A solid victory
..and a good team performance
This was only our second fixture of the season, so ring rustiness was to be expected, however, good performances all around the park saw Ays run out comfortable winners, and with a number of different combinations tried out.
The game was played in good spirits and on a perfect day for rugby. MK's often rock-hard 1stXV pitch had taken the recent rain well and so had just enough give to make tackling great fun, whilst still allowing the speed merchants to give it some beans out wide (technical coaching term, that). Ays started playing up the slope and into the slight wind. The pace of the game was sluggish for the first 10 minutes, and both sides made plenty of mistakes. Encouraged to play as a team and to try different approaches to "unpicking" the opposition rather than just trying to run-through them, Ays varied their point of attack until eventually a great dummy pass and step by Doff saw him get in behind the MK midfield on the half-way line. Ed ran a strong line outside, drawing the attention of the defence, whilst George ran under, and a simple inside pass saw George run over for a fabulously executed but ultimately very simple try under the posts. MK kept up their pressure, in particular the speed of their defensive line, and it wasn't long before quick thinking at a penalty just outside the Ay's 22m saw MK make territory and eventually power over for a try in the corner to make it 7-5.
Ays lineout was working well, scrums were solid if not a threat and tackling was sound. Greater precision at rucks could have helped to reduce the number of turnovers by both sides, and Ays needed to do a better job at getting MK players out the way when lying on the wrong side, rather than waiting on the referee to order them out. Solid tries from Kristian and Matt saw Ays extend their lead to 19-5, before another lapse in concentration, again at a penalty, allowed MK to run in another try from a quick tap and go right on the verge of half-time, to make the score 19-10. Ays were guilty in the first half of not sticking to the processes worked on in training, too often trying too hard to force an offload, or trying to make an extra meter or two in territory, but at the expense of speed of ball. This led to slow-ball for the 9 and gave MK time to reset their defensive line.
At half-time, the boys aired the problem they were having, and as soon as it was said, they instantly knew what to do to overcome it - you could hear the penny drop....so the knowledge and game understanding is there. The challenge is being able to ask and answer the question of themselves whilst the game is in-play. That will come as they gain in experience and grow in maturity.
Armed with what to do, and with the words "have patience" ringing in their ears, the boys put the foot to the floor in the second half, running in 43 unanswered points, demonstrating they also have the range of skills in their toolbox to adjust. Overall, a good performance, that maybe lacked accuracy (at least 5 tries were left out there), game awareness (the ball needed to go wide earlier on a number of occasions) and the match was understandably not played at the pace and intensity we are ultimately aiming for - but the season is young, it's only our second match and there is a lot rugby still to be played. Well done lads - a solid start and a great foundation to build on, with so many players getting good game time, and a lot of very good performances.
Our thanks to Jonathan for refereeing, and for MK for hosting us.