this is Your moment. You are in control. We're all Your offspring - blessed with Your kindness. We're members of the same team - Your team. We won our match this afternoon, and now this victory must be Yours!"

I'd lived long enough with boisterous, hard-drinking rugby players to recognize the incongruity in our relationship. They didn't dislike me. Most of the time they were happy to have me drink something non-alcoholic while they knocked back their beers. But on this evening in Limerick, my abstinence had obviously rankled them, and they were determined to exorcise their indignation in a forced drinking ritual.

I let them in, sprinkling the air with light banter as they inspected my room. Suddenly they pounced on me. Physical resistance served no purpose as they held my arms in a vice-like grip, splashed beer in my face, and demonstrated how they wanted me to indulge.

But I was determined not to allow them to turn my love for them into fear. I prayed for a way to spiritually embrace these intruders who at other times had been solid teammates with respect for my lifestyle. I knew they had just as much capacity as anyone for heartfelt friendship, respect for others' values, and self-control. They were capable of an unpretentious, muscular love of the kind Christ Jesus demonstrated among the Galilean fishermen he recruited for his team. When enemies reviled Jesus and spat in his face, he didn't flinch. He set a perfect example of unconditional love.

It's likely that some of Jesus' disciples may have been as rugged and athletic as the front-row forwards who were testing me. If the disciples could learn from Jesus about the tenderness inherent in all of us, and go out into the dusty highways and byways to help and heal others, why shouldn't anyone respond to genuine brotherly kindness?

As the first bottle was thrust in my face, a voice bellowed across the room: "No! Hold it. Let him go."

The team's vice captain, who until that moment had hovered almost unnoticed by me in the background, came forward with huge restraining arms flung out in rescue. He held back his teammates and beckoned to me to get up. He indicated that it was time for the invaders to leave, and pointed to the door. Sheepishly they slunk out of the room, heads down. Just before he left, the vice captain turned, looked back at me, and smiled.

That smile was worth a thousand victories on the playing field. I felt genuine love at that moment. It was unmistakable.

Now, that was a rugby moment worthy of real celebration!