"North Bristol. Kind of like South Bristol but slightly colder"
Rich in West Country rugby heritage, this touring side were going to ask a lot of questions of the Bournville under 10s. They were fielding the one team so we split into three evenly balanced teams and prepared for battle.
All three teams had a couple of explosive runners so it would be reasonable to expect three similar results but you would be wrong......
First up were Tim's team. Warm and dry conditions would ordinarily suit the Bournville style of play but from the start Bournville just didn't get going. Bristol demonstrated real intent with ball in hand. They had some hard runners and the reticence in the Bournville defensive line allowed the visitors to make real in roads from a territorial perspective. When their players were finally stopped the support runners would ruck and recycle with very little meaningful counter rucking from us. With easy retention of the ball the inevitable tries followed. The Bournville crew were quick to restart but a pattern was quickly emerging. We were treated to some good direct running from the power units of Rohan and Callum and they would make some impact but a lack of support runners meant that there were no meaningful off loads and when the ball went to the floor, the Bristol counter rucking meant easy turnover ball for the visitors. They would then go on to convert that possession into territory and points. Occasionally, our runners did get through so we managed some scores through Matt and Rory but they were very individual efforts and came from defensive lapses rather than a meaningful team effort. There were some glimpses of defensive excellence with Rory and Cookie committing to the tackle but with the lack of support, their efforts largely came to nothing. Callum mauled well but any turnover he secured fizzled out with a lack of team cohesion. Ultimately it was a bits and pieces performance but Bristol ultimately walked away with an easy win.
Next up were Ian's team. Bristol had their tails up and came hard from the start. The Bournville line speed was slow but the defence was solid. Hard hitting from Jacob and Seb stopped the Bristol forays in their tracks and hard counter rucking from Ali saw turnover ball. There was some excellent backs to the wall defence where Ali, with support from his team mates, managed to hold up North Bristol on the line to stop them scoring. Good hands from Charlie and Max set our runners free with Will T and Thomas H eating up the yards. Unlike the first game we were treated to solid, organised defence with good support play bringing rewards in defence and attack. One of the high points was Ali delivering a brutal lesson in direct running as he ploughed through the Bristol defence to cross the line for a try. Another, was an audacious backhand offload from Jacob to Will T that helped bring a try. Ultimately, Bristol secured a couple of consolation tries but it was a comfortable win for Bournville.
Next up were Jon's team. It's possible the touring side were flagging a little but that should take nothing away from the performance of this Bournville team. The defence was brutal with every player weighing in with tackles, rucking and counter rucking. Freddie and Thomas U brought some mobile muscle to the equation helping deliver turnover whilst securing our own ball at the breakdown. Michael and Will V were roaming the pitch like a pair of predators, hunting down any Bristol player with the ball. They would take them straight down and counter ruck, stifling any offensive move and generating turnover ball. Where the rucking was effective the ball would be quickly recycled by supporting players and then suddenly slick hands would see the ball in the hands of Oli and George making big inroads into the oppositions half with Mason on hand to deliver the coup de grace. All the players were comfortable in defensive and offensive roles and this was reflected in the clean sheet. Genuine hunger for the ball and no one shying away from tackling or rucking created a complete performance and crowned a good day for the club with the win.
Ultimately, the take home message was that when Bournville play as a team with everyone working hard and committing themselves, they are hard to beat but when they play as individuals and don't work together, they are fallible. We were treated to some excellent handling and great work at the breakdown. We saw some good support play and effective finishing. There's still some work to be done on the training ground for some with their rucking and tackling but there were a lot of positives.
It was a pleasure to host Bristol and we hope their tour of the Midlands was as enjoyable as our tour of Bristol was last year. They brought some good competitive rugby played with passion and spirit and are always welcome.