Welsh visitors first winners of Mike Lewis Memorial Cup
Pictures by Mike Baker
Words by Bill Wallis
Rhondda Vets, a team drawn from several clubs in the Rhondda Valley, were popular and appropriate winners of the inaugural competition for the Mike Lewis Memorial Cup at Fenley Field last Saturday, coming as they do from the area that Mike called home. Jenny Lewis was present to hand over the trophy that bears her late husband’s name to the winning team at the end of a very successful and entertaining day of rugby for players aged 35 or more.
Also remembered on the day was Dom Marsella, another OL’s stalwart who passed away last year, in the shape of Marsellas Old Boys, a team made up of old friends and colleagues of Dom’s together with his three brothers.
The teams were split into two groups and the winners and runners-up in each group went on to play semi-finals to decide the finalists, games being played in two 15 minute halves.
Rhondda laid down an early marker with a comfortable 17-0 win over an OL’s side slow to get going; and also looking good were Newbold, who chalked up a 22-10 win over another visiting side, Wendens Ambo, up from Essex for the day.
Marsellas OB chalked up the day’s biggest win when scoring 39 points without reply against Wendens Ambo. With half backs Rich Ramsden and the old maestro Mark Palmer pulling the strings, Carl Adams looking as sharp and competitive as in his playing days and supplemented by some American beef over from Minneapolis, they looked impressive.
OLs then won a close encounter with Rugby St Andrews by 14-5; and one of the best games of the day saw Newbold come from 0-12 down to topple the fancied Marsellas OB by 14-12 and top their group.
This pitched Marsellas against Rhondda in the first semi-final and the sides couldn’t be separated at the final whistle, the score standing at 5-5. Extra time was played, to be decided by the first score, and Rhondda clinched their place in the final with a try inside 2 minutes to come through 10-5.
The second semi was between OLs and Newbold and provided probably the day’s biggest surprise, the hosts toppling their near neighbours to book their final place with a 10-0 score line. The win was earned by OL’s forwards, who dominated their opposite numbers to deny the sharp looking Newbold back line any decent possession.
The final saw a reprise of the day’s opening game, with OLs facing Rhondda and, although it was much closer than their earlier meeting, the Welsh side were just too sharp all round for the hosts and ran out 12-0 winners to claim the trophy. For OLs, Lee Arbuthnot was the mainspring of the side, with his prompting and probing; but probably their star man on the day was back rower Sam Miles, who scored arguably the try of the tournament, against St Andrews, and was action personified throughout.
OL’s Ash McEwan was the man who came up with the idea for the tournament and the main man behind its organisation. Learning from the experience of this, the first such event organised by the club since 1995, it is planned to repeat it, probably every other year.