SUNDAY, JANUARY 15: Police showed a steel resolve as they won the Duckett Memorial rugby game on Sunday.

Under steel gray clouds that constantly threatened to darken and explode with thunder and lightening the Bermuda Police Rugby Club held the 38th Annual George Duckett Memorial Day at a muddy and sodden Police field in Prospect Devonshire.

The day’s festival of rugby started off with the 2nd team women’s game. The BPRFC women’s section has grown from strength to strength and the fact that the section was able to field two complete sides in one day is a fine testament to the organization and dedication of the ladies committee and the coaching skills of Anthony Fellowes.  In a keen contest, the Police 2nd team, captained by Andrea Dawes, narrowly went down 1-0. A fair result would have been a tie as Police player Carolyn Prendeville mistakenly ran out of the dead ball zone after a fine break and thereby denying her team a score.

The 2nd team Police men’s team fielded a dichotomy of players ranging from gnarly veterans in Sean Field-Lament, Mike Fish and the venerable Gareth Davies to the effervescent rookies Ricardo Lima and Bill Oredorf. It was heartwarming to see father and son combination on the park with Andrew Pell and Danny Pell showing the passing of the mantle in an enjoyable friendly match. The Rest started off well with giant lock Dan Greenslade dominating the early lineouts. However former national team lock-Matt Smith was able to secure enough ball to unleash a surprisingly dangerous police back line led by Jonathan Cassidy at standoff. In torrential conditions the Blue back line was able to piece together some amazing passing plays which saw speedster John Jackson unleashed out wide. The diminutive Aussie glided over in the corner for a 5-0 early lead. With the weather dictating hard slogging upfront- debutant hooker Keith Griffiths and flanker Andrew Wright ably supported the aggressive driving play of openside flanker Guy Bowker. Despite almost blinding monsoon-like rain the Police backs showed willingness and the handling ability to attack at every opportunity. A surging run by Jackson, saw man of the match Police captain Ben Beasley loop down the blindside from the ensuing ruck, to dive in the corner to take  the score to 10-0 at half time.  Police upped the tempo in the second half as the conditions improved and only some heroic last ditch tackles prevented the score line increasing. Eventually inside center Danny Pell managed to barrel over to take the score to a commanding 15-0 lead. The old legs started to tire and the game opened up even more with the Rest astutely kicking deep for territory- however blue full back Adam Farrell was more then up for the challenge and invariably returned the ball with style and some change! In the closing stanza, Rest standoff Phil Hall barged over from close and then in injury time Rest captain David Porter scored a late interception breakaway try to flatter the score line 15-10. A thoroughly enjoyable game of 2nd team rugby was had by all with the camaraderie displayed epitomizing the best of rugby union.

In the curtain raiser for the Duckett, the 1st team Police ladies team led by Captain Kerry Heigham took on an extremely strong Rest team comprised of all National team players. The girls in blue played with passion and commitment but were outclassed 6-1. Rest tries came from Laura Wright (x2), Nicola Jones, Kathy Wright (x2) and Denricka Bolden. Police got an attractive try from speedster Erica MacArthur.

The main event began under clearing skies, with senior referee Keith Hodgkins calling for the traditional minute of silence before kickoff. The Police field was beginning to show the wear and tear of the multiple games. The inclement weather made for muddy sodden footing and dictated that play would be dominated up front. The Rest, coached by Lawrence Bird, were fielding a very strong side dominated by Mariner and Teachers forwards who started out very strong and drove in the tight deep into Blues half. Desperate tackling by props Peter Kiernan and Angus Ailiffe kept the Rest at bay but a textbook set piece lineout by the Rest saw the staunch police defense shredded by a bollocking run by national team backrower Gareth Williams who carried the leaping tackle of Jamie Schmerer to the five meter line. A quick recycle of the ball saw Renegades scrum half Tom Healy pop to a charging Connor McGlynn who powered over to open the score- 5-0. Rest standoff Tim Pelow missed the conversion. From the restart the Rest continued their forward dominance and relentless pick and drives had the Police on the back foot. Increasingly the Blue forwards had no answer for their opposite numbers whose big ball carriers repeatedly smashed into a brave defense led by second row duo of Adam Richards and Gerald Erasmus. A penalty conceded at the 10 meter line saw a deep probing kick put the Rest in a promising attacking position. The lineout ball was won cleanly by Rest captain Peter Dunkerley and the subsequent maul drove ominously towards the line. Rest hooker Thomas Greenslade peeled away from the back of the maul and looked to score in the corner but he was denied by a ferocious tackle by his opposite man Lee Maximchuk which caused a turnover.

Unfortunately the clearance kick did not make touch and a dangerous counter attack was barely stopped by Adriaan van der Merwe’s brave tackle. The contest at the breakdown resulted in a kickable penalty conceded in front of the posts. Pelow duly stepped up and knocked over a demoralizing 3 pointer to take the score to 8-0.  Police firmed up and managed to eke some possession from the rampant Rest pack. A rare foray into the Rest half saw a good kick and chase by Police Captain Paull Davis result in a long range penalty effort by veteran Mike Kane. The combination of treacherous footing and a heavy sodden ball made the effort tenuous at best and the ball dropped agonizingly short. The Rest continued to dominate in all aspects of play and even the staunchest of police supporters were beginning to despair.

Waves upon waves of Rest’s attacks were manfully repelled. When police winger Neville Zuill was caught isolated, in a rare run by the mercurial speedster, the Rest made their intentions to win the game clear by knocking over another short range penalty to extend the lead to 11-0. It must be said the Boys in Blue never gave up and when standoff Tommy Edwards was given ball he looked to be enterprising with his dangerous back line. The fiery center Andre Moolman epitomized the Police mind set- tackling everything insight and aggressively running in attack. Just before the half, Police narrowly avoided a catastrophic late try- Winger N’davlyah Williams broke free and drove past the half way line where he connected with his supporting pack. Mariner prop Dustin Archibald rolled out of the ensuing maul and a neat interaction between him and the supporting McGlynn saw a try scoring opportunity develop out of thin air. It was only the last gasp efforts of Blue full back Dan Cole that denied the Rest what would have surely been a back breaking try before the half. Fortuitously the ball was intercepted and smuggled into touch at the half time whistle. The Rest might have felt comfortable with their dominating performance but all their pressure and possession had only translated into an 11 point half time lead.

Police coach Peter Shillingford provided some sage advice and encouraging words to his beleaguered squad who had courageously withstood a 40 minute onslaught by a technically superior and heavier Rest pack.  But as the clique goes rugby is a game of two halves- some insightful substitutions at the break saw prominent ball carriers Mark Evans, Pieter Erasmus and Darren Richardson introduced up front. With the large Pro-Police spectators baying for blood- the second half commenced with the Police forwards visibly fired up. For once the Rest were on the back foot and Police were able to string together several phases of play. The Blue forwards began to work in cohesion and made significant inroads around the fringes with their quickly recycled pick and drives. A cynical high tackle by Rest center Ian Henderson saw a medium range penalty kick by Kane frustratingly hit the woodwork and bounce back into the field of play. It appeared that this was not going to be a day for the Police. However, despite the disappointment, Police continued to grow in confidence and the successful tight play allowed the vaunted Police back line to attack off the front foot. Momentum had swung in favour of the Police.  With 15 minutes to go in the game, Police were awarded a penalty in front of the post- swift thinking by the Police scrumhalf saw a quick free kick tap unleash a rampaging Darren Richardson who crushed a would-be tackler to score a well fought try. Kane’s conversion went wide but the Police were back in the game at 11-5. 

The newly introduced Ralshon Douglas made a magical break and the Police found themseleves again camped in the Rest’s 22.  An unfortunate calf injury to the indefatigable Angus Ayliffe saw the introduction of guest player Deverae Noel-Simmons whose bulky presence in the front row had an immediate impact at the scrums where the Police began to dominate. Passions began to build and some heated moments were developing especially after a cynical off the ball trip by Rest hooker Greenslade on Police standoff Edwards was missed by the referee. The expected “handbags at dawn” moment erupted shortly afterwards at a keenly contested midfield break down. In the aftermath, linesman Ben Jewitt advised the referee that center Henderson allegedly kneed a police player off the ball. Henderson was correctly shown a yellow card.

With a man advantage, Police kicked deep and the ensuing lineout saw a beautifully executed set piece play:- Police hooker Erasmus’ throw to the leaping Adams was perfect; Adam’s soft, sympathetic pass to the peeling Noel-Simmons put the big man into space. The police pack poured forwarded and only a last ditch tackle by Dunkerley denied a try. As the saying goes “cometh the hour cometh the man” and in the police case two players stood up and were counted- flanker Paul Canfield, who worked tirelessly in the loose and was a constant thorn in the side, and Police Number 8 Roedolf van der Westhuizen, who had arguably his best game of the season. Both back rowers stature grew as the game progressed and the pressure mounted. With the game on the line Police attacked off the base of the scrum. Van der Westhuizen stormed off the back and was held up inches short. A second scrum was awarded and this time the big South African was not going to be denied as he carried three tacklers over the line to put the Police in front 12-11 after trailing for 75 minutes. Tommy Edward skewed the easy conversion wide right to set the stage for a nervy finale. From the restart the Police countered with some controlled forward play. A long kick deep into the Rests 22 was dangerously run back by Healy-his scything run had police supporter’s hearts on edge.  A crushing tackle stopped the perilous counter attack. An attacking scrum was awarded on the Police 10 meter line. The Rest set up their back line and were looking to snatch a late victory from the jaws of defeat. However the Police pack drove the scrum back and stole the ball against the head. Paul Canfield pounced on the loose ball and intelligently kicked the ball long. The crowd roared its approval as the ball bounced into touch meters away from the Rest’s try line. In injury time, the Rest again tried to attack from deep but a strong tackle by Moolan saw the ball turned over and Edwards kicked into touch for the final whistle. The Police mettle was tested by a determined National team and they passed the test of character with a gutsy 12-11 victory which will go a long way in salvaging an otherwise disappointing season so far.

A jubilant scene was witnessed on the sideline as retired ACOP Carlton Adams praised the efforts of all the players-stating it was a contest that former COP Duckett would have admired. In the backdrop of rapturous applause of the partisan crowd Mr. Adams presented the venerable Duckett Memorial Shield to ecstatic Police Captain Paull Davis to cap off a truly memorable Duckett game.