U13s win away at Trowbridge
Wet weather doesn't dampen the Mustang's spirits
Trowbridge provided us with exactly the sort of demanding opposition we expected and needed as we run into a challenging period of the season. They were tough and uncompromising (as a reasonably large walking-wounded list will testify) and played at full-throttle for the full 80 minutes, using home knowledge (a pitch that was slightly wider than Twickenham) to garner any advantage.
The game started at a frenetic pace and after a period of pressure by the Mustangs, Trowbridge used the width for a breakaway with only a fantastic cover tackle from Ben prevented them scoring. However, they were soon able to cross the whitewash and we knew we had a game on our hands. Ben then turned from defender to attacker, scoring twice in quick succession using both pace, clever running lines and a little brawn. Stanley bundled over from short range to give us a little breathing space at the end of the first quarter.
As the second quarter got under way, we welcomed Raffy onto the pitch for his competitive debut for the Mustangs and he made an immediate impact. Aggressive in the tackle, he moved the ball around with intelligence and had a clear eye for a gap, one of which he exploited to score our fourth. Trowbridge then replied to keep in touch. James G had clearly had his Weetabix and was involved in a lot of midfield activity, fixing defenders and shipping the ball on accurately. Olly H - who’d started the quarter with real intent with a huge hit on the kick-off receiver - was on the end of one of James’ passes, but still had plenty to do before scoring our fifth. Raffy and Olly then bagged one more apiece before a late response from Trowbridge saw us reach half-time with a score of 7-3.
We coaches clearly need to have a rethink about our half-time team-talks because there then followed our least influential period of the game. Whether that was down to pitch size, over-confidence, lack of sleep or breakfast is hard to tell, but energy levels started to dip and Trowbridge came right back into the game. Ben scored his third and fourth but Trowbridge were regularly troubling the scoreboard and so went into the final quarter only 2 down at 9-7.
The last period was a tense encounter, Trowbridge got the scoring underway – their 4th unanswered - and rightly had their tails up. There was valiant defending from the Mustangs, particularly a one-on-one try-saving tackle from Billy on a man-mountain who made the bad mistake of underestimating our diminutive full-back, and the rest of the Mustangs were playing themselves to a standstill. This was perfectly represented by Tommy who couldn’t even speak when coming off the pitch, let alone remember the position he’d been playing in. Finally, it came to Ben to get us out of the rut, scoring his fifth and giving us some breathing room. Raffy then completed an excellent start by securing his hat-trick following a darting run off the back of a scrum by Alex, before Austin B – who’d probably been guilty of a slightly late Saturday night – went on a dynamic run from a free-kick and burst through several weary Trowbridge defenders to score his first and our 12th.
The final whistle went and we had won, 12-8. This was a superb performance with all 27 Mustangs who took the pitch making a positive impact (and injured Ed screaming on from the sidelines). The team spirit is superb, with the support shown by all the lads, whether they were on or off the pitch, exceptional. Whilst having such a healthy squad size is most positive, it does present a challenge to ensure that all the boys get rotated efficiently and get meaningful game-time. We pride ourselves on not having a win-at-all costs attitude but we do want to win, and therefore tactical substitutions are made when necessary. The boys’ positive response to the comings and goings is excellent.
There were lots of contenders in the tackle department. Ben’s hits made most on the sideline wince (let alone the unfortunate players on the receiving end) while Raffy and both Ollies proved you don’t have to be the biggest on the pitch to bring down your opposite number. Billy wins Tackle of the Day for his already mentioned try-saver while Harvey wins Tackler of the Day for a great overall defensive effort and for making 4 tackles in one move.
On a day when the whole team performed to a superb level, you really do need to do something special to stand-out. Ben made numerous massive hits, ran beautiful lines, regularly provided continuity with deft offloads and scored 5 tries. A truly monumental performance and well-deserving of our Man of the Match award.