Saturday 26th March 2016 ko 13.15
South West Peninsula League Division One West
ST DENNIS 6 (Sleeman 6 Stone 10 Davies 46 53 Rickard 71 85) Friendship sent off 38 (violent conduct)
MILLBROOK 4 (Evans 21p 68 Chitey 36 46)
The cavalcade left Sticker and snaked its way the 6-or-so miles north to St Dennis’ home Boscawen Park, or so it seemed. The difficulty of the vast majority of any 3 game-a-day hop day is the middle game tends to see drift, where hoppers go “Off Piste” to an alternate game. Now the South West Peninsula Hop in Cornwall doesn’t tend to have this issue, due to there being only one club of a higher status in the county. But on this given Saturday they, Truro City, were at home….
To make things worse, they’d announced this season was to be their last at Treyew Road, only reversing that decision in the week before the hop. It meant that there would be a sizable cohort of hoppers who’d leave the hop to visit Truro, knowing they’d lose two hop games to do it, but correctly reasoning that Treyew Road, was going and St Dennis and Bude could be visited later.
That fact must have affected ticket sales, as there was only one type of ticket available, one for all seven games, which gives any organiser, even one as skilled and experienced as Phil Hiscox a real headache. Ticket sales govern what an organiser guides host clubs what to expect, and how many programmes, badges and so on to provide. Phil managed to defend St Dennis by making sure those heading to Truro missed 2 hop games to do so, but drift will always the bane of the hop organiser’s life.
But what the dearly departed missed was arguably the best club on the hop, both in terms of the staging, and the game itself. But I reckon despite the excellence all round this game will be remembered as much for the weather as St Dennis’ excellence!
The rain came down in torrrents, and the pitchside soon became waterlogged making parking treacherous as the ground wouldn’t hold a tyre. It was fortunate that much of the club’s offerings were in the spacious clubhouse and a sizable number of hoppers were able to watch the game through the windows.
Elsewhere there was no escape from the rain, even in the stand where the rain blow the rain under the roof. Rumour has it that on any other Saturday the referee would have postponed the game, the pitch was waterlogged, but when the league can influence the referee, as in this case, the organiser’s view prevails.
It gave St Dennis, despite everything, a fighting chance to make the most of their opportunity, and it was something they grabbed with both hands. It wasn’t easy getting the crowd both in and out of a narrow lane, but that was managed. Special mention should go to the catering. The Chilli con Carne was excellent, so Robyn my girlfriend went off for further supplies. They’d sold out so she returned with an equally tasty veggie curry! It was clever thinking by the club, you wouldn’t think that to a predominantly middle-aged male audience it would sell, but time after time it does and it did here!
Eventually the rain eased and the game reached its explosive, if rather damp climax. It was by any standards, a remarkable afternoon in St Dennis, but as I struck north bound for Bude, I couldn’t help but think about the missing hoppers watching Truro. Their decision was understandable under the circumstances, but I even now I do wonder whether their call was the right one.