Clash of the Titans - Rathbones vs. English Lacrosse
Like the band of the Coldstream Guards at the FA Cup final, it felt appropriate that the Household Cavalry rode ahead of us as we walked through Hyde Park to take on the English Lacrosse first VIII. The occasion was after all similarly auspicious and high profile.
By Michael Ball, investment writer and semi-pro lacrosse legend
An elite group of Rathbones’ sportsmen and women had been selected to play against a team from English Lacrosse. The match would celebrate the extension of our partnership, which will now run until the World Cup in 2017. It would also raise funds for our joint charity, the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust, which does so much to support young people.
Practice time had been rather limited, but we had some experienced players in our team who had played lacrosse at school and university, not least Tory Bogue, our team captain. For the rest of us, how hard could it be? Surely, anyone who has ever picked up a hockey stick or played racquet sports would be fine. Bring it on.
It had rained solidly for several days before the match and yet, even with half of southern England flooded, it came as a surprise that large areas of the designated pitch in Hyde Park were several inches underwater. In trainers, it was difficult just to stay upright, let alone run. Still, our innate skill would surely carry the day.
And then the pre-match practice started. I failed in my first ten attempts to catch the ball and throwing was similarly tricky – this with no opposition, standing still just five yards from my practice partner. Meanwhile, English Lacrosse were warming up with fifty yard throws and backhand catches on the run. “OMG!”, as young people like to say.
The match itself started badly. Within seconds, Samantha Wood (who manages our partnership with English lacrosse and talks a good game on her sporting prowess) slid flat on her backside, before attempting an ill-advised pass across our goal... one-nil to English Lacrosse. This set the tone for the first half and we were soon several goals down.
Our opponents were extremely talented and their play was a pleasure to watch. In lacrosse, like ice hockey, you can play behind the goal and they were brilliant at making lightening passes from all angles around the goal before the ball inevitably hit the back of the net. As our Deputy CEO, Philip Howell, later pointed out, our partners were slow to grasp the first rule of corporate partnerships – don’t make the sponsors look bad!
The outlook was bleak, but Rathbones hasn’t survived since 1742 by giving up at the first sign of trouble. With the steely-eyed Camilla Klemme and fiery Belinda Barnes, two of our experienced players, finding their form and coaxing the best out of sporty beginners like James Goodhew and Charlie Sargent, the fightback started. David Phelps and Victoria Kinnear marshalled our defence, and Suzie Coats and Natalie Rizzi dominated midfield, giving our forwards the space to flourish. Goals quickly followed.
James Ward scored a couple, in the process reminding most of his teammates of the Duke of Wellington’s remark about his soldiers (“I don't know what effect these men will have upon the enemy, but, by God, they frighten me.”). With Francesca Monti tucking one away and Darren Duffy showing nitro-glycerine pace to blast past the opposition, the score was suddenly closer than we had a right to expect.
Given the heavy ground, we tried to gain advantage by using fresh young legs, but Daniel Ball, Will Evans (the spitting image of a young David Beckham, albeit with no wonder goals from his own half), Mona Shah and the RUTM boys couldn’t overturn the deficit. In spite of their youthful efforts, the final score was 15-10 to English Lacrosse – far less painful than the first five minutes suggested it would be.
All involved, including our many valued supporters, retired to Curzon Street for the presentation lunch. Philip Howell spoke about Rathbones’ commitment to supporting English Lacrosse and its work to broaden its player base, before presenting a cheque for £5,000 to the Dame Kelly Holmes Legacy Trust, represented by Olympic swimmer, Adam Whitehead, and Paralympic gold medal swimmer (and BAFTA winner), Giles Long.
Both spoke of the exceptional work done by athletes working with the trust to empower disadvantaged young people. It was very rewarding to raise money for such a worthwhile cause and demonstrated Rathbones’ ongoing commitment to supporting young people. The feedback from those who participated was so positive that there is talk of regular practice sessions and other matches in future. Sadly, I may have hung up my boots by then.
Photographs from the match can be viewed by clicking on the images below.
Laura Arkley, Daniel Ball, Michael Ball, Belinda Barnes, Tory Bogue (captain), Suzie Coats, Darren Duffy, Nicholas Elliot, William Evans, James Goodhew, Ben Kemp, Victoria Kinnear, Camilla Klemme, Francesca Monti, Adam Nelson, David Phelps, Natalie Rizzi, Mona Shah, Neil Smith, James Ward, Samantha Wood