On a beautiful Eastbourne day our squad of 10 excited rugby players took to the field to see if they could continue their hugely successful season and be crowned the best U8 team in Sussex. After having won every festival and tournament they had entered in Sussex this season they just needed the final accolade to complete the set. Could the boys perform again in a one off match situation where, as sometime slow-starters in tournaments, the risk would be they would be caught cold?
On a wide, long and very hard pitch Lewes started strongly but were pegged back by our typically-robust tagging. However with some uncharacteristic defensive line ill-discipline we were leaving some gaps for the fast Lewes players to exploit. Thankfully with some last-ditch tags from Freddie, Toby K and Archie and some mistakes from Lewes we forced the turnovers. With a fine team move on the offence we cut through the Lewes defence at speed and with some searing support runs and fast offloads Sebastian was there to finish it off with the first try of the day. 1-0 but could our defence shore itself up? Lewes restarted with some quick, mazy running and with some missed Haywards Heath tags ran round our wing to touch down for an equaliser. So, 1-1 and the contest was well and truly on.
The next passage of play proved decisive for both the half and ultimately the game as Sebastian and Freddie burst through and offloaded to Max who scored a quick try to go 2-1 up. The support running was impressive again, a theme for the day and indeed the season, with men off both shoulders of the ball-carrier at all times. When Lewes restarted they made a few metres of territory but a long pass out wide was telegraphed and Archie intercepted the pass at speed and wasn’t going to be caught with his momentum and galloping pace and duly scored a wonderful try to give some clear blue water for the team at 3-1. This was our third week of interceptions and the boys have clearly warmed to the task. Lewes were definitely now a little shell shocked but to their credit fought on bravely but were unable to find a way through the heart of our red wall. When they tried to go round the sides this time they were met with Toby K and Archie’s fierce tagging assisted by Pat, Freddie, Sebastian, Max and Alex in the core. With at least two 7 tag turnovers forced the Red Barons found themselves with more possession and more opportunities to break the gainline with direct, fast runs and quick offloads. Alex stood in seamlessly and selflessly for Sam as scrum half – on holiday in China, enjoying his own Great Red Wall - and his safe, quick hands gave our linebusters of the day – Max, Freddie, Toby K and Sebastian – a terrific launchpad to spring wave after wave of forward momentum which Lewes just could not stop. First Pat and then Toby K both finished off slashing moves that saw 4-1 and then 5-1 on the scoreboard to add pressure to Lewes just as the half time whistle sounded. Half the job done. Could we finish off and win the second half too? Complacency was the enemy now.
Charlie came on to replace Pat and he duly scored a quick, direct try to start the second half in style. 6-1 felt good but there was no time to relax as Lewes weren’t done yet and always had danger men ready to pick holes in our line - if offered. Lewes indeed scored a well-worked try through a number of phases to bring the score to 6-2 but with Toby K grabbing the end of another fast move the team were soon ahead by a reassuring 5 tries. Lewes again showed their character and determination by replying with another try from one of their two fast men but when Sebastian scored in the corner after the team had suffered 6 tags and having weaved his way through a very tight channel and avoided both three defenders and stepping into touch the match was effectively sealed. The boys had stayed calm and clear-headed despite being pressed hard by Lewes who were defending better in the second half. The scores were now 8-3 and it was time for some fresh faces. Alex and Sebastian went off for a well-deserved rest and Toby V and Will came on to bring their energies and speed to the match. Both soon had some defensive action to get them involved and another 7 tag turnover saw the team use Archie as a line buster to great effect and his quick hands gave Toby K the chance to grab his third, and the team’s ninth try of the day.
Lewes used their side stepping, fast runners well to zigzag through our line and dash in for a consolation try and at 9-4 the match was ended by the ref who deserves great credit in allowing a flowing match to unfurl, much to the spectators’ enjoyment. We had done it! What a match and what a performance to cap a wonderfully enjoyable season. With the second half being won 4-3 the scoreline really did reflect a well-deserved win for Haywards Heath and to say we are all so proud of their performance and attitude is an understatement. Well done boys!
The Lewes coach Toby was generous and effusive in his praise for our play and our quick-handling, rush-defence style and this sporting behaviour typifies the spirit of rugby that we all love about the game and its supporters. We look forward to some more great matches with a Lewes team that plays with great courage and heart.
A huge thank you must go to Charlie, Stuart K and to Jonny for their unstinting work, support and counsel in preparing the boys for the day. A special note is also due to Jonny and his son Sam who were missed enormously on the day and whose ever-presence for the team this season meant that we were doubly determined to win the trophy for them. A quick call to China after the match was met with massive elation from both who can now relax and really enjoy their trip of a lifetime in China.
Finally may I just express a heartfelt than you to all of the parents who devote so much time, energy and expense in supporting the team and who make these days so possible and so enjoyable. I hope you were entertained!
Well done to HHRFC U8 Red Barons - Sussex Champions 2011/12:
2nd April 2012