FIVE Games in One Day...and still unbeaten
The Under 14's go on tour and return with another trophy
Camelot Under 14's celebrated their County Cup winning season with a tour to Doncaster to participate in the South Yorkshire Festival, a chance to pit their wits against new opposition and enjoy a team building weekend.
After a day of physical activities, sweltering heat and a late night fire at the Activity Centre they were staying at, the boys arrived at the home of Championship side Doncaster Knights without the very best preparation for a full day's rugby. The heat from the day before had intensified by the time the boys took to the field at 10.00am on Sunday to face the hosts in the opening match of the tournament. The Knights had been on the pitch much earlier than Camelot, running through their pre-match drills, psyching each other with motivational talk and disciplined exercises...whilst our boys strolled onto the pitch, looking pretty dis-interested, sullen faces and looking as though they wanted to be anywhere but on a rugby field.
The whistle blew. Dan kicked-off. In an instant these kids that five minutes earlier looked like they had unwillingly been dragged out of bed early clicked into rugby mode and immediately became this awesome rugby team that we have seen evolve over the course of the season. With the first scrum of the match they put down a marker, again demonstrating the sheer power of the pack. The Forwards play set up a run for George and he was through for the opening score of the day.
Moments later more Camelot pressure forced an error from Doncaster, Kieran takes advantage and resists all challenges on the way to making it 10-0. Before the break George added his second of the game, scoring under the posts Freddie drop kicks the conversion. 17-0. You can only begin to imagine what the hosts were thinking now compared to their first impression when the half asleep lads from Hertfordshire arrived at the start of the game.
There was no let up in the second period. Caolan uses his famous hand-offs on his way to making it 22-0, Dan converts and then following some more exceptional work in the rucks, James Norman breaks clear to score and make it 34-0. With the heat from the sun over-powering the boys would be forgiven for taking the foot off the gas and saving some energy for later matches, but you try telling them that!
Dan made it a personal mission to take the score to over 40 points with a superb individual try followed by a never say die attitude that saw him beat defenders to a loose ball and just manage to touch the ball down. He drop kicked the conversion to round off a thoroughly impressive start to the festival.
FT: Camelot 41-0 Doncaster Knights
Tries: George 2, Dan 2, Kieran, Caolan, James N
Cons: Freddie, Dan 2
If Doncaster were shell-shocked by the blue & white dynamite of Camelot, that was nothing compared to how Colwyn Bay must have felt 3 minutes into the second match. From an early kicked clearance Jack received superbly and set off like a yorkshire whippet, at first in the direction of Barnsley it seemed before cutting back in, almost unchallenged on his way to scoring under the posts. A phenomenal individual score. Dan converted, and the boys were 7-0 up. But not for long.
From the kick-off Camelot were back on the attack, Kieran breaking the line on a solo run, tackled just short, but Freddie was on hand to pick up the ball and finish the score. 12-0.
Another kick-off, Caolan gathers it this time, having seen what Jack and Kieran had already done he dropped his shoulders and headed for the posts, a couple of twists along the way and he was soon depositing the ball on the try line. This was quite staggering, the opposition had hardly touched the ball and Camelot were leading 17-0. On the sidelines parents were still struggling to put up the gazebos to offer some shade between matches, but on the field the boys were already red hot.
The next try took a bit longer to come about, maybe another minute or so, but with the defence now putting up a bit more of a challenge it took the ferocity of Thomas to battle his way through for the fourth try of the game, Dan converts and we are at 24-0. It was not even half-time yet when Edward picked the ball out of the back of the ruck, feigned one way and then went the other to break the line and make it 29-0.
By the second-half of the second game it is fair to say that your roving reporter had reached the point of "sod this, I won't be able to right about all of these tries in one day!" Suffice to say that George was back on the scoresheet with a trademark break down the wing, Caolan was on hand to pounce again and then for the second week running Ben had sneaked out to the wing again to finish another fine move in the corner with the final try of the match.
Tries: Jack, Freddie, Caolan 2, Thomas, Edward, George, Ben
Cons: Dan 2
These boys seem to just get better and better. Having travelled over 150 miles from home, they had rattled in a phenomenal 15 tries in just 32 minutes of rugby. And if that wasn't proof enough of what an all-inclusive team side they had become, there had already been ten different try scorers in the first two matches!
Complacency looked as though it could be the only thing that might stop them winning the group and proceeding to the cup semi-finals, and it nearly happened in Game 3 when, against what is in fairness a stronger looking opponent, Midhurst opened the scoring with a well-worked try. Did the boys panic? Heads drop? Don't be silly, they were having none of it (well, maybe a couple of uncharacteristic comments to the ref that were soon nipped in the bud).
Before the break they got their rewards when Dan broke through to score, the conversion was missed and Camelot trailed 5-7 at the interval.
Another trait that this team has perfected over the last nine months is incredible character and composure. This game was a real battle and patience paid off when Thomas used his strength to break through and put Camelot ahead for the first time, with Dan converting the score was back to 12-7. The grip on the lead was tightened when Seb weaved through to become the eleventh different blue & white try scorer of the day, Dan converted and that was enough to eliminate the threat Midhurst initially offered. A top class performance in the group stages that earned a transfer over to the main Rugby Championship standard pitch for the semi-finals.
FT: Camelot 19-7 Midhurst
Tries: Dan, Thomas, Seb
Cons: Dan 2
After lunch the heat just got hotter and hotter, there were some glowing faces from the parents on the terraces (in fairness, more typically the Dad's who had bought plenty of beer for the tour, but omitted to include suncream in the packing!) as they applauded their kids onto the pitch in front of the impressive main stand and terraced surroundings. The quality of the rugby was befitting of the surroundings, and once again it became all too easy to forget that you were watching Under 14's rugby. The quality was mind-blowing.
The opponents for the semi-final were the runners-up from the other group, Market Bosworth. Camelot adapted well to the new surroundings, but fell behind for the second game on the trot to an intercepted pass which was converted. 0-7. For the rest of the half they almost tried too hard and overplayed; one too many steps, a dummy when it wasn't needed and longer passes than necessary. To get back in the game there was a sense that they needed to go back to what they do best...
...and they did just that. Some good team work enabled Caolan to break loose, fend off two defenders and power his way over the line. With the conversion missed, they needed another score if they were going to reach the final. And it came. And it came from them doing what they do best. Great work from the Forwards, getting the ball out quickly to the Backs, finding width and eventually James Norman is on hand to run the ball in for what proved to be the winning try.
FT: Camelot 10-7 Market Bosworth
Troes: Caolan, James N
So for the second week running the boys were in a final, and the parents were feeling the nervous tension on the terraces as their kids took to the field against a formidable looking Upminster side. The opposition looked strong and powerful, and they were every bit as strong and powerful as they looked. This was a real defensive test, playing long periods of the game without the ball, instead being forced to vigorously hold back surge after surge of attacks whilst struggling to gain any ground on the attack.
Phase after phase. Patience. Stick to what you do best and it will pay off. And it did. After absorbing huge amounts of pressure it was James Norman on the wing that broke the deadlock showing impressive pace after such a long, hot day.
After the break it was apparent that Upminster were not going to give up easily. Camelot's ability to do anything about it was constantly hindered by conceding penalties, the referee seemingly taking a particular dislike to the height of some of the challenges as the second-half penalty count tallyed up to ten to nil in favour of the opposition. With so much pressure Upminster found themselves camped five metres from the Camelot try line with seconds left to play.
Once again, you would never believe this was a bunch of 14-year old kids the way they were giving their all to get their bodies behind the ball and do anything to stop conceding. As the penalty counts rattled up, Upminster continued to kick for the corner or try to catch Camelot out with a tap and go, but still the defence held firm, taking pounding after pounding; draining of energy in the sweltering heat as two sides bruised it out in a display of power that would match anything ever seen at this age of sport.
As the minutes clocked by, the inevitable eventually happened and one of the bigger lads in the opposition line-up proved just too strong when he spotted the smallest of gaps. 5-5. Hearts were in mouth as they took the all-decisive conversion...it was missed, and the cup was shared between two teams that had earned enormous respect from each other, and any neutral that was watching who must simply have been thinking, "Wow".
FT: Camelot 5-5 Upminster
Tries: James N
A quite spectacular end to a spectacular season that finished unbeaten with both the Herts County and South Yorkshire Festival in the trophy cabinet, and top of the league with a 100% record. Enjoy the summer boys. It is well-deserved.