Last Thursday, Grey men’s rugby A team beat Hatfield A 26-14 in a strong defensive display in the quarter-final of the Floodlit Cup.
Palatinate caught up with one of Grey’s victorious players, George Ewen, to reflect on Grey’s journey to the semi-final and their season so far.
Hatfield sit second in the league, with Grey eighth, and therefore Hatfield were favourites for the match with Grey’s win coming as a shock. But not to Ewen, who said “we always play to win” and put their mixed league performance down to injuries.
“We have been unlucky this season with injuries, having four or five senior players being injured in the middle of the season, and as a result we had a run of bad results.”
“We have a talented bunch of players, and the belief and accuracy has developed over the past couple of weeks.”
Ewen does concede that their league performance could have gone better but he holds out hope that they can redeem themselves in their final league match of the season.
“Our league performance has been ropey in truth, but we have one game left which we are using as a development fixture for next year.
“We have Connor Gregan returning for the fixture, fresh from having won the Lebanese National Championship on his year abroad.”
Against Hatfield, Grey scored their tries early. Great work from Will Manifold, who made the hard yards from inside centre, opened up the play for Tom Knight, who dotted down for two tries. Some strong burrowing work in Hatfield’s 22 created two close range tries from Callum McGuiness.
From then on, it was a solid defensive performance that gave Grey the victory.
“I honestly can’t remember a missed tackle,” Ewen proudly proclaimed.
“The match against Hatfield incorporated the backline more, and that probably proved the difference.
“We knew Hatfield would be tough but having played them in the league we knew they weren’t unbeatable.”
It is not the tries and strong defensive play that Ewen picked out as his match highlight however, adding jokingly that one player leaving the field of play stood out in that sense.
“The highlight has to be Fred Ahern taking a trip to the loo halfway through the game, under the pretext of changing his contact lenses.”
Grey have thoroughly enjoyed the rugby Floodlit Cup this season with a good win over St Cuthbert’s standing out in particular.
“Our success has come from the steadily building a game plan that fits our strengths throughout the year, and then bringing heaps of passion on game day.
“The match against Hatfield can be described in one word: passion.”
Passion on the pitch has been matched by passion off it, with Grey having been well-supported throughout the competition.
“We had a crowd down for the last game which makes a huge difference.”
Ewen believes that Team Durham spent wisely in installing a new rubber crumb pitch last summer.
“The floodlit has been great. We prefer playing on the crumb as it allows for a faster game. The play is better as a result.”
After the victory over Hatfield, Grey now face Collingwood in the semi-final, and Ewen fancies their chances of securing a place in the final where they would play either Van Mildert or Hild Bede.
“Collingwood are a good side and well drilled, but in George Reavley we have a former Durham 1st XV fly half coming back into the fold, and he has been magnificent when he hasn’t been injured.”
The semi-finals will be played at 8pm on Friday 7th March and at 4pm on Sunday 9th March. The final is due to take place at 8pm on Friday 14th March.
Photograph: Eamonn O’Muiri