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Sometimes a figure of speech happens accidentally…
He was a load. His teammates called him Paddy, possibly because he was Irish or because of his red locks. Over and over he joined the line of backs attacking us, wreaking havoc and shedding tacklers like little boys. About 5 foot 10 inches tall weighing about 225 pounds someone said he had played fullback on a select side for Kent County and I didn’t doubt it. He was the one player we couldn’t account for.
Still we had managed to keep the match close. The next score would likely decide the winner between the touring Old Askean Rugby Side and the hosting Cleveland Rugby Club. Our backs to the goal line, the visitors attacked again and again as we struggled to stop them. Finally we gained possession and Bruce launched a kick to the sidelines to push them back away from our goal and give us space. The ball came off his foot into a high spiraling arch with Marty and two others in hard pursuit.
Marty was our tackling machine, a relentless pursuer who delivered violent crushing blows. He sped down on Paddy, and we all just stopped running and watched, waiting to see what the collision of nearly 500 pounds of man with no padding would result. The spiraling ball landed softly into Paddy’s hands with Marty only steps away, and the other two a few meters behind.
Paddy tucked the ball away, set his feet and dropped his hips and rotated his shoulders towards the arriving tackler. A split second later Marty arrived barreling
into Paddy’s lowered shoulder. The resulting crack echoed across the field as Paddy was driven two steps back, and Marty bounced back and landed flat on his butt. The next tackler hit him around the shoulders and Paddy shrugged him off and the third pursuer hit him low and Paddy’s piston like legs drove right through his tackle attempt.
Then 15 meters from the goal line, it was just we two.
I drove my shoulder into him as hard as I could and it barely slowed him, I slid down grasping his ankle for dear life and he hopped lurching toward the goal with me in tow. The pursuit was too far away, I had to get him down or he would drag me across so in desperation I reached up to grab his jersey with my free hand and lever him to the ground. With my left arm tightly around his ankle I grabbed and pulled and he toppled like an oak to the woodsman’s axe. That few seconds was all that the pursuit needed, and in the ensuing maul of pulling, wrestling, grabbing for the ball, I was able to extricate myself and run back to position.
“Nice stop, way to tackle” Richie told me as we waited for the ball to clear. I just smiled a wry smile and shook my head. Only Paddy and I knew that when I reached up for his jersey to pull him down, I’d accidentally had him by the balls.