On an unseasonably warm and sunny January morning and with the pitch in excellent order, Chew U14s came back to rugby in 2012 with a convincing win against old rivals Walcot.
This was a highly competitive match, with both teams aware of a history of close encounters. Neither team wished to concede victory, and several one-on-one agendas played out across the pitch. Both sets of forwards engaged enthusiastically from the start – Walcot winning ball in ruck and maul, but Chew securing good possession in the loose. This set the tone for an interesting battle up front, and for long spells both back lines were somewhat starved of the ball.
Playing with the slope in the first half, it was Chew that made the breakthough. On a rare occasion with the ball going out the backline, good hands saw Conor Cronin make a powerful run on the left wing to score in the left corner.
The Chew line out was dismal during the first half, with not a single clean ball, despite Nevis’ towering presence at the front of the line. Walcot made the most of this and put together some good short runs from this situation. However it was Chew once again who got points on the board following some excellent work from Sam Burtenshaw who stole ball in the tackle and fed Danny Callaghan who powered over for the second try of the match. Miles Hackett slotted a good conversion.
Some useful forward interplay began to develop with the likes of Ben Trotman and Hagen Voigt linking well in the contact area to keep the ball available and building great momentum. One phase saw Chew stopped only a few metres short of a third score.
To their credit, Walcot didn’t let Chew dominate with the advantage of the slope, and following some intelligent kicking using the low angle of the sun, put some great pressure on the Chew line. This nearly resulted in their first score, and it was only the quick reactions of Sam Burtenshaw wrestling the ball away from Callum, the powerful Walcot front row as he was over the Chew line that kept our clean sheet.
Chew absorbed this continued pressure well, and a number of players made committed tackles, including Kyle Cording and Ben Warr who found himself one-on-one with the Walcot wing at one stage.
The second half saw five changes to the Chew setup, and new player Perry Cunio was introduced on the left wing for his first taste of club rugby. Miles Hackett got things off to a great start with a perfect lofted kick onto the Walcot 10m line. It was clear that Chew were out to close down the competition despite facing the slope, and started to take control of the match. Some good linking play between Sam Wedlake and Sam Burtenshaw took Chew to within 5m before a knock on halted progress. From this defensive position, Walcot won ball and sought to break out down the right side, only for their unfortunate winger to meet Perry Cunio’s crunching tackle head on.
A number of combinations were beginning to emerge, helping Chew make good inroads to Walcot territory. Miles Hackett put in some intelligent box kicks for Kyle Cording to chase on the narrow side, and Hagen Voigt emerged from several mauls with ball in hand to make short and effective gains. Jordan Buet continued his great recent form with a number of typically determined runs, breaking tackles and ensuring ball was recycled. Also introduced in the second half and back from a lengthy hand injury, Jack Dando made a strong contribution to the second row and the loose play.
The final score of the match came from a Chew penalty in the Walcot 22, and Sam Wedlake got on the end of some close support and crashed down under the posts in the style of Chris Ashton. Miles Hackett supplied the extras with some alacrity.
Walcot were unable to break out for much of the second half of the match, as a result of good tackling and good fielding. The few kicks that came over the top were well dealt with by Elis Fowler and Harry Stride at full back.
Overall a heartening performance and the lads can be pleased with a job well done. Areas to work on include the misfiring line out and the rather poor work rate in ruck and maul.
Man of the match was Sam Burtenshaw.