SIX months on, the county champions meet again
Camelot come out on top in re-run of South Yorkshire Challenge Final
Six months on from the legendary South Yorkshire Challenge Final in Doncaster when Camelot were held to a draw following a last play of the match equalising try, the blue & white dynamite were heading around the M25 to Upminster for a re-run of that bruising encounter.
Back in May the sun was beating down on a scorching hot day, very different to the conditions in Essex this time around where heavy overnight rain followed by strong winds and light drizzle made it unpleasant on the sidelines at times, but perfect rugby conditions for the players on the pitch. With only two subs available for Camelot it was going to require an all round team effort to get anything out of the match, and that is exactly what they achieved, putting in one of the performances of the season...so far.
Winning the toss Camelot opted to have the wind and downhill advantage in the first half, and immediately looked to apply the pressure deep in the Upminster half. It was obvious from the off that this was going to be a physical encounter against tough tackling opposition who were not going to give anything away cheaply. Camelot themselves were also in no mood to give anything away, the Forwards stepping up a level from the previous game to offer extra support and strength in the rucks which started to give them the advantage as the game ticked on.
Mid-way through the half the deadlock was broken. A superb tackle from George enabled the turnover that set Camelot backs on the attack, providing Tommy with the chance to run and battle his way through gaining valuable yards before relying on the back-up of his teammates with James Norman breaking across the line, stretching the defence before popping the ball out to Kiren on the wing to finish the move. The conversion fell short, but Camelot had their noses in front.
It was not long before the lead was doubled. More immense pressure saw the home side struggling to get out of their own half as they continually hit the blue and white brick wall. Camelot were on the break again when Ben opted for a bit of football rather than rugby to kick the ball towards the try line, a superb chase by the Backs kept the pressure on, forcing the turnover and setting up the ruck inches from the try line...As James Isaacs dipped his head and prepared to pick the ball up at the back of the ruck there was only going to be one outcome, down went the shoulders and he powered his way over the line. The conversion went wide, Camelot led 10-0 at the interval.
It had been an excellent first thirty minutes, but going up hill second-half the game was anything but over, the next try was going to be important. The set pieces were proving to be important with the referee clearly unhappy with what was going on in the scrums at time, constantly requesting resets and slowing the game up, even reaching the point of threatening to show yellow cards if the scrummaging did not sort itself out.
After the break there was a yellow card, but not from the scrum, the Upminster player received it for a tackle on Seb where he was adjudged to have tipped him over the horizontal. Five minutes in the sin bin.
Despite battling up hill Camelot continued to dominate play, the interaction between the Forwards and Backs a sheer delight to watch as the ball got taken into contact, recycled, built up again, constantly putting the opposition under pressure. With Upminster short of a player and therefore apparently unable to field a replacement for the scrum, the ref had no option other than make the scrum uncompetitive whilst the player was off the field. A surprising outcome, but it did not affect Camelot as they quickly moved the ball to the back of the pack, spreading it left and right before Dan burst through a gap in the defence to run home into the corner. 15-0. Another conversion falling just short.
With Upminster now back to full strength, Camelot continued to apply the pressure, using the driving maul to great effect to gain ground, draw opposition into the action to create the space for the speedy Backs to utilise. Something they did again quite superbly for the fourth try, stretching the defence with strength and quality passing and when Edward whipped the ball out wide to Woody on the wing he gathered superbly, performed the faintest of little side steps to fool the nearest defender before sprinting down the wing to score in the corner. A superb conversion by Dan added to the score, and the Champions of Hertfordshire led the Champions of Essex 22-0.
The final score of the game did go to the home side however with the final play of the match. A penalty clearance by Camelot did not quite find touch and Upminster were very quickly on the attack, breaking down the wing at incredible pace before a good passing move exploited a gap in the Camelot defence for the first and only time in the game. A shame to concede at the death, but it does nothing to detract from a quite brilliant team performance that reflected all the hardwork that had gone on since the defeat to OAs a fortnight ago. As Coach Les Long said after the match, "Lately we have focused in training on retaining the ball in contact, physicality and the value of every player and their roles in the team. Well today they showed us that they had taken that onboard right from the first whistle. They should all be pleased with a dominant performance"
FT: Upminster 5-22 Camelot
Tries: Kiren, James Isaacs, Dan, Woody