After a promising start to the weekend, weather-wise, the day itself started badly with rain approaching biblical proportions all morning, but no-one was going to let that stop them – Oh No!
Arriving first were about 75 players from the 4 clubs (Havant RFC, Warwick University RFC, Bracknell RFC and Farnham RUFC) of which Rich had been a member in his 27 years of rugby – all coming together to play as 2 barbarian sides. Players ranged from current levels 4, 5 & 6 of the RFU league structure to veterans and Mini & Junior age group team-mates, some of whom hadn’t pulled on a shirt in anger for most of their adult life (now 33-34 years old).
I think some of the players, who had put their hands up to play in memory of their friend and rugby brother, were secretly relieved that the conditions might slow the game down a bit and make the ground a bit softer!
By kick off time the rain had eased to more drizzly conditions and by that time another 350-400 of Rich’s friends, and their families, had also turned up to cheer on the players and enjoy the other family-oriented attractions provided.
It started with a minute’s applause in honour of Rich followed by a moving poem (see below), especially written for the day, and the ceremonial kick off was taken by RWC 2003 winner, Jason Leonard – for a prop he makes a surprisingly good prop!
The game was played over 3 x 30-minute periods with both rolling and mass substitutions taking place. Considering the wet conditions, the unfamiliarity of the players with each other and the restrictions of either age or recent inactivity, the match was very keenly contested and entertaining to watch, with some good skills on display. It was played throughout in a spirit of fun but there were still some substantial hits going in. The sides proved to be very evenly balanced with both making good opportunities, although the final score of 75-75 whilst a fair outcome, probably reflected a bit of licence by the scorer.
A brief talk by CRY rep Graeme Attridge followed immediately after the match.
After all the players and officials had showered and dressed there were first tributes to Rich from representative of all 4 clubs followed by a raffle with many donated prizes on offer including several items signed by Jonny Wilkinson, especially for the occasion. There then followed an auction of a Farnham shirt, also signed by Jonny, a Harlequins shirt, signed by the Quins team, and 2 of the specially designed match shirts for the day signed by Jason.
A barrel of beer contributed by the Hogsback Brewery, where Rich was a member of their ‘Tongham TEA club’, and a Hog Roast also contributed to the money’s raised – which is now just shy of £7000 (with the possibility of some more to come in!)
All in all a very successful day, fulfilling the family’s aims of fondly remembering Rich in the rugby brotherhood that meant so much to him, raising awareness of the risks to young people and the importance of screening and raising funding to support future screenings at the 3 community rugby clubs – albeit with a tinge of sadness that this event wouldn’t have happened without the loss of an amazing husband, son and brother last June, at the age of 32.
More action pictures from the match, courtesy of Mark Deller, can be found at here
Hayley, Janet, Gordon, Chris, Lizzie & Emma Brember
#bemorelikeRich – Benjy Weeks (Farnham RUFC)
When a team mate leaves this place
At sudden and unseemly pace,
Though unjust and total madness,
Let not your heart be gripped by sadness.
Whatever your club, just give it all.
No smile too big. No job too small.
Care not the storm nor weather frozen,
Do your best for the team you’re chosen.
Tackle hard but tackle fair.
Clean out rucks with measured care.
Smash up the middle like a rolling boulder.
Your mate with the ball, be on his shoulder.
Mark your man. Don’t let him through.
Look for gaps. There are but few.
If space before you does unfold,
Run hard, run straight, run true, run bold.
Share your wisdom as and when
There’s youngsters out to challenge men.
Then breathless, battered, come off the pitch
And ask yourself, “Was I more like Rich?”