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by Mike Levitt

When your belly begins to hang over your belt, and a couple flights of stairs taxes your cardio, rugby is probably no longer your ideal sport. In contrast to that theory, we mustered an odd-sod band of middle-aged men from the little community of Williams Lake, and called ourselves the Rustlers. Our primary destination was Vancouver, to watch Canada play a rugby match with England. We’d made arrangements for a game of our own, with another old boys team, the Evergreens. We’d play the Saturday morning old boys’ game at Brockton Oval then watch the big international.

Our cavalcade of dusty pick-ups and SUVs found it’s way to the bright lights of the city and the festivity of our successful arrival was celebrated well into the night.

At Brockton Oval, next morning, a fog lingered over the wet grass and our pregame warm-up was far less exuberant than the previous night’s social. There was no sign of the other team. We stood in a circle, tossed a ball around, told a few jokes, and some of us reached gingerly for our toes. A classic old boys’ warm up.

One of the boys pointed to the other side of the field. “Look at that.” We all looked. Then stared. Silence. From out of the tunnel marched a team of huge muscular men. Their kit was pristine. They trotted into a well-rehearsed drill and executed clean crisp passing. Multiple balls flew in all directions.

There comes a time when the balance of camaraderie and the instinct of self-preservation comes into play. Love of the game and loyalty are undermined by the cold trickle of fear. The man next to me took a feeble kick at the ball and went down with a hamstring pull. One of our boys headed for the car park and called out, “I forgot my boots at the hotel.”

I mustered my waning courage and walked across the battleground to meet our foe. As I drew closer the more imposing they became.

I introduced myself and asked, “You the Evergreens?”  I spoke into the man’s chest. 

“Sorry mate,” he said. “This bunch, having our morning stretch. We’re England.”

“It’s England!” I hollered back to our boys. Venue mix up. The relief was immediate. The boys thumped each other on the back and said it would have been a good match. Too bad. In the giddiness of the moment I suggested to the big Brit that we have a quick game. “We’ve got Canada at two o’clock,” he smiled and declined my offer.

We finally played our game with the Evergreens. England went on to defeat Canada and our squad returned safely home.

The Williams Lake Tribune, in the true spirit of a small town newspaper, ran our story. England had declined our challenge, so the traditional default score was the result. Five nil. The headline: “Rustlers Old Boys Defeat England.”