FIVE players missing stretches squad
Despite having players missing, Under 14's bag another win
Less than 24 hours after the Irish nation held their breath as Johnny Sexton drop-kicked a dramatic late winner in the Stade de France, the fields of Chaulden Lane witnessed equal drama as Camelot Under 14's drained every ounce of energy in a last ditch battle to maintain their 100% record this season.
The clash with Aylesbury was alway going to be tough against disciplined and well-drilled opposition. With Camelot missing five players the "warm-up" match that took place was always going benefit the opposition in the long run who had a much larger squad; fantastic for ensuring all the kids had a good run out, but with Camelot having just 19 in their squad (reduced to 18 when Jack had to leave the field with a nasty cut from a boot) and having not played much rugby over the past fortnight...the impressive unbeaten run was seriously under threat.
These two sides are very evenly matched, it was going to be a game of fine margins. Early possession was played out in the middle of the park, with Camelot slowly gaining ground, but struggling to make any real impact before being met by a rock solid defence. Good discipline kept the ball in blue hands though, gradually making their way through the phases and getting within five metres of the tryline. From a ruck Ben tried a pick and go, stopped just a metre short. Reset, another strong ruck and time for James Isaac to take the ball. At first he looked as though he might pass the ball out, but with a quick trick of the eye he spotted the gap and barged the ball down just under the post. With relative ease Dan slotted home the conversion. 7-0.
The score gave Camelot a lift, helping to overcome tiredness as they continued to look for gaps in the Aylesbury defence. One area where Camelot did dominate was in the scrums, where superior strength and weight, coupled with excellent technique, was giving the home side a physical and psychological advantage...but that counts for nothing when a nippy Back comes through, intercepts a pass and unravels all your hard work to run in an equalising try. Surprisingly, out of character, and ultimately decisive, the conversion was missed, and Camelot still lead 7-5.
Possession and territory continued to swing from side to side. Camelot were awarded a penalty about 25 metres out. With ball in hand everyone was looking to see which side of the pitch Dan might opt to kick for touch, but instead went for a quick tap and go before dinking a little chip over the defensive line and setting off in chase...It was one of those where if it works everyone jumps up and down salivating at the skill, or if it goes wrong you find people banging their head going, "why did he do that?"...In this case it was the former. A perfect kick, a kind bounce, a superbly timed run, gather and grounding - A brilliant piece of skill that had everyone jumping up and down salivating! Dan again converted and Camelot went into the interval with a 14-5 lead.
At the start of the second-half Aylesbury looked much the sharper, the boys in blue and white starting to show tiredness from the lack of rugby during January and the warm-up match earlier in the morning. A break through the defence met little resistance, and Aylesbury had an early score. A superb conversion and the pressure was on. 14-12.
Moments later exactly the same thing. A gap in the defence, a tired chase in vain, and the visitors were ahead. Another conversion and Camelot trailed 14-19. There looked to be only one winner in this match...
Somehow, somewhere, the under 14's showed a maturity beyond their years to collectively pull themselves together and find the mental strength to stop the slide and gradually get themselves back into the match. Back to basics, good discipline and patience as they made their way through the phases. A couple of strong scrums boosted the confidence, as good attacking play moved the ball forward into the opposition twenty-two.
Despite the tiredness, the work in the ruck was impeccable as Caolan fished the ball out of the back to set up the next phase, finding Freddie who whips between two defenders and headed towards the post. Stopped a couple of metres out he flipped the ball out to Dan who made no mistake in grounding the ball under the posts. 19-19 with a conversion to follow.
Compared to some of the kicks converted this was a relatively easy one, but the pressure could be felt all around as Dan lined up the kick...the Aylesbury defence started to sprint forward; too early. The ref sent them back, Dan reset the ball. Two steps back, one more look up at the posts before lofting the ball between the sticks and restoring Camelot's lead. 21-19.
But that was not the end of the drama. In the closing minutes Aylesbury piled on the pressure, forcing Camelot back onto their defensive line. A charged down clearance almost led to what would surely have been the winning try, but the ball wasn't quite grounded and we were back for a scrum 5 metres out. A couple of minutes left on the clock. Mental and physical tiredness and an incredible winning record under threat Camelot resorted to...well, what can only be described as panic!
Lunging, desperate tackles, blocked clearances, the odd sloppy pass...but it was still just enough to push Aylesbury back, eventually forcing the ball out of play and bringing the game to an end. Somehow, they found it within them to scrap out a win. Fighting back from what looked a lost cause and then desperately hanging on against a persistent attack. It wasn't always pretty, yet it was another very impressive victory, and a sign of a very, very, good team.
FT: Camelot 21-19 Aylesbury
Tries: James Isaac, Dan 2
Cons: Dan 3
In the warm-up match prior to the game the Under 14's again demonstrated the strength of the squad as a mixed-up Camelot side (as much as you can mix-up 19 players!) comfortably beat the Aylesbury squad team. Two first-half tries from Terence and one from James Norman, all converted by James N saw them race into a 21-0 lead. A converted try against made the score 21-7 at the interval.
After the break Aylesbury pulled things back to 21-12 before a debut try from Kieran and and an interception from Dan, both converted by Dan, gave Camelot a comfortable 35-12 victory.