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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Gold Bat - Chapter XVI - THE RIPTON MATCH
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The Gold Bat - Chapter XVI - THE RIPTON MATCH Post by :Martin_Avis Category :Long Stories Author :P G Wodehouse Date :June 2011 Read :2286

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The Gold Bat - Chapter XVI - THE RIPTON MATCH

CHAPTER XVI - THE RIPTON MATCH


It was a curious thing in connection with the matches between Ripton
and Wrykyn, that Ripton always seemed to be the bigger team. They
always had a gigantic pack of forwards, who looked capable of shoving a
hole through one of the pyramids. Possibly they looked bigger to the
Wrykinians than they really were. Strangers always look big on the
football field. When you have grown accustomed to a person's
appearance, he does not look nearly so large. Milton, for instance,
never struck anybody at Wrykyn as being particularly big for a school
forward, and yet today he was the heaviest man on the field by a
quarter of a stone. But, taken in the mass, the Ripton pack were far
heavier than their rivals. There was a legend current among the lower
forms at Wrykyn that fellows were allowed to stop on at Ripton till
they were twenty-five, simply to play football. This is scarcely likely
to have been based on fact. Few lower form legends are.

Jevons, the Ripton captain, through having played opposite Trevor for
three seasons--he was the Ripton left centre-three-quarter--had come to
be quite an intimate of his. Trevor had gone down with Milton and
Allardyce to meet the team at the station, and conduct them up to the
school.

"How have you been getting on since Christmas?" asked Jevons.

"Pretty well. We've lost Paget, I suppose you know?"

"That was the fast man on the wing, wasn't it?"

"Yes."

"Well, we've lost a man, too."

"Oh, yes, that red-haired forward. I remember him."

"It ought to make us pretty even. What's the ground like?"

"Bit greasy, I should think. We had some rain late last night."

The ground _was a bit greasy. So was the ball. When Milton kicked
off up the hill with what wind there was in his favour, the outsides of
both teams found it difficult to hold the ball. Jevons caught it on his
twenty-five line, and promptly handed it forward. The first scrum was
formed in the heart of the enemy's country.

A deep, swelling roar from either touch-line greeted the school's
advantage. A feature of a big match was always the shouting. It rarely
ceased throughout the whole course of the game, the monotonous but
impressive sound of five hundred voices all shouting the same word. It
was worth hearing. Sometimes the evenness of the noise would change to
an excited _crescendo as a school three-quarter got off, or the
school back pulled up the attack with a fine piece of defence.
Sometimes the shouting would give place to clapping when the school was
being pressed and somebody had found touch with a long kick. But mostly
the man on the ropes roared steadily and without cessation, and with
the full force of his lungs, the word "_Wrykyn!_"

The scrum was a long one. For two minutes the forwards heaved and
strained, now one side, now the other, gaining a few inches. The Wrykyn
pack were doing all they knew to heel, but their opponents' superior
weight was telling. Ripton had got the ball, and were keeping it. Their
game was to break through with it and rush. Then suddenly one of their
forwards kicked it on, and just at that moment the opposition of the
Wrykyn pack gave way, and the scrum broke up. The ball came out on the
Wrykyn side, and Allardyce whipped it out to Deacon, who was playing
half with him.

"Ball's out," cried the Ripton half who was taking the scrum. "Break
up. It's out."

And his colleague on the left darted across to stop Trevor, who had
taken Deacon's pass, and was running through on the right.

Trevor ran splendidly. He was a three-quarter who took a lot of
stopping when he once got away. Jevons and the Ripton half met him
almost simultaneously, and each slackened his pace for the fraction of
a second, to allow the other to tackle. As they hesitated, Trevor
passed them. He had long ago learned that to go hard when you have once
started is the thing that pays.

He could see that Rand-Brown was racing up for the pass, and, as he
reached the back, he sent the ball to him, waist-high. Then the back
got to him, and he came down with a thud, with a vision, seen from the
corner of his eye, of the ball bounding forward out of the wing
three-quarter's hands into touch. Rand-Brown had bungled the pass
in the old familiar way, and lost a certain try.

The touch-judge ran up with his flag waving in the air, but the referee
had other views.

"Knocked on inside," he said; "scrum here."

"Here" was, Trevor saw with unspeakable disgust, some three yards from
the goal-line. Rand-Brown had only had to take the pass, and he must
have scored.

The Ripton forwards were beginning to find their feet better now, and
they carried the scrum. A truculent-looking warrior in one of those
ear-guards which are tied on by strings underneath the chin, and which
add fifty per cent to the ferocity of a forward's appearance, broke
away with the ball at his feet, and swept down the field with the rest
of the pack at his heels. Trevor arrived too late to pull up the rush,
which had gone straight down the right touch-line, and it was not till
Strachan fell on the ball on the Wrykyn twenty-five line that the
danger ceased to threaten.

Even now the school were in a bad way. The enemy were pressing keenly,
and a real piece of combination among their three-quarters would only
too probably end in a try. Fortunately for them, Allardyce and Deacon
were a better pair of halves than the couple they were marking. Also,
the Ripton forwards heeled slowly, and Allardyce had generally got his
man safely buried in the mud before he could pass.

He was just getting round for the tenth time to bottle his opponent as
before, when he slipped. When the ball came out he was on all fours,
and the Ripton exponent, finding to his great satisfaction that he
had not been tackled, whipped the ball out on the left, where a wing
three-quarter hovered.

This was the man Rand-Brown was supposed to be marking, and once again
did Barry's substitute prove of what stuff his tackling powers were
made. After his customary moment of hesitation, he had at the
Riptonian's neck. The Riptonian handed him off in a manner that
recalled the palmy days of the old Prize Ring--handing off was always
slightly vigorous in the Ripton _v. Wrykyn match--and dashed over
the line in the extreme corner.

There was anguish on the two touch-lines. Trevor looked savage, but
made no comment. The team lined up in silence.

It takes a very good kick to convert a try from the touch-line. Jevons'
kick was a long one, but it fell short. Ripton led by a try to nothing.

A few more scrums near the halfway line, and a fine attempt at a
dropped goal by the Ripton back, and it was half-time, with the score
unaltered.

During the interval there were lemons. An excellent thing is your lemon
at half-time. It cools the mouth, quenches the thirst, stimulates the
desire to be at them again, and improves the play.

Possibly the Wrykyn team had been happier in their choice of lemons on
this occasion, for no sooner had the game been restarted than Clowes
ran the whole length of the field, dodged through the three-quarters,
punted over the back's head, and scored a really brilliant try, of the
sort that Paget had been fond of scoring in the previous term. The man
on the touch-line brightened up wonderfully, and began to try and
calculate the probable score by the end of the game, on the assumption
that, as a try had been scored in the first two minutes, ten would be
scored in the first twenty, and so on.

But the calculations were based on false premises. After Strachan had
failed to convert, and the game had been resumed with the score at one
try all, play settled down in the centre, and neither side could pierce
the other's defence. Once Jevons got off for Ripton, but Trevor brought
him down safely, and once Rand-Brown let his man through, as before,
but Strachan was there to meet him, and the effort came to nothing. For
Wrykyn, no one did much except tackle. The forwards were beaten by the
heavier pack, and seldom let the ball out. Allardyce intercepted a pass
when about ten minutes of play remained, and ran through to the back.
But the back, who was a capable man and in his third season in the
team, laid him low scientifically before he could reach the line.

Altogether it looked as if the match were going to end in a draw. The
Wrykyn defence, with the exception of Rand-Brown, was too good to be
penetrated, while the Ripton forwards, by always getting the ball in
the scrums, kept them from attacking. It was about five minutes from
the end of the game when the Ripton right centre-three-quarter, in
trying to punt across to the wing, miskicked and sent the ball straight
into the hands of Trevor's colleague in the centre. Before his man
could get round to him he had slipped through, with Trevor backing him
up. The back, as a good back should, seeing two men coming at him, went
for the man with the ball. But by the time he had brought him down, the
ball was no longer where it had originally been. Trevor had got it, and
was running in between the posts.

This time Strachan put on the extra two points without difficulty.

Ripton played their hardest for the remaining minutes, but without
result. The game ended with Wrykyn a goal ahead--a goal and a try to a
try. For the second time in one season the Ripton match had ended in a
victory--a thing it was very rarely in the habit of doing.

* * * * *

The senior day-room at Seymour's rejoiced considerably that night. The
air was dark with flying cushions, and darker still, occasionally, when
the usual humorist turned the gas out. Milton was out, for he had gone
to the dinner which followed the Ripton match, and the man in command
of the house in his absence was Mill. And the senior day-room had no
respect whatever for Mill.

Barry joined in the revels as well as his ankle would let him, but he
was not feeling happy. The disappointment of being out of the first
still weighed on him.

At about eight, when things were beginning to grow really lively, and
the noise seemed likely to crack the window at any moment, the door was
flung open and Milton stalked in.

"What's all this row?" he inquired. "Stop it at once."

As a matter of fact, the row _had stopped--directly he came in.

"Is Barry here?" he asked.

"Yes," said that youth.

"Congratulate you on your first, Barry. We've just had a meeting and
given you your colours. Trevor told me to tell you."

Content of CHAPTER XVI - THE RIPTON MATCH (P G Wodehouse's novel: The Gold Bat)

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