FIVE Years on...County CHAMPIONS!
They only went and done it...
There's a keyboard in front of me with lots of letters that can be put together to create any combination of words you like, yet none of them would be suitable to describe the sheer scale of achievement from the Camelot Under 14's this season, culminating with the seemingly impossible...being crowned County Champions.
Just being present for County Final Day was good, and being there as cup finalists even more impressive. The reward was an early kick-off on the main pitch at Old Albanians, against the host team, and favourites OA's. At times just the names strikes fear into the team, but not this year, with a 100% record this season to maintain, the boys were confident (deep down, I think parents felt this was a step too far).
An opening kick from Dan got the game started, and OA's were straight on the attack, but immediately realised it was not going to be easy to punch a hole in the Camelot defence. Both sides showed signs of nerves in the early stages, a couple of mishandling errors and silly mistakes as possession changed from end to end. A couple of times it looked like Terence or James N might break through, but they were quickly stopped in their tracks. For the home side, they were fancying their chances through the middle, but struggled to gain ground.
Halfway through the first half, still no score. Every attack was heart in mouth stuff as two very evenly matched sides battled it out. As has often been the case this season, the Camelot Forwards had the edge in the scrum, and were putting the opposition on the back foot, putting doubt in their minds. In the Backs valuable yards were being gained from short bursts; Tommy shrugged off several defenders on a surging run, Freddie wiggled through the frontline more than once, James Norman had breaks out wide...slowly, slowly...don't say it too loud, but Camelot were starting to look the better side.
And they got their reward five minutes before half-time. Dominating pressure, pushing the opposition back they were right on the OA's try line when Caolan popped up to dive through the smallest of gaps to ground the ball. TRY! Camelot had the lead. Right under the posts, Dan converted and the boys in blue & white went into the half-time break leading 7-0. Remarkable. If only that were the final whistle...
After the break OA's were on the attack, determined to get back into the game. Camelot were dominating the scrum still, brilliantly winning contests against the put-in, boosting the confidence. A couple of times a Camelot kick and chase looked to cause a serious threat, but a little too eager, the ref pulled them back for offside. From one o these penalties the OA's no.10 hit an incredible kick 50 metres which rolled out five metres from the Camelot try line. This was dangerous.
A driving maul pushed towards the line, but some seriously determined defending stopped the score, forcing the penalty that enabled lines to be cleared. But OA's were back on the attack again...and this time they did find a hole in the defence to score with ease. Right under the posts, the kick was converted, 7-7.
Wow, this was not one for the feint-hearted. Massive credit to the boys again, the heads did not drop, they were straight back into their game, hitting the tackles and desperately looking to create space out wide. A great run by James Norman, and then another from Terence came so close to scoring, but good tackling and spilt balls saved the home side. A Camelot scrum 5 metres from the try line looked like a real opportunity, but this time the Forwards were penalised and OA's cleared their line.
Back on the attack OA's were awarded a penalty about 20 metres out, as we looked to see whether he would tap and go or kick, the referee pointed towards the posts. For the first time all season (or ever for these boys), a penalty was being kicked for three points. A real chance for OAs to nudge ahead...it fell short. Another sigh of relief. This was getting hard to watch.
As the clock nudged towards the red Camelot had a line out 5 metres from the try line, one final chance to pull off the impossible? No, OA's quickly turned over the ball, hoofing an impressive defensive clearance deep into the Camelot half...
...Hearts were in mouths as the ball bounced in front of James Norman at full-back. A horrible bounce. The ball is in the air, his finger tips knock it a bit higher before he gathers into his arms. And breathe. He sets off another run out wide setting up the next attack. Great ball skills through the middle of the park and Camelot are back in the OA's twenty-two. Tommy breaks the line and is bundled to the ground. Seven metres out. The ball comes out of the ruck, George thinks about heading for the line, opts for the pass to his left where, off all people, Ben gathers the pass, two large strides forward, over the line, grounds the ball safely and is immediately mobbed by his team mates.
A truly brilliant team try to cap a brilliant team performance that finished the season for what can only be described as a truly brilliant team. The missed conversion did not matter. There was not even time to restart the game, the final whistle went and the boys in blue and white jumped with joy. County Champions. Remarkable. Unbelievable. Choose your own superlatives...
Five years ago this team had to be pretty much re-built after losing so many players. Huge credit to those who put in the work and effort to at first save the age group, and then turn them into a half-decent team. The improvement, year on year, has been there for all to see, but County Champions? Beating OA's in the final? On their own turf? With a winning try in the last play of the game? Nah, never saw that coming.
FT: OAs 7-12 Camelot
Tries: Caolan, Ben