24/03/18 Acklam (H)
2nd team match report
A few factors combined to make this the biggest game for the second team for a few months. We haven’t played a lot of rugby for a while due to the weather/pitches and we haven’t had league games to concentrate on, so this cup final was huge. I must admit to a sleepless night on Friday thinking about the team and how to approach the buildup.
Unfortunately, as seems to happen far too often this year, we had a few cry offs on Friday night and Saturday morning which threw a lot of that planning out of the window. Even so, as the match approached I felt we still had a team that was capable of winning, as well as a bench with decent quality available to us.
The match started at a frantic pace and Acklam had most of the ball for the first 20 minutes or so. A feature of our game for the last couple of months (when we have managed to get on to the pitch) has been a solid defense, and that was the case on Saturday. The lads really worked hard for each other and plenty of aggression and heart were on show again. Unfortunately, the attacking game was not quite up to the same standards and when we got the ball we struggled to hold on to it or make any serious territory gains.
Attacking play is often the part of the game that builds with game time and training together. Defense can be built on guts and effort, but attack takes a bit more than that and we were lacking Saturday.
We grew in to the game though, and eventually forced a penalty in the Acklam half, which Todd put over to give us the lead. 3-0.
The rest of the half followed the same sort of pattern, both sides seemed better defensively than in attack and cancelled each other out. Perhaps the occasion of a cup final increased the nerves a little, but there were no further scores and the half ended 3-0.
The second half started as the first one ended, we got another penalty and Todd slotted in over again, 6-0 to us.
At this point, the aggression of Acklam started to ramp up, we were on the back foot. The occasion, our lack of match practice, and our desperation for a win after such a long period without one started to show even more and we seemed to go into our shell a bit. Acklam scored a try but missed the conversion, so we still had the lead. 6-5.
What followed was very backs to the wall. Acklam thought they had scored, but weren’t able to ground the ball when a kick through landed in goal. A huge let off for us when a try looked certain, and at that point I thought we had our names on the cup.
We had a couple of chances to extend our lead, but weren’t clinical enough and they slipped through our fingers.
Then in the final 2 minutes we suffered heartbreak as Acklam crashed through under the posts to score a converted try to make it 12-6 to them. Our defense was tired and we didn’t work round to protect the gaps quickly enough, leaving the backs exposed. Genuinely upsetting after putting in so much effort, but it had been coming. There was not enough time on the clock to stage a comeback, and that was that.
Acklam deserved their win. They wanted it more than us at the end, and we went in to our shell to defend the lead a bit early. Credit to them for keeping going right to the final whistle.
The lads were exhausted after the game, looking round the group we were all gutted. We were up against a team that were in the upper reaches of the league we’ll be competing in next year, and with some training and a few more games together (as well as a bit more confidence), we can expect to compete well in that league next year.
The whole team played well, but special mentions to Dan Austin, who out in a huge tackle in the second half that really lifted the team, and to Finley Reah who was everywhere and more than anyone else didn’t deserve to lose. I must also mention Kellen Reah, who made his debut at this level and was very assured at scrum half while Corey was off the pitch. He looks like another class player in the long line of talent coming from the youth section at the moment.
Thanks also to Rob White, for stepping in as ref. We wouldn’t have had a game without him and in my opinion he was one of the better refs we’ve had this season. I can only apologise to him for the occasional slight loss of temper with the opposition on behalf of myself and John Kelley (who captained the side well, and lead by example all day, when he wasn’t scrapping). I think we’re just both bad losers…
A final word to the boys involved with second team this year. I know it’s been a long hard slog of a season, but this game showed we have everything we need to compete.
If we can commit to each other and to the club, we have everything we need to make it a great one, but it depends on you. Make an effort to go to training, make an effort to commit to playing, and you will get better as individuals, and as a team, and the results will come. Watching Acklam celebrate their win should serve as motivation to make sure that it’s us celebrating next time.
Onwards and Upwards Boys!
PS- Club Dinner on 11/5/18, let me know if you want to attend, it’s always a superb night