Written by: Ian Dreelan
What a difference a week makes; whilst it may be a long time in politics, it would appear to be of even greater importance to the minds of U9’s rugby players.
As we arrived at Bradford On Avon, all looking slightly dazed by the loss of an hours sleep, but buoyed by the prospect of a bright sunny day, the coaches couldn’t help but wonder whether the same team as last week would turn up or whether our players would be up for the fight this week. It seems hard now to think that we had any doubts.
Whilst the gazebo chain gang was assembled (all volunteers of course), having established which pitch we were on, we discovered that the competition would consist of a relatively small league, however consisting of some very strong teams.
There had been much discussion between the coaches following on from the rather disappointing outcome for the A team in our home festival. The decision was to try and focus minds, get them to concentrate on rugby, and look for consistency in team selection.
Deprived of some players through illness (Archie), freak scootering injury (Alex Lynch) and selfishly planned family celebrations (Angus), we had drafted in some members of the B team who had performed so impressively the week before. This then gave us a squad of Joshua (captain), Ed, Ethan, Thomas, Alex Fiddament, Arnie, Nicholas, Daniel, Jessica, Connor, Kit, Keir and Sam.
Following a structured warm up, which would then precede each game, our first opponents were Corsham. It is worth stating at the outset that not only are our teams notoriously slow starters, but that we have a terrible record against Corsham – to the extent that we had never beaten them in a tournament match. Times were about to change! Corsham are a very well drilled team, who are big in defence and can switch quickly to being deadly on the counter attack, however from the first whistle our players looked sharper and wanted to win more. We put in tackles all over the pitch, looked to move the ball when the opportunity was there, and avoided needless mistakes. A lovely try from Ed secured us the victory (coupled with a fabulous last ditch try saving tackle from Arnie) and proved to be the only try Corsham conceded all day. A note of thanks to the Corsham coaches for being gracious in defeat, and for not being too upset at the fact that the start of the game saw us (inadvertently) fielding 10 players! 1-0.
The second game saw us pitted against a strong (and improving) Bath side. The challenge from a coaching perspective was to try and get the players to maintain the same level of intensity as against Corsham – this was no time for resting on their laurels! Another fierce encounter ensued, again seeing a complete team effort, with tackles going in across the pitch and our players showing real desire to win. Ed showed his pace in both his tries, and proved unstoppable for the Bath defenders, and Joshua in another strong showing at scrum half, showed great awareness to dive over following an attacking scrum 5m out from their line. The true intensity of the game however was encapsulated in what proved to be the last act of the game, with Daniel delivering a crunching tackle that was felt on both sides of the pitch, leading the referee to call a halt to proceedings. 3-0.
Next up saw us facing the first of the two Bradford teams (both of whom had contested last years final), who proved a tougher task than anticipated. 2 tries from Keir and 1 each for Daniel and Connor should have seen us to a comfortable victory, however in between our own scores we conceded two tries where we simply stood off of runners and allowed them through. As my glass is half full (despite my best attempts to drink quicker), it should be noted that each time Bradford scored, we showed great desire to get back down the field – Connor in particular wouldn’t be denied in scoring his try. 4-2.
Up next came Trowbridge, who to be fair just couldn’t live with our team in the form they showed today. Again looking at the positives (and trying desperately hard to avoid clichés like ‘only being able to play the team in front of you’) – the team kept their concentration and maintained the pressure until the final whistle. Nicholas in particular proved particularly hard for Trowbridge to deal with, scoring 2 and setting up Thomas for a great finish having demolished the Trowbridge defence. Daniel also got in on the action with a brace, as did the speedy Kit and the ever-determined Connor who grabbed a try each. 7-0.
The coaches now became slightly concerned as players were celebrating like they had won, with the final match against the second Bradford team effectively being a cup decider. After a bit of a talking to the players looked like they had re-focused, at which point the coach’s concern turned to nerves – could they claim the win that would guarantee the cup? Again the intensity was obvious with big hits going in on both sides, the game being stopped early on after Joshua having broken down the wing was clattered into touch – as painful as it was, there was no way he was going off! A try from Ethan eased the pressure, however two further ‘tries’ by Sam and Ethan were disallowed – Sam’s in particular on the stroke of half time would have eased the pressure. However, reminiscent of a famous Prime Minister the team were not for moving and held out to secure a famous victory. 1-0.
In the words of both ours and other coaches the team were brilliant, playing a fabulous brand of attacking rugby coupled with a level of physicality, which belied their years. To say they were happy would be an understatement, with whoops of joy and looks of sheer bliss at the final whistle; they were, however, still gracious in victory and showed their opponents respect throughout the day. I particularly enjoyed the team’s lap of honour with the trophy following the presentation – an impressive feat in view of the size of Bradford’s grounds, but I think they wanted everybody to know!
There were no individual awards for player of the day or tackle of the day, emphasizing hopefully the success of the overall team performance, however for the sake of completeness the following is true of the players; Joshua and Keir provided consistency throughout in the 9 and 10 positions, Ethan, Thomas, Jessica and Sam provided an attacking yet solid midfield, Daniel, Nicholas, Alex F, Connor and Arnie constantly fought (legally!) for possession in the rucks and mauls, Ed and Kit who burnt down the wings whenever the ball got to them and Alex Lynch who despite not being able to play supported the team throughout.
They were all outstanding and should be very proud.