Buckingham U15’s travelled to North Devon last weekend to take part in a tournament played in Barnstaple. Two pool matches on Saturday were followed by two knockout matches on the Sunday.
Kicking off against Newport HSOB, Buckingham spent the initial minutes of the match on the defensive as a series of errors and infringements meant play was largely confined to the Buckingham 22. Despite this Newport did not look like they would break through the midfield and from one great scrum the bigger Newport pack were pushed off the ball and Ed Hussey playing at scrum half kicked deep into the Newport 22 where the supporting runners forced a turnover. Considerable pressure led Newport to concede a penalty which was quickly tapped by Harry Scarr before he forced his way over to score in the corner. With no conversions the score stood at 5-0.
After this Buckingham simply took over. The restart was collected by Harry; he fed Ed Hussey who spun a long pass to Josh Graham playing at outside centre. Josh brushed aside his opposite number before outpacing the covering defence to run three quarters the length of the pitch to score; 10-0.
Shortly afterwards Newport were applying some pressure when Ed Kinman kicked out of defence into space. Such was the pressure applied by the Buckingham backline the Newport defender spilt the ball in the tackle, Alex Goldensmith seized the opportunity to fly hack the ball forward before picking up, to outpace the chasing players to score from the half way line; 15-0.
The first half closed with Max Steel almost scoring the individual try of the tournament. Receiving a pass well within his own 22, Max proceeded to jink his way through a number of opposing players until he broke free on half way, sweeping past the full back Max made it all the way until just 5m out he was tap tackled by a covering back. Every spectator held their breath as Max’s momentum carried him almost to the line but unfortunately he fell just short. Despite Josh following up the Newport defence just managed to prevent the score and they cleared their lines for half time.
The second half continued in much the same vain with the Buckingham players using the wide pitch to its full advantage.
The next try came from a scrum on the Buckingham 10m line, and a move involving Harry, Max, and Olly Compton, playing his first game for the Club, gave Olly the chance to show his strength and pace out wide. Running round his opposite number Olly neatly side stepped the full back to run in to score a great team and individual try from some 30m out; 20-0.
Newport then had a period of some possession but great tackles from Toby Owen and Sam Pierce in particular kept play well away from the Buckingham 22. It wasn’t long before this defence caused Newport to infringe and from another quick tapped penalty Harry, fed Ed Kinman, then James Grierson. James committed two defenders with one lovely dummy before passing to Josh who then released wing Jack Moors. Jack like Olly beforehand outpaced his opposite number, side stepped the full back to score another great try, again his first for the Club;25–0.
There was still time for Jack to almost repeat this move but with the crowd cheering another piece of great back play the referee called play back for an infringement. Shortly afterwards he blew for full time, with five tries scored, none conceded.
The second pool match against Dursley & Stroud was a much harder affair.
For much of the first half most of the play took place deep in the Buckingham half as the Dursley team pressed hard through their forwards, trying to make the break through. They would have done so if it were not for two stunning try saving tackles from Jonny Hayter, the second of which forced the Dursley player to knock on in the act of scoring. The half ended with Ed Kinman clearing to touch just over the half way line which was just about the first time Buckingham had ventured out of their own half.
A stern talking to from the coaches at half time initially did not seem to make much difference as play continued to be mostly in the Buckingham half, however gradually they started to build pressure and force play deeper into the Dursley half. Numerous scoring chances were missed as players tried to force the game or tried to play without the support of their team mates and it began to appear that neither side might score. Eventually the pressure did tell when following a maul deep within the Dursley 22, quick ball was fed to Ed Kinman who found the little gap necessary to power through the defence to score by the posts; 5-0.
Buckingham continued to press for a second score but either over eagerness or an infringement meant this wasn’t to happen and to their credit Dursley finished the game on the attack, when a long kick out of defence forced full back Dan Soanes to scurry back deep into his 22. With the opposition coming up fast Dan managed a great clearance kick to touch just before he was tackled. As the ball rolled out the ref blew for full time.
With the third match void in the pool Buckingham went through as pool winners to play in the cup play offs on the Sunday. We said goodbye to Alex Goldensmith and Josh Graham; Josh because he was representing Wasps U15 Academy on the Sunday afternoon, and welcomed Charlie Gulliver who had missed the Saturday games.
First match on Sunday was against Abertillery.
From the Buckingham kick off Abertillery infringed almost immediately. A quick thinking Ed Kinman caught the opposition napping by kicking long into the Abertillery half, Charlie Gulliver alert to the opportunity chased ahead of the covering defenders to beat them to the ball and score. Less than a minute on the clock and Buckingham were 5-0 up.
Up against a considerably bigger pack the Buckingham forwards initially held their own very well and particular credit should go to Fraser Singleton and Chris Hann for ensuring the front row held together under intense pressure. The forwards managed to secure sufficient ball to ensure the back line had some opportunities and when they did they always remained a threat.
Most of the play was beginning to revolve around the forwards as Abertillery begun to keep the ball close, however they did release their strong running centre at one point and only a superb covering combination tackle by Dan Soanes and Charlie Gulliver prevented a certain score. James Grierson supported brilliantly to steal the ball before running up to the half way line at which point he was forced into touch.
Abertillery came back at Buckingham and their forwards forced a succession of mauls which edged ever closer to the line, finally Buckingham infringed and from the resulting penalty only 5m out an Abertillery forward picked up and despite a great effort from Max Steel managed to force his way over the line, to make the score 5-5.
Buckingham came straight back and again the forwards with Sean stuchbury and Harry Scarr working especially hard, managed to secure ball over a number of phases. Working play up to the opposition 22 the ball was moved across the back line to Charlie Gulliver who using what little space he had, managed to weave his way through the defence to score a great try under the posts. 10-5 to Buckingham at half time.
Unfortunately at this point the team had lost Chris Hann and Roshan Rai to injuries so every available fit player was on the pitch.
The second half started very badly for Buckingham. Abertillery changed their tactics from the restart, kept the ball with the forward pack and kept all their drives to around the fringes. A series of mauls and close drives enabled them to work they way up to the line and eventually a blind side break brought them a try to level the score at 10 all.
This sequence of play was then repeated for much of the second half and despite some great defence by all of the Buckingham team, including Jonny Hayter who had to be sidelined following a terrible blow to the head, the pressure eventually told and the Abertillery forwards set up another great chance for their centre to force his way over from 10m out.
For the first time Buckingham found themselves 10-15 down and despite a great forward effort driving play deep into the oppositions’ 22, Buckingham couldn’t create the space or early ball to properly bring their backline into play. When the ball was eventually lost, the referee blew for full time with the score 10-15.
A great game between two very different but evenly matched sides, where both teams were a credit to their respective clubs.
This loss meant Buckingham’s next match was a Challenge Cup semi final against Doncaster.
Unfortunately this match was not of the same quality as the previous game. With Chris Hann and Jonny Hayter injured the pack had to reshuffle and Roshan Rai patched up was sent back out to the fray!
And what a fray it was! From the off play was fractious and disjointed but despite this Buckingham did spend most of the first half on the front foot and well in the Doncaster half. When the forwards did deliver good quick ball they managed to create opportunities for the back line and Max Steel took full advantage early on the make a great jinking run through the middle to score a superb individual try.
Despite the forwards creating other opportunities, in this match the back line either failed to create the space to break through or kicked when it would have been better to keep the ball in hand, a trait that got worse in the second half.
With time running out in the first half Doncaster managed to take play deep into Buckingham territory for almost the first time and against the run of play managed to score to make things 5 a piece.
Bad was to become worse almost immediately when a Buckingham player was yellow carded for retaliating, so the team were now playing with 14 players, one whom was injured and a reshuffled pack.
The second half kicked off with Buckingham’s target to keep a clean sheet while down to 14 men but unfortunately this proved just beyond them. Seizing the initiative early on Doncaster managed to press well into the Buckingham half and then release their backline to exploit the difference in numbers for their player to go over in the corner.
Try as they did Buckingham could not find the continuity or consistency to either build momentum in the forwards or break the line in the backs. A number of half chances were created but over anxious play with individuals either trying to force the game or make the match-turning kick, resulted in none of them being taken. This was typified in almost the last move of the game, when having turned the ball over deep within their own half, there was a great chance to run the ball back at the opposition. With the whole backline in place and two forwards opposing our centres the ball was kicked deep and the chance lost.
In fact only great saving tackles by Jack Jensen and Dan Soanes prevented further Doncaster scores when their players ran the ball back after it had been kicked to them.
When the ball was finally well cleared by the Doncaster full back the referee blew for full time with the score 5-10 in Doncaster’s favour.
A disappointing end to a great two days of rugby where the team scored 9 tries, conceded only 5, played some fantastic running rugby against teams with huge squads, and throughout made their parents proud.