U11 Chip-fest pool winners
Grand Slam for Mighty Marlborough
Marlborough travelled to Chippenham today to face a tough pool of 6 teams in the annual festival of rugby. The U11s have done very well in the festivals in recent years but today there was not expectation or complacency. The pool consisted of Marlborough, Stow, Old Patesians, Bradford-on-Avon, Newbury and our nemesis Hungerford.
After warming up, some basic drilling and 'Lemon-style' motivational coaching Marlborough kicked off the tournament against Bradford. MRFC hit the ground running and stunned Bradford with an almost perfect first half. Quick ball emerged from the breakdown, quick hands and fast line defence made Bradford look ordinary. When we found space, it was exploited and at half time it was 2-0 to MRFC. Second half was tougher as Bradford steadied the ship but Marlborough were too strong for them and the game resulted 4 - 1 to Marlborough.
The second game was Newbury Blues. We'd watched them outplay Old Pats earlier so we knew it would be tough but MRFC were able to dictate the game and keep Newbury at bay. Scores soon came through great direct running from the likes of Jacko, Ollie LB and Freddie, or more jinxy moves from the likes of Matthew, Guy and Jakey. Marlborough were soon in front before Newbury started fighting back. Our counter rucking was good but we spilled ball in our own possession a little too often. Nevertheless, we dominated play and the win (4-2) was never in doubt.
The third game was the big game as far as everyone (player, coach and supporter) was concerned. Marlborough kicked off against Hungerford and stuck to their plan, keeping things simple and looking for width. They didn't allow Hungerford to bully the breakdown and Freddie, Jakey and Ollie all imposed themselves in the ruck and maul. We stole some valuable ball against the head thanks to Jacko's hooking which gave us the lion's share of possession and territory. Hungerford could not break the stone wall defence of Marlborough, with Guy, James, Jakey and Matthew. Everyone put their bodies on the line (judging from the number of forced substitutions to nurse knocks) and we got the best result anyone could have hoped for, 5 - 0 to Marlborough. This result was achieved despite fielding only eight in the first half (doh!). There was a very quiet opposite touchline.
Time to regroup, refuel and prepare for game four. Deserved praise was dished out but our coaching staff were quick to remind the players that the tournament was far from won. Stow were next to face Marlborough, now brimming with confidence. Marlborough started by keeping things simple and focussed on the basics of winning quick ball and running good lines. As soon as we built a platform the boys started to show their skills with the ball in hand. This was Archie's opportunity to shine, be it taking ball at full pace, intercepting passes or finding a kick to put a try in to the corner, he played a blinder. At the final whistle Marlborough were 4-0 in front, and could have been further.
It was down to the final game and it was only Old Patesians who could deny MRFC a clean sweep, or their own mini Grand-Slam. They needed little encouragement and Harry would put his mark on this game. Apart from the four almost solo tries he ran in, his moment was a dummy chip which he kept in hand and opened up the Old Pat's defence like a tin opener. JJ and Jacko found good time on the ball to help keep the scoreboard ticking. No one was going to spoil this team's day and the game finished 8 - 0
There were many moments of individual brilliance today but there us one common thread that contributed to the result, that is 'teamwork'. Here the un-sung hero's that spoil opposition ball, make a self-less pass, grind away in the ruck and maul, put their mark on the game and make the difference between winning and losing. Yes, we still need the individual brilliance to complete the scores, but they need the ball in hand in the right place at the right time Today was a great step forward.
Special mention to the refs today, Dave and Richard. Also to those players who couldn't make it through illness or selection. Your names will be top of the list for the next festival.