Try! That exhilarating feeling after scoring 5 points for your team, whilst sweating profusely and almost getting killed in the process; such a joyous moment, through blood, sweat, tears & hard work. More of that to come, but yeah, this is the story about a few simple, rugby-loving UNMC lads doing what they love, and doing it pretty well, if you ask me.
17/11/12: Rugby day! Twas a fine Saturday morning, and I was up at 3 AM, out & about, looking forward to the events that were about to unfold on that day. The team converged on the Nottingham campus bus stop at about 7 in the morning, most were still half-asleep, whilst for me, I was properly awake, and was the only person dancing on the way to the tournament in Bangi, which was about a 20-minute drive away, no traffic, no fuss.
Then we got there, previous champions set to defend their throne. The pitch was utterly horrible and absolutely drenched, but good enough to play on. The fact that the ground wasn’t dry was good, because falling over was more like gliding on an ice-skating rink, rather than collapsing in a heap on concrete. In the group stage, we faced The Otomotif College (TOC) & Kuala Lumpur Infrastructure University College (KLIUC), the former being a pretty average team and latter being former winners & pretty well established. In our first match, we managed to see off TOC 17-0, scoring 3 tries (5 points each) and 1 conversion (after try, 2 points), and I have to admit our playing was off the hook! The team had chemistry, each player knew what he had to do in order to overcome the opposition and it was simply brilliant stuff.
We then faced KLIUC, a well-oiled group of players that we have faced in friendlies hosted on campus, and the ambience was incredulous. In the second game however, neither team were able to break the dead-lock so it ended in a pointless draw, sharing the spoils. Due to our better points average, we finished ahead of KLIUC in the group and next faced Taylor’s Subang and got past them 19-0, not letting a single opposing player into our try zone, scoring 3 tries and converting 2 of them. The Nottingham Knights were working very well together & wasn’t a team to disappoint on that day.
So 2 more games to go, the semi-finals started and the UNMC rugby team played the first game of three semis against Taylor’s Lakeside, the other Taylor’s campus team. It was nail-biting, end-to-end stuff & both teams put on a real show for the audience to feast on. Early on, we lost our influential captain, Talhah Jailani, due to an injury concerning his right arm – which we later found out had been dislocated in the incident. The loss of our team leader greatly affected us as we then, finally, conceded a try. Another player got sin-binned (yellow carded & sent off the field for a while) and we never got back into the game. So the final score was 5-0 to Taylor’s Lakeside and we still had to play our final game of the day, the 3rd/4th placing match.
In our last game of this year’s tournament, we had HELP University in between us and bringing back some medals & a trophy to UNMC. The events that unfolded in this match were mighty unexplainable.
The Nottingham Knights, shining in armor, full of courage and valor, taking hit after hit, making tackle after tackle, taking on people much bigger than most of us. Then, in a moment of sudden brilliance (I must say), 5 minutes in, we are about 10-15 meters outside their try zone, the ball pops out of a ruck and it travels over Kiril, our Russian “Death Star”, and drops right in front of me. Without hesitation, I picked up the ball from the ground, whilst craftily side-stepping a HELP player, before sprinting my heart out towards the try-line… I slid down to ground the ball, but during the process a HELP player tackled me out of nowhere, stopping me in my tracks and slamming my face to the floor. Nothing mattered though, after hearing the referee blow the whistle awarding the try to our team!!!
My head was well buzzed for a good few minutes after, and I suddenly realised that my face was bleeding, but none of this stopped me from being committed to my team mates in the second half of the match. We held on to our lead during some nerve-wrecking final moments, we held possession well, put in some good scrums and when the ref blew the whistle for the last time, we were confirmed as second runners-up!
A few cigarettes & washing our jerseys later, we collected our prize as the 3rd best Malaysian Private University College rugby team. I was one of the last in line to collect the medal and shortly thereafter, Muhammad, our president, lifted the bronze trophy in the absence of our beloved captain, Baba. It was a good day to be a Nottingham rugby player, as we defied most of our own expectations & really played like champions. We were a cut above the rest, drew with the eventual champions, and lost by such a minimal margin. We didn’t retain the tournament title but we came together as a team when we needed to, and nothing anyone says or does can take that away from us.
Rugby; a hooligan’s game, played by the truest of gentlemen.
..and now, watch the video of me getting hit in the face & winning bronze medals for everyone 😛 (just kidding, it was an awesome team effort really)