ABRFC Dev Squad wins a tight top of the table clash
The DS went to a very windy Medway knowing that doing the double over their nearest rivals would leave them in prime position to win the league this year. They also knew that Medway would again be one of their sternest tests and they would need to be at their best to overcome them.
On arrival it was apparent that any thoughts of playing open rugby were gone due to the howler blowing straight down Medway’s pitch. After discussion it was decided to play into the breeze first half if given the choice. Which we were!
As expected the first half was spent mainly in the DS 22. Stout defending and tackling from all kept a determined Medway out for long periods. With relieving kicks not an option, the pack resorted to pick and drive mauls for several phases, with the backs making some ground on the crash ball. As soon as Medway won the ball back it was chipped back into the DS 22 and the merry-go round would start again.
Eventually Medway’s pressure began to tell, but somewhat disappointingly 2 of their 3 tries in this first period came from missed tackles by the DS back 3. It was a shame that resolute defending was let down by poor technique and this is certainly an area to focus on next week. Major contributors to the defence were Matt Jeffery and, at the other end of the timeline, 17 year olds Nick Penny and Ed Oram.
With only one conversion added DS went into the break 17-0 down, and with the wind still howling it did not look like an insurmountable total.
From the off Ed Oram kicked effectively in the breeze to pin Medway back into their 22. The pattern of the first half was repeated, in reverse, and Medway defended resolutely as DS had done in the first half. George Oram came on at No 8 for his last outing before leaving for New Zealand and powerful running off the back of the scrum created several excellent opportunities. Excellent forward play and handling kept the pressure on Medway. Early on the DS back line squandered a 2 man overlap with a dose of white line fever…and the coaching team was worried that an old pattern would be repeated. However it proved not to be the case.
The first try came from a scrum deep into Medway 22after about 15 mins. Oram came off the back of the scrum and drove blind for the line. Despite the attention of the defending 7, 8 and 14 the ball was grounded tight to the touchline, but in goal, and the first scored was delivered. Despite a good effort, the breeze proved too difficult for the other Oram to convert, 17-5.
The next try came from Ed Oram on about 25 mins. After several phases close to the Medway line the ball was shipped by the excellent Toby Lord to Ed at 10, and he drove over from about 10m out to add another 5. As the try was close into the posts he added the important 2 to make it 17-12.
This now set up a frantic last 15 minutes. Medway defended very well but any territory gained was immediately cancelled upon turnover by using the wind to pin them back again. With 5 minutes to go DS were given a penalty 10m out, and the ever alert Toby Lord took a quick tap whilst Medway were arguing with the ref and went under the posts. Ed Oram dropped kicked the conversion over and the score moved to 17-19. With a few minutes to go DS managed to give the support a few heart attacks with dropped passes in their own 22 and losing the ball in contact with the time up on the clock, but eventually a knock-on by Medway drew the final whistle from the excellent ref and it was all over.
The final result was a great relief to the DS, but it showed that the team does have the ‘dog’ to grind out results. The weather made the game a bit of a lottery but tackles still had to be made and kicks converted. The negatives were some poor tackling and a bad case of white line fever.
With all but 4 of the squad being less than 25 and with three 17 yo’s in the side, this was a great display of young talent. Medway showed also why they are 2nd in this league.
Man of the Match was Matt Jeffery, who carried all day and tackled anything that came near him, showing the younger ones in the side great technique. Close behind in the plaudits was Toby Lord, who was a p-i-t-a all day for the Medway 8/9, and got the final important score.