PROPS are a funny bunch. Not so tall, with a bull head that attaches directly to their shoulders and no discernible neck.
They are, however, very big strong men who spend a lot of time nose-to-nose battling against similarly shaped blokes indulging in the black arts that few understand or properly appreciate. Studies show the pressure down the back of a tighthead prop in a top-level scrum is equivalent to nigh-on two tonnes and yet these gentlemen of the front row love it!
I spent much of my playing career with my head on props’ hips and my hand between their legs – binding in the scrum before you get any ideas! Mine was an intimate association with props – I know them better than most. However, even after many years, I too find their trade puzzling and something of a mystery to us lesser mortals.
Props don’t like running very much. They choose to spend hours obsessing over scrum angles and how a tiny tweak here and there can make a quarter inch of difference which, in their book, is the winning edge. I’m constantly reminded that a small gain in the front row can translate to yards for a winger and am advised not to question this logic. Indeed, quite often I’ve known props be less concerned about the result and more about how their scrums went.
As players lament a loss, it’s not uncommon for the front rowers en masse to pronounce “scrum went forward, two hooks against the head” as if to abdicate themselves from the fact the game was not won!
However, after the game last weekend, I too can feel myself entering into the musing and reasoning normally reserved for the front row. Two of my brethren from the second row union went above and beyond the call of duty!
Now of course, the second row of the team is invariably populated by more intelligent, better looking and, to put it simply, superior folk to those in the front row. As a line back from the coal face, we also have a better perspective on the game than the props!
This being the case, I know for a fact that after the result on Saturday Dean Mumm and Damian Welch will have been feeling the hurt at yet another narrow loss to that mob off the M4. Nevertheless, I also know that they both will have a slither of a thought “I scored a scorcher” and neither of them would be wrong.
Looking at the tries and the pace shown from ‘Mean Dean’ was blistering. Having been the recipient of the nickname Slug in my playing days (due to a complete lack of speed and natural athletic ability) it was breathtaking to see our captain out-pace Premiership wingers over 40 yards to dot down his sixth try of the season. There is little doubt in my mind that the spur that drove him to such a feat was the bet of the century with yours truly!
Even more sparkling was the score by Damian Welch that showed not just the pace of Dean but the poise of Matt Jess and the brute strength of Dave Ewers. Receiving the ball on the 10-yard line with not much looking to be on, Damian switched on the class to score one of the tries of the season that was reminiscent of dreams I used to have in my playing days.
Sadly these two fantastic moments were not enough for the win as the dead eye of George Ford and, yet again, a few dubious penalties saw Bath scrape another W over our Chiefs.
This was by far our closest result away from home against the men of Somerset and it’s fair to say the cliché that the best team lost pretty much summed up the attitude of all but the most fervent Bath supporter.
On a similar note, Exmouth were right to feel aggrieved at the result in the far east against Cambridge. Having shipped a few scores in the first half, the team wrenched the momentum back in a swing that saw three quick-fire scores to get right back in the mix.
With the Cambridge coaches, reserves and crowd holding their breath and biting their nails, the The Mighty Muff laid siege to their line. Only a series of scrum penalties awarded to the men in heliotrope prevented a score. In the event, some rotten luck and a chance interception try against the run of play denied the Cockles the losing bonus point that was well deserved. Indeed, such was the quality of Exmouth’s effort that this could have been an unlikely victory on the road.
Playing in the Exmouth pack, I am surrounded by guys who are all at least 10 years younger than yours truly. I see them slowly developing into a proficient tight unit.
With half the games still to play in the National League season, I have no doubt that Exmouth are close to turning a corner. A win this weekend in the derby with Launceston could ease the Cockles out of the danger zone.
On the subject of the cockles, I must share one of the funniest moments in my time so far with Exmouth.
Following a long bus journey, the guys assembled in the car park of the hotel for a stretch when head coach Jon Hill went down like he’d been shot. It transpired that five hours on the bus had aggravated an old injury rendering him bowed and waddling like a duck for the rest of the weekend.
Following his pre-match briefing I didn’t know whether to growl at his words of inspiration or quack!
Last week the Bentley family joined the pilgrimage to East Devon as we moved from the city to our new house. With the help of Chiefs sponsor Eddy Hall and his crew, we’ve moved to a new house in Cranbrook that, all being well, my family will now call home for many years to come.
I would like to thank Josh, Steve, and Graham for all their help alongside two slightly more familiar faces for their patience and forbearance in what was a pretty hectic day.
Next month sees former Chiefs take on a gargantuan challenge as they attempt to row 1,000,000 metres each in aid of charity.
Sam Blythe and Shane Kingsland, now professional personal trainers, aim to row a marathon a day for the month! Rather them than me.
They’re keen for all to share the adventure on www.janurow.org. This is a great opportunity to share Christmas gains while helping others less fortunate.
And finally, to a massive weekend with the visit of European champions Toulon to Sandy Park. The eyes of millions throughout the UK, Europe and the rugby world in general will be focused on our Devon club and our Exeter home.
Win, lose or draw, enjoy the moment and celebrate the achievement. Come on you Chiefs!
Until the next time, stay safe and enjoy your rugby.