12-9 is such a comfortingly old-fashioned scoreline. You can sniff the embrocation in those lowish multiples of three; gnarled forwards of yore paid their doughty dues during 12-9 epics while fancy-dan three-quarter team-mates shivered. It’s a back-to-basics score, an unfashionable glimpse into past times, into mudbaths, into half-time team talks on the pitch, into the shadowy mindsets of Malcolm Preedy and Bobby Fowke. If 12-9 were a TV Show it would be a murky World In Action exposé from 1973, it’s Lieutenant Pigeon playing Mouldy Old Dough on Top of the Pops, it’s the Winter of Discontent crossed with an especially violent episode of The Sweeny, it’s a rusting Chopper bike with a slightly flat tyre, it’s a Noddy Holder sideburn of a score. I’ve missed good old 12-9. And last night’s thoroughly exciting 12-9 victory for the Gloucester club of Gloucester against a decent Leicester outfit proved extremely pleasurable. Welcome back.
This was not a classic match but, after weeks and weeks of wistful woes and winless worries, it was wondrous to witness my favoured team playing with the passion, intensity and wholehearted grunt that the inhabitants of the popular side demand. Although concerned by a singular lack of game plan and a significant inability to carry the pill across the try-line, this punter heralds a vast improvement in handling skills, a noticeably accomplished adherence to the arts of the scrums and lines-out, and a reinvigorated rolling maul. Last night’s forward pack caught this eye. It was a mixture of the mature and coltish. Old dogs Buxton and Boer bustled and bruised for the cause with gleeful abandon, their uncompromising work rate and unselfish fetchin’, carryin’, tacklin’ and sweatin’ all indicatin’ a deep affection for the historic club and an acknowledgment that its values and ethos must survive. Younger tyros Attwood and Dawiduik rampaged earnestly too, concentrated well and mixed a youthful gallop in the loose to adherence to the necessities. Behind the scrum, David ‘Dave’ Lewis gave a curate’s egg of a performance, blending iffy passing and slow service with ebullient breaks and zestful sprinting. Young Freddie Burns, donning the famed ten shirt, looks a sparkling prospect; the fellow played heads-up rugby union with a refreshing confidence and is certainly one for the (near-) future. Burly Tim Molenaar is coming into some form too and I appreciated the abrasive Kiwi centre’s rough and ready running; he combined well with the burlier Tongan menace Vainikolo rather well.
Of course there were negatives to Gloucester’s play to counteract the numerous positives but last night wasn’t about detailed analysis and over critical debates. It was about winning and winning with spirit. The last twenty minutes saw this supporter shake off his disquiet about this season’s form and disappointments and shout his ruddy head off, celebrating the referee’s blast at no-side with rare excitement. It was a smashing occasion and the sentimentalist in me relished the scenes as the exhausted yet victorious yeomen paraded in front of the throng. My word, it was wonderful to see the noble Jake Boer among the lads, arms aloft and soaking up the affection. Excitement is back, Jake is back, the Gloucester dog is back and 12-9, in all its low-scoring, edge-of-set majesty, is back too. Hurrah.