As the first glimmer of summer started to show, the Mighty Dragon U11’s headed down to the coast. Just shy of enough players to field 2 teams, due to a combination of illness and unavailability, the Dragons impressive squad was only equalled by the 18 player squad of the home team, the Sussex Merlins. A special thanks goes to Jordan, who volunteered to help the Eels by joining them for the day, and for Alex, who put his hand up to play for the Eagles for a match.
Again the coaches were looking for a strong defensive display with an expansive attack, lead by the stand-offs, utilising the plays they had spent the last few weeks working on. The team were warned against false complacency due to previous festival success, and that they would need to come out of the blocks fast, if they wanted to progress through to the final.
First up were the home side the Merlins, who have steadily been building a strong team all season, and could prove to be a stern test. The Dragons received from the kick off, and quickly moved up the field, touching down in the corner for their first score after a great flowing move through the backs. The Merlins looked to hit back immediately, with some great driving runs from their forwards, which was made more effective by the Dragons lack of line speed. Whilst the Dragons tackling was solid, they were waiting for the Merlins to run at them, making harder work for the team in attack, with a greater distance to the try line. Fortunately, the Dragons were on song in attack, registering two further unanswered score before the hooter. Final score 0 – 12
Next up, Brentwood Eels, and ultimate finalist who the Dragons knew would play a more expansive game. Again the Dragons received the kick, and immediately took the lead when the kick was returned for a score. This time, the Dragons on-off defence were firing on all cylinders, pressuring the Eels on every play, time and again forcing them back. The Dragons in attack continued to stretch the Eel’s defence, capitalising on the gaps for two more team scores. Despite a large number of substitutes, the Dragons defence held firm until the last minute, where the Eels leggy centre rounded the line to score. Final score 4 – 12
Game three and the Dragons were up against a mixed St Albans/ Hemel team, and the last of a three game run. A solid defensive start to the game allowed the Dragons to regain possession at mid-field. With the ball pitch out to an on rushing forward from an alert half-back, the line was broken and remarkably quick footwork allowed the forward to score. This started an avalanche of tries, despite the defensive effort dropping, raising concerns for the coaches. Final score 16 – 0
Their penultimate game found the Dragons against the Eagles who have run the Dragons close all season. With the Eagles main player unable to start the match, the young Dragons clearly thought the game in the bag, which soon proved to be far from the truth. Careless mistakes in attack, combined with a lack of line speed had the Eagles perilously close to the Dragons line, twice just falling short. It was only an individual break from one of the Dragons stand-offs a minute from time that separated the two teams, and the Dragons knew their complacency had nearly cost them. Final Score 0 – 4
The last of the pool games was against a combined Guilford/ Croydon team, and a big effort from the Dragons was required. Some great draw and passing moves, saw the Dragons rack-up and early three try lead and looked certain to make it into the finals. To their credit, the combined team were not going to lie down, and a cheeky chip over the top of an advancing Dragon line, and some cute offloading of their own saw the Guilford/ Croydon team score two quick tries with a minute still left on the clock. The Dragons did not panic though, and held firm to seal the win and top the group. Final Score 8 – 12
So onto the final, and a return match against the Eels who had gone unbeaten since their loss to the Dragons. This will come as no surprise when the already impressive Eels had Medway Dragons own Jordan Koroitamana
weighing with three tries for them in their last three games. It was in fact the fleet footed Jordan who inflicted what was to be the Eels only score against a Dragon team who managed to put on a dominant offensive and defensive display in tandem, for the first time in the tournament Final Score 4 – 16
So again, despite a slow start the Dragons had finished the tournament playing some great rugby league, although it will be no surprise to learn that line speed will be the core of Thursday’s training.
So three and uneasy is probably the best way to sum up the Dragons third festival win, but the coaches are sure that with hard work in training, the best performances from the team are yet to come. So come down and find out for yourself, you might turn grey, or at times pull your hair out, but boy when they play, they really can turn on the style.
Big thanks go to Pete Trumper/ John Warby for taking the photos and video.