DESPITE a pitch that resembled an ice rink more than a green sward, more than 30 eager individuals braved the freezing temperatures for a pre-Christmas Rangers against Vikings fixture at Rockcliff RFC.
The quality of the surface brought the game down to a pace that suited the heavier Rangers pack more than the fleet-footed Vikings, and years of experience allowed Rangers to triumph by four tries to three.
The first half saw Vikings doing more than their fair share of defending as waves of Rangers attacks foundered until the quicksilver Mike Reid crashed over on the blind side for the first score.
Vikings countered with a series of flowing moves across the whole back line before a chip ahead saw Chris Marsden outpace the opposition to touch down in corner.
Rangers stormed back with a series of attacks which resulted in two tries. The first from close range came from the venerable stalwart John Dixon whilst the second, with a brilliant angled run, was scored by Matty Dunbar released from his usual disciplined performance at full-back to give free reign at open-side.
Lesser teams would have gone under but another well worked back move by the Vikings saw Andrew Telford chase a chip-kick, exchange passes with Rhys Johnstone and score.
After the turnaround Vikings made use of the gentle breeze to spend more time in the Rangers half and the scores were tied when Rhys Johnstone, using his centres as dummy runners, flung a long miss-pass out to Telford who timed his outside pop expertly to allow Marsden under the posts for his second try.
The game ebbed and flowed until Rangers somehow recruited the referee to ‘be kind to pensioners’ and a series of scrums in the Vikings 22 finally ended when Micky Blake, twisting like a ballet dancer, crashed over for the winning score.
Other highlights included James Simpson stealing the ball out of Scotty Carruthers hands over the try-line to prevent a certain score, a twinkle-toed break by Sam Hepple from his own try-line, some wonderful scavenging by Dale Harrison and the rare sound of Andy Sarin pleading for fair play!
It was altogether a great occasion, where spirit triumphed over adversity and friendship over climate.