Cry of the Piping Bag Goes Unheeded at Miskin Oval (Thirsty Sharks Left to Frenzy on Sugar and Ice)

by matchdayburger

Brisbane Boys’ College vs. The Southport School; Queensland GPS Rugby 1st XV, Round 9; Miskin Oval; 14/9/2013

He’s like those birds that mosey out from under your car bonnet at the last minute, always unscathed…

Report by Nicholas Turner

The Brisbane Boys’ College walk-on ceremony is one of the most distinctive in the GPS rugby competition. Following a troupe of bagpipes and marching drums, the team moves in file down and along a steep hill-face, leaving behind the pale, institutional buildings that host the real business of this place. You hear the bagpipes first. The players emerge from the coverage of trees that obscures the upper reaches of the tiny goat-track like low cloud. It’s a slow and sombre descent, almost funereal. The sound of the bagpipes is distinctly humourless, even guilt-inducing. The captain holds the ball under one arm and looks like he’s written something in great detail on the tops of his boots, something he really wants to be able to recite in full by kick-off.

There’s a sense of resistance to this long and drawn-out descent, as though the players are being pulled down onto the field, summonsed, in order to perform a duty that others don’t envy or else don’t see themselves as up to. Sometime between the top of the hill and the centre of the field, their incredible physical size resolves from a distant apparition to a real and tangible thing. The green and black hoops of BBC will today be wrapped around a forward pack that averages a hundred kilograms, spearheaded by a prop that is a particularly unforgiving and downright mean looking one-twenty. I am expecting this team, for the simplest of reasons, to win. Schoolboy rugby, the vast majority of the time, is not that complicated.

But what’s ahead on the field today is a disclaimer for brute physics and a model for strict teamwork and directional shrewdness. Because the home side, who are talent-heavy as well as being just plain heavy, and who play a vigorous and seemingly indomitable opening ten minutes, will ultimately have their pants pulled down in front of a thousand or so spectators on this, the last day of the season. BBC come into the game with a clear chance of claiming outright second in the competition; they leave the field clinging sheepishly to a heat for forth. What’s compelling about it all, from a dispassionate spectator’s point of view, is how they are outplayed in a way that’s both utterly calculated and comprehensive, a fortifying experience for anyone who ever wondered how to take down the big guy with a little rock and a strip of leather.

The guests, The Southport School, have come in reasonable numbers to see their boys close out what’s been a tidy season so far. They wear the regal maroon and navy.  The team’s second on the ladder before kick-off, and this game will determine if they’ll stay that way for the history books. They have one or two seriously big boys, but nowhere near the all-round bodily spoils of their opponents. For the first half of this game they’ll go into tactical damage control, snagging penalty points at every opportunity. It’s nothing flashy or brilliant at this stage, just a good old fashioned ‘dig-in’ where disciplined breakdown investment and intelligent rationing of bodies keeps the defensive wall fairly airtight. It’s not easy against some fierce flashes from the home side, but they manage. They even find ways to score.

The sun is rudely focussed on the away team’s stand and the supporters from the coast bolt across the field at half time to hydrate at the bubblers and get in line for snow-cones. The scores are pretty even but already there’s a sense in the air that Southport are up to something. The canteen has run out of both drinks and plastic cups for anyone who’d hoped at very least to have some water to sip on during the second half. The last vendible refreshment is the aforementioned snow-cones and the line up for them is virtually infinite.

It’s a nice day out on a field that has every right to be as atmospheric as the few other ‘snake-pit’ pitches in the GPS competition, dug out as it is in the leafy hills of Brisbane’s inner-West. Of course, there’s more to engendering a formidable home ground than topography. The field’s looking sharp and the match day programme’s glossy and advertisement-strewn and it ends with a real estate section. You can snap up colourful-looking cupcakes from the ‘Support The Bagpipes’ stall for a couple of bucks. Luxury car brands have made their way onto the goalposts and the players’ kitbags today. Mums and dads in Ralph and Gant are reliably plentiful and the recent schoolboy-sports-event staple of a coffee barista is fixed in place. But perhaps the defining image of the day, or at least the most unforgettable, is a life-sized cut-out of a current Wallaby player standing beside the canteen with some A4 paper taped to his bust advertising ‘YUMMY CHIPS’.  What’s particularly disturbing and ‘life-like’ is the fact that the expression on the replicated player’s face is exactly the look you’d expect him to wear if he was actually forced to stand at the end of a canteen line at a schoolboy football game wearing a sign that said ‘YUMMY CHIPS’. Which is to say that he looks unbelievably humiliated and pissed about it. The cakes in that ‘Support the Bagpipes’ stand are homemade and delicious.

The second half gets going and Southport soon take charge and blow the scoreboard to pieces. At the centre of it is the visiting number ten, who saunters around with ominous calm and makes good things happen in an apparent half-sleep. The defence hardly gets a hand on him all afternoon. He’s like those birds that mosey out from under your car bonnet at the last minute, always unscathed. They see things on a different time scale.

But the win really belongs to a credible plan to set up second and third-phase plays that enjoy momentum and exploit confused defence. The whole team executes this simple notion with a professionalism that leaves their opponents appearing two-dimensional and unready. Playing loose forwards in first-receiving pivot roles from a number of set plays, Southport secure ultra-quick, dependable possession time and time again. It’s then that the backline, undepleted by previous phases, runs its best moves, front-footed and well weighted, picking-off a reorganising defensive line with relative ease. It becomes a bit of a clinic.

Match Day Burger Score: 6.0

MDB Cost: $6.50

MDB Service Atmosphere: 4.0

Match Score: TSS 51 def. BBC 17

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