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13 Man Gibraltar Rugby Club work wonders against Mairena

Saturday morning started badly when star full back Chris Gillighan had to withdraw with a groin strain. The remaining 13 players travelled up to Sevilla in buoyant mood still confident of obtaining a result against a team rooted to the bottom of the table. Unfortunately due to some contradictory directions the team ended up spread all over Sevilla district and at one stage it looked like they were going to have to start the game with 9 players! Fortunately the referee was very understanding and he allowed time for the remaining 4 players to arrive.

From the kick off John Smiths Campo Gibraltar sponsored Peninsula Petroleum started brightly, the size of the pitch assisting the numbers mismatch slightly, the centre pairing of Dibb and Couper were punching holes whenever they received the ball and the forwards were performing marvellously well with a 2 man difference in the scrums. It was from one of these scrums that Gibraltar gained possession and smashed into the Mairena backline, unfortunately the ball was turned over and they began a counterattack down the left flank, things were looking ominous for Gibraltar in their own 22 but down to some manic defence they managed to regain the ball, what followed definitely altered the game.

Couper had the ball and was tackled under a mound of players and during this action he tragically ruptured his medial ligaments and was helped from the field, this was closely followed by an unfortunate incident which resulted in a light concussion for George Russo, who had started very brightly. This dropped the numbers to just 11 players against 15 and eventually the inevitable happened, Mairena managed to get the ball wide and a lack of numbers allowed them to score down the right side. Slightly disconcerted by this Gibraltar again turned over stupid possession and again allowed Mairena to burst through the middle and score under the posts.

There followed a period of hard rugby, neither side giving an inch, the scrums were being won by the 6 man John Smiths Campo Gibraltar pack, even against the head, and the tackling from Owain Richards and the Skipper, Chad Thomson was Herculean, especially from the restarts. This was to no avail however as Mairena again stretched the defence to cross for a try.

Even though Mairena appeared to be coasting at this point they insisted on playing on a disciplinary knife edge, numerous punches were thrown and to Gibraltar’s credit retaliation was slight, or unnoticed by the Referee, but in the 37th minute Nick Ramagge and the tight head of Mairena were yellow carded for punching. Luckily for John Smiths Campo Gibraltar, George Russo was by now back on the field albeit slightly groggy, and he managed to evade several tackles and sprint across the line to score as the half drew to a close, Mairena 21 Gibraltar 7.

The half time team talk had obviously stoked the John Smiths Campo Gibraltar fires as they came out blazing, the running was strong and hard, tacklers were smashed aside like matchsticks and the tackling moved up a gear, the Mairena big men were targeted and Thomson, Richards and Lyons were like bowling balls smashing through the skittles creating huge gaps in the defence for the swift footed Leigh, the South African Muller and the Zimbabwean Eatwell.

Mairena were teetering on the edge now and John Smiths Campo Gibraltar sponsored by Peninsula Petroleum sensed it, firstly after some superb handling in the backline Richards crashed over for a Gibraltar try. There now followed a period of 14 minutes of pure Gibraltar pressure, constant attacks were somehow being repelled by Mairena, time after time defenders were smashed aside only for some unlucky handling errors to creep in, until finally it clicked, a series of monster runs from Richards and Thomson, offloading to Muller who carved a line through the defence to offload to Leigh who sidestepped and shimmied to offload to Ramagge who, like a raging bull bulldozed more defenders aside to set up quick ruck ball for Eatwell to slip the ball to Uphill who galloped up the touch line and fed Blackburn who in turn passed out to Lyons…… who knocked it on..

At this point Gibraltar could smell blood, and again after some great running from both Lyons and Uphill the ball was in the opponents 22, we had possession but it was robbed by some Mairena foul play and the Referee awarded Gibraltar a penalty square in front of the posts. A pressure kick which was easily converted by Dibb to bring the scores to 21-15 to Mairena.

After this passage of play it was obvious play would slow to allow all the players on the park to get their breath, unfortunately this allowed Mairena to further stretch their lead with a penalty kick converted from the 10 metre line, making it now a very tense 24-15. Even though Gibraltar looked beaten they rallied themselves for the final 15 minutes and stepped on the gas once again, with time running out Gibraltar scored, Thomson caught a clearance kick on his own 10 metre line, smashed through 4 players like they were non existent, offloaded to Richards, he managed to squirm his body through a mass of defenders and offload to Gary Evans who scored with aplomb, unfortunately the kick was wide.

John Smiths Campo Gibraltar sponsored by Peninsula Petroleum battered at the door of Mairena for the final 9 minutes but could not find the pass or the luck to pierce their defence.

The game ended with the score 27-20 to Mairena, a win which lifts them from the bottom of the table, and keeps Gibraltar second by 1 point from San Jeronimo.

At the final whistle the Gibraltar players sunk to their knees in exhaustion knowing they had given their all for the team, and obtained a priceless bonus point, the crowd cheered and gave a standing ovation to both teams for an excellent match, one which will live in the memory of every player who gave blood, sweat and tears on that cool November evening.

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