Chester vs. Manchester: a Manchester perspective
The most recent Manchester vs Chester game began the way most of Manchester’s away games begin: a convoy of cars arriving to the park, mostly on-time. Chester gave us some blue bibs – a luxury not only in the colour (we typically sport orange and green) but also in how delightfully clean they smelled and looked compared to muddy Manchester.
It was a very frigid morning and we were all eager to start if only so we could get moving and start warming up. The first warm-up session was a round of jogging to get warm. I think Chester shared our opinion, as they seemed just as eager when the warm-up began. We also quickly learned that Manchester wasn’t the only muddy place, as our shoes squelched through the mud as we did laps around the area. Everyone’s cognitive skills were put to the test as Charlotte called out to sort ourselves by height, a challenge only surpassed by the following request to sort ourselves based on who has visited the furthest north in the world (and we collectively learned that Iceland is a lot further north than previously thought).
The jogging was followed by a quick round of individual donkey tag inside the zone we’d just run laps around. It was absolute chaos as everyone zipped around, trying to dodge each other while simultaneously attempting to steal tails. Those who lost their tails quickly became kamikaze taggers as we had nothing to lose. Donkey tag allowed us to size each other up as individuals, seeing the competitive levels that people played at and how hard everyone would work to claim victory (the answer: very, very hard).
The first official competition round began after donkey tag – ball tag, using two giant yoga balls to pass around and try to tag out the defending team. Manchester went on the attack first, working incredibly hard to tag out as many people as possible within the time limit. We very quickly learned that the game is much harder with yoga balls than it is with the dodgeball we usually play with, but our resolve stayed strong. Chester followed up with a very dominant playstyle, but Manchester is nothing if not slippery – appropriate considering how muddy our sessions tend to be – and we managed to secure the first victory!
Manchester: 1, Chester: 0
Round two involved a special version of the typical end-zone game. The two teams were each divided by height and placed on either side of the half-line, with short vs short and tall vs taller. The aim of the game was for the attacking team to get the ball to a goal as many times as possible before the defending team managed to get 5 points. Manchester had an obvious advantage as we brought our resident giant along (standing at a staggering 6’8”) and even our shorter team was collectively taller than Chester’s short half. Despite this disadvantage, however, Chester worked very well as a collective team and fought hard. I can’t attest to how the tall half went as I was a part of the short team, but everyone on my half of the field worked incredibly hard and I imagine the other half worked just as much. The game proved to be very well balanced as Manchester managed to only score 4 points and Chester managed 3.
Manchester: 2, Chester: 0
The third round of the match moved away from the ball games and onto Storm the Castle. The goal was for the attacking team to make it into the castle – running up to the central bases and hopping through the “moat” to get to the goal without being tagged by the defending team. Manchester once again attacked first, and we quickly learned that Chester’s ace team tactics would be a huge advantage to them. They worked really well as a group and were able to halt a lot of our progress during our attack and keep us confused during their own attacking round. Both teams ran exceptionally hard, and the mud started flying. The beautiful and clean blue bibs we wore started to look more and more like the muddy bibs Manchester is used to, and my shoes started getting heavy with the extra mud I was carrying around with me. Chester, not as easily distracted as me, managed to pull a win!
Manchester: 2, Chester: 1
Round four introduced the ability to open up new starting bases. Manchester, now aware of Chester’s overwhelm-them tactics, were ready to use them ourselves to try and get an early opening for points. However, we were not as organised as we thought and it took us longer to open up a second starting base than we had hoped. Still, we ran hard and managed to get a fair amount of points in our attack. During Chester’s attacking round, their superior group work once again shone through as they managed to very quickly open up several starting points and rack in the points. Every player on the field was starting to get tired from the intensive running, but the determination from both teams was palpable. Still, Chester managed to out-strategise Manchester and take the victory.
Manchester: 2, Chester: 2
Round five began another round of storm the castle, with the addition of “dragons” who could run over the moats instead of hopping and then could rescue a “princess” and take her back to the starting point for additional points. You remained a dragon as long as your donkey tag was not pulled, and a regular tag wouldn’t send you back to the starting point. Manchester once again began the attack, and managed to rally ourselves enough to score a massive amount of points. However, right when Chester began the round was cut short by a man who didn’t want us tearing up the football field anymore. Boo. We decided to call the round a draw.
Manchester: 3, Chester: 3
The final round (5.5?) was circular dodgeball. Each team had to put everything onto this round, as it was the final tie-breaker. Manchester were made to attack again, exhausted already having just finished a round of attacking with no rest. Regardless, we did our best to keep in the circle for as long as possible. We dodged, we stepped on each other, and we kept positive. We sometimes got hit, and we ran like hell when we did. Chester finally managed to get us all out of the circle when the hit penalty was running to the farthest cone, and we switched sides. Now Chester was in the centre, with a time to beat and strong resolve. Chester proved to be very good at dodging, proving that their ability to get past us during the running games wasn’t completely due to their teamwork. When Charlotte gave the call for the hit penalty to be the third cone, we knew the game was going to be close. Then, the worst three words I could have heard came out of her mouth: fifteen seconds left. I knew that in this moment I lost hope – they were going to do it – and a lot of my team felt the same. Chester had too many players still in the circle. But we also became more determined, and despite the odds we managed a rapid-fire attack that got most of the players out again. I could hear Charlotte counting down from five seconds, and there were only two Chester players left! Manchester started shouting frantically to get them, and somehow we obeyed our desperate commands. When we got both players out, we shouted in relief and waited with bated breath to hear the final results. Staring at Charlotte with my hands in the air and trepidation in my heart, I felt immense relief flood through me when she declared that Manchester had stayed in the circle for a whopping two seconds longer than Chester! Unbelievably, against the odds and our lack of self-confidence in the final round, we had managed to pull a very narrow victory!
Manchester: 4, Chester: 3
In true Rabble fashion, however, the session was not truly over. We collected our kit and took group photos, passed around high-fives, and headed off to the pub. Each team had brought an incredible amount of competitiveness to the games, and it all disappeared once the competition was over. We were all incredibly proud of what we’d accomplished – and I’m not ashamed to admit that some of Manchester blasted Queen’s “We Are the Champions” as we drove to the post-Rabble celebrations. The final round of Rabble’s Chester versus Manchester match: the pub. Rabble took over the pub and enjoyed delicious food, great drinks, and a community of people who love to play hard.
Results: a draw