It is fair to say that in comparison to the success of last season the Under 11’s have been a little disjointed in recent weeks. This has been commented on and debated by all us parents who claim to know the reasons. Listening more and paying more attention is one reason, settling into the new season and the extra players another. There are more contributions to this I have no doubt.
However, whether the weather is hot or whether the weather is not (Of which Sunday it was definitely not!!), the performances seen on Sunday by every player in a Dartfordian or Old Dartfordian jersey can only be described as “….above their years…..” I heard many parents/coaches comments on the team’s efforts …..Sublime, unbelievable, beautiful, class, magnificent, fan-bloody-tastic to name but a few but whatever the comment, the main theme was that the team seem to have remembered that they are the Kent Champions and that this was for a reason.
Monty and all were pleased to see the return of coach Kev and have his input and influence back on the team. Our first game pitted us against a fashionably late Dagenham side who showed a great work rate and were determined to make it hard work for Darts. A great catch and run from Archie from Kick off and some strong hard tackles by the usual Spartans Fin, Jack, Josh and Shea soon gave a clear message that any team was going to have to be at their best to score a try today. A great run from Shea and offload to Josh meant Darts opened their Essex account 1-0. Some more notable running from Daniel and James and quick passing through the hands from Sion and Luke lead to a push over the line and a try for Joe. The third came soon after the break, starting from a tackle by Paddy and some great rucking over by Fin, Eddie and Jack. Darts then showed off their quick passing game and moved the ball along five pair of hands before being landed by George to make the score 3-0. There was some good play by Oliver, Lewis and James Palmer in the second half, who are improving all the time. With a couple of minutes to go some great link up play between James, Daniel and Shea including a well-rehearsed and sublimely executed scissors movement lead to a try which was not given due to a double movement on the line. This only served to ensure that a try was scored moments later by Shea, 4-0.
The next game was played shortly after and was against the home side, Thurrock. They had a well drilled team and provided a much closer affair for Darts. Some great tackling meant that soon enough the control shifted to Darts instigated by some fierce forward bursts from Jack and also from Fin amongst others. Sion was very quick at moving the ball out of the scrum and complimented further by Eddie and Paddy on more than one occasion throughout this game. A nimble footed Luke tore through the heart of the Thurrock defence and good support play from James Palmer and Archie ensured that an opening was created for Josh to power through and land the first try of the match. Josh played outstanding in this match and took a nasty knock on the left touchline, which resulted in him suffering concussion and sprained neck muscles. This game again was adorned with some devastating passing and running from Daniel, Shea and James from side to side that had the spectators dizzy let alone the opposition. Joe made a good tackle as did Archie, these two showing that they have more belief in themselves in this match. Paddy linked up in the second half. George came on second half and was immediately involved moving the play up the field. Great support and low gravity running from Fin and Jack again moved the ball closer and a passing move from one side to the other culminated in a final burst for the line by James aka legs Gander to cross for number 2. Final result 2-0. (Josh could obviously take no further part in the tournament, however, he is thankfully recovering well).
The final group game was against Upminster B. It became apparent early on that this was the most difficult group match Darts would play. The battle commenced and Darts were in their own half for the majority of the first period. Darts could have even been down if it were not for the valiant efforts of all the players. Tackling followed by rucking, mauling and scrums was the order of this meeting. This coupled with the desire to keep the tries against tally to 0. The second half saw much of the same for the first minute or so until the trailblazing skills of Sion, Fin, Shea and Jack permeated through to the others who reciprocated their efforts and now put Upminster on the back foot. Closer and closer the try line became but the final move was continuously dashed by the opposition defence. Upminster’s ability to turn defence into attack should be commended as well as their relentless attacking play. For Darts it was the ability to become stronger in a tough match coupled with the formidable wall of defence and desire to keep the tries against tally to 0. This was achieved. Result 0-0.
A bye was accepted after a no show from Westcliff for all teams in the group.
So 4 games and the final standings were (including bye);
TEAM PLD W D L F A PTS
DARTFORDIANS 4 3 1 0 9 0 10
UPMINSTER 4 3 1 0 10 2 10
THURROCK 4 2 0 2 8 4 6
DAGENHAM 4 1 0 3 4 15 3
WESTCLIFF 4 0 0 4 0 12 0
This meant the Cup Final was to be played against Eton Manor who had won all 4 of their group games quite convincingly, indicating a tough game ahead.
The chill factor was now affecting us all as the 9am registration was now a distant memory, the daylight saving was also pushing the cover of darkness in our direction and Gary’s resignation that purchasing a new tent would be an easier option than using the required origami skills to pack away the existing one. However, Gary’s distress call was adhered to as a saviour approached at pace in the guise of a Stanford Mum who rushed to his aid and completed set task in a few swift moves. THE END.
Oh Apologies, there is the small matter of the CUP FINAL to be mentioned. I have just looked for my notes and remembered that they were in fact on my hand and as luck would have it a wash has occurred in the meantime scuppering any exact account from occurring, anyway as my memory serves me ………………….
The game kicked off and the size and presence of Eton Manor was the immediate observation made by all. A tense first minute and some great tackling by both sides highlighted the needed evidence that both these teams deserved the opportunity to contest the cup final. Then the Darts engine revved and the gears changed from that point forward Darts dominated the play. A mazy run in from Dan followed by some great passing from Sion, George and James Palmer kick-started the pending avalanche of class from Darts. Good support work and determination in the scrum from Joe and Archie was complimented by the efforts of Paddy. Some great defence work from Eton made life difficult for Darts until just before half time a trademark low barnstorming run from Jack covered ground before going to ground and Sion picking up the loose ball and diving straight over for try number 2. The half time whistle went, everyone knew that Eton Manor had the potential to come back from this in the second half so Monty and Kev made it clear to the team what was required to complete this job. Darts came out exactly where they had left off and within seconds Shea in determined mood powered up the touchline, laid off to Eddie who spun the ball out to Oliver, George and finally to Fin who carried the ball over for try number 3. Oliver took a knock but recovered straight away to show grit and desire. James Palmer caught the ball from kick off and supported by Archie and Joe pushed on with the ball. When the ball came out and from this point forward we were all treated to a display of class, speed, elegance and finishing by James Gander, Daniel Mitchell and Shea Taylor. These three linked up in every move for the last 3 minutes and scored a try each which devastated the opposition. They were unstoppable and this was commented on not only by the referee but also by one of the 1st team players from Thurrock stating how clinical and mercenary these final tries were.
So that’s where you have been hiding, glad to have you all back and looking forward to the rest of the season!!!!
The whole team produced rugby not seen since the Kent festivals and on this form it will take a great display to conquer these young lads. It is worth remembering that this tournament was not only won in emphatic style and not a single try against them but with a respect for all their worthy opponents and the attitude of the boys should be congratulated. WELL DONE DARTS!
PS: I think they will need their own silverware cabinet very soon…