Penrith Canoe Club, Div 4 north Canoe Polo Team, the best that Penrith has to offer (actually all those not working on a Saturday, who could spend 11 hours going to York and back) steamed out of the Agricultural Inn car park (actually the swimming pool, but we’re after sponsorship) on Saturday the 7th in high spirits. The team, the Saga boys Brocky and Tim, flanked by the pale callow youth of Alex, John and Jack, barely out of their diapers but prepared to give their all, were all raring for action.
Two and half hours later we arrived at the metropolis of York, well actually somewhere on the outskirts mixed in with various oversized retail outlets (Brocky wanted some retail therapy, zimmer, false teeth and incontinence trousers, but the others would not let him). We entered the pool, which loomed into the distance, so large, that like New Squares, we could not see the end of it. It looked like the aftermath of the recent storm surge with boats strewn and stacked around the sides, flanked by rugged men and women – mainly unintelligible Scousers and Mancuniains with the occasional plummy tones of Durham University sprinkled in between. Were we intimidated? Not at all, we just marvelled at the wonderful changing cubicles which lined either side of the pool, 1.5m high doors for the ladies and 1m high doors for the men. Potentially embarrassing if you got the wrong side!
So anyway down to work, match 1 for us against Manchester. Once we were on the water we had to get used to the size of the pool, probably 10m longer and wider than Penrith. More room to play in, but normal passes dropped well short, longer distances to paddle (lucky Brocky was in goal or he would have got out of breath) and the goals hung in the middle of nowhere, so you were constantly paddling and looking up and around to make sure you were in position. The merest wave could wash you backwards, leaving you embarrassingly defending the back of the goal, while someone planted the ball in from the front – Brocky learnt rapidly. Anyway Brocky pulled off three snooker like saves, but in between, like a Gregg’s coffee puff, Manchester creamed four goals from breakaways – that is our defence were nowhere in sight having forgotten to get back in time. We were as wooden as Richardson’s best oak flooring. So we lost 4-0, well no we won! You don’t understand? Well Manchester did not have enough Div 4 players, so they fielded players from higher divisions, meaning that regardless of how well they played, we would always win by default. ‘Alahambra’ shouted Jack, we were back in the picture.
Match 2 – Durham University. It was at this point that Alex informed us that he had not realised that he was playing in a National Tournament – he had thought we had spent 5 hours traveling, to play a 15 minute friendly against York! If only he had gone to Stephen Rowe’s and got some decent reading glasses. Well we had learnt; our defence was more tightly packed than a Cranston’s award winning thick Cumberland sausage, our attack was faster than an Aragons racing cycle, nippier than the fish fryers at Angel lane and the goalkeeping more solid then a breeze block from Penrith Building Supplies. We drew 1-1.
Match 3. Mersey Canoe Club. They looked keener than Harold’s Tyres pricing policy. Pity we couldn’t have got Alex’s fingers re-treaded, as he kept dropping the ball; not that it mattered, we were slaughtered like locally reared marsh lamb from Booths, 5-0. The only time we had a decent chance of scoring, one of their players took a swim and instead of the referee allowing us to play on, while we had a two on one situation and an open goal, he stopped the game. Elf and safety he said, more like a trip to Flusco, we muttered. But hey, we’re the nice guys from Penrith, we don’t argue with the ref, just mutter. A word though of encouragement, Mersey are a new team with players from higher divisions, British Canoe Union Rules state that new clubs have to start in Div 4 and work their way back up. So perhaps we weren’t as rubbish as we thought, they were just much better.
And so to our final match against White Rose, a chance to redeem ourselves. Early betting was that Penrith, being a new team would be easy picking. But after a tactics session on Tim’s fridge door (don’t ask) we were off like a well-oiled gate from Relphs. We steamed forward, faster than a fly cast from a John Norris rod. Quickly Alex, John and Jack had landed three goals without our defence being troubled. We were on fire, only the second Engine from the Penrith Fire Station could put us out, but in the guise of the referee, it nearly did. Weird refereeing decision followed weird decision, they scored a goal and then, ‘Oh no’, I cannot speak of the next incident. It brought shame on the player, on the team, on Penrith. It would take a Tiffany Light from Seagraves and Dixons to illuminate what happened next. The ball is passed forward and lands near our goal, defence not back, Brocky sprints out (more like a bulldozer from Metcalfe’s) and intercepts the ball near the poolside, something happens, the ref points behind Brocky and blows the whistle for some misdemeanour. Brocky, thinking the ref is pointing to where the ball should be played from by White Rose, throws the ball in that direction. Whistle. Yellow card! Brocky sent off. Why? We find out later that the ref decided Brocky was throwing the ball away, to slow the game down! Bedlam. Game goes on. Penrith down to four players, but Jack, playing with more spice than a Gianni’s pepparami pizza, saves attack after attack. Groans, as one gets past. Last few seconds. Brocky back on. Another attack, brilliant defence by Tim at al, and then the final whistle. Confusion still abounds. Some White Rose players refuse to shake hands, others like the Penrith team are bewildered. But anyway, no more Mr Nice Guys from now on. Penrith have learnt aggression. We will complain about the poor refereeing. Of greater importance though, we are going to feed our juniors with raw meat and veg; they will train for hours and hours, and we will win everything and never again be ’nice’ (but always well mannered!)
Played 4. Won 2 (1 properly and 1 on a technicality), Drawn 1, Lost 1. 2 Green and 1 Yellow Cards.
As a community club, supported by the Pride in Penrith Community Lottery, we thought we’d try and mention as many businesses from the local community, as fitted the write up. Hope you enjoyed it!