Five Star Dragon U11s clean sweep the 2012 festivals with a Purdham cup win, remaining undefeated in all competitions in 2012
On a day of true rugby league weather conditions, blazing sun greeting the travelling Mighty Dragon U11’s as they arrived at the Twickenham Stoop for the biggest festival of the year, with the prize of being the first team to lift the Purdham cup on offer to the winners. A few questions were set to be answered from this Dragons squad today:
• Could they lift the Purdham cup and win all 5 festivals on offer in the 2012 season?
• Could they maintain their unbeaten run in competitive fixtures in 2012?
The Dragons had planned to take two full teams down to the festival, but with a few players withdrawing late, the coaches had a few tricky decisions to make. It was decided that to give all the players maximum game time and exposure to the event, and that Dragon Gold would still compete, borrowing a few players to help make up the numbers.
It is with great pride, and respect that the whole squad pays tribute to these 7 Dragon Gold players, Lene, Ashley, Alex, Aiden, Calton, Dylon, and Robson, who womanfully, and manfully played out their pool fixtures, not once thinking of giving up. These are some of the players that will form the nucleus of next year’s U11’s team who will look to defend the honours won this year. And the Dragons coaches are sure they will do just that, and successfully too.
First up for the blood were the Southampton Spitfires, a team that the Dragon seniors are very familiar with. The Dragons had been challenged to correct their usual slow start, and responded well with a flowing move down the line, to score in the corner. To be fair to the Spitfire were playing their first competitive fixture, and the Dragon defence was fearsome, halting each Spitfire possession inside their own half giving the Blood great field position to launch attacks. The main problem for the Dragons was could they adjust to the far narrower pitches, as several Blood attacks saw them shepherded into touch. Final score 0 – 12
Next up, Brentwood Eels, and again ultimate finalist who the Dragons knew would be a far tougher nut to crack. Again the Dragons started with possession, but immediately started to resort to one up rugby to try and avoid going into touch. Whilst this tac-tic did stop the Bloods running into touch, it was far too predictable and made it easy for the Eels to defend. This frustrated the Dragons who started to loose focus, and the game from both sides became scrappy, with players from both sides frustrations starting to show. In the end the match ended with both sides failing to score, which whilst being a fair result, left both sides feeling they should have done better. Final score 0 – 0
Game three and the Dragons were up against another new team, Stains Titans. In a similar way to the Dragons first game, the Dragons moved the ball around well. Dominance in defence, held the Titans scoreless, and in truth was probably the best part of the Dragons game all day. Three scores from the Dragons proved the difference at the final hooter, giving the Blood’s confidence a short term boost before facing a mixed Southend/ Sussex team. Final score 0 – 12
Their penultimate game of the group, and the Dragons faced a large Southend/ Sussex team, who were ideally suited to the narrower pitches. Once again, the Dragons struggled to find a way though/ round their larger opponents, with decision making from the team often proving to be at fault. With a number of opportunities to score missed, the Dragons registered their second draw of the day, and qualification was back in the balance. Final Score 0 – 0
The last of the pool games was against a combined Guilford Giants, and the Blood knew they had to win, and win big it they were to make it into the semi-finals. Just as the game was about to kick off, Calton, from the Dragons Gold, was carried off, and a shout went out from the Blood to win this for Calton. It clearly worked, as the Dragons defence left the Giants shell shocked, running in three scores without response, leaving qualification hanging on the last match of the pool between Brentwood the Southend/ Sussex team. Final Score 0 – 12
Following a nervous 15 minute wait, as the judges calculated the final standings, it was announced that the Dragons had won the group due tries for/ against, and crucially for the Dragons, none against.
So onto the semi-final, and a match against the Croydon Hurricanes, the club the U16’s face in the Grand final next weekend. The canes only dropped points of the day came against the Eagles, so the Dragons had to be on their game. A great start saw the Dragons gain possession inside the Canes half following some fearsome driving tackles, which the Blood took full advantage of, scoring in the corner following another flowing move. The success was short lived, as on the next Canes set, the Dragons went to sleep and allowed Croydon to run straight through them. This fired up the Dragons and they stormed up the field, before drawing the Cane defensive line in and springing the ball wide to score what was to be the winning try. Final Score 4 – 8
With the Eels knocking out the Eagles in the other semi-final, a return match between the top two teams in the Dragons pool was on. Defences dominated the half of the match, with neither team being able to get into their opponents red zone. Then came the potential game changing incident of the match when a clash of heads forced Henry, one of the Dragon playmakers off the park. Again the cry went out from the team to win this one for Henry, and the blood didn’t disappoint. With the first foray into the red zone from either team, one of the Dragons managed to wriggle out of his tackler and cross for the score. As the teams ran back for the restart, the hooter sounded, much to the elation of the young players. Final Score 4 – 0
So what did we learn today? Well the younger Gold team showed their team mates from the Blood how teamwork can help you deal with the toughest of challenges. We learnt that even when they don’t play their best rugby, they won’t give up. We learnt that we will have a strong U11s and U12s team next year, and we learnt that the coach’s hair really can turn white in the space of a tournament.
A big thank you to the Eels, who have run us very close all year, and who on another day might well have taken home the silverwear. So as regional champions, the Dragons are set to take on some of the teams from the north next month to close out a terrific season for these U11’s.
Big thanks go to Pete Trumper/ Steve Nixon for taking the photos and video.