Paviors U12s started the season with a visit from Dinnington, with whom weâ€™ve always had a friendly and healthy rivalry. With Paviors missing only one player from the full squad of 21 and Dinnington bringing a similar number, the fixture was played over four 15 minute periods to ensure adequate game-time for everybody.
From the kick-off it was clear that both sides were relishing the chance of some competitive rugby after five weeks of training, and the game started at breakneck speed with some high-quality rugby from both sides. Despite the wet conditions, the ball was being moved through the hands; the tackling was certainly a notch up from last year and the breakdown area was being cleared quickly, allowing clean possession for more passing rugby. After early attacks by Dinnington, Paviors gradually began to assert some authority, particularly in the mauls where Isaac and Tom showed their strength. It was from a maul that Isaac ripped the ball and ran 20 metres to score the only try of the quarter, unfortunately not converted.
Five changes in the Paviors line-up for the second quarter didnâ€™t interrupt the flow of good rugby. At this point, the Paviors scrum was solid and it was from a scrum that Harry K and Alex worked one of our pre-planned and much-practised moves, a switch-pass, which put Alex through the first line of defence and on a side-stepping run into the right-hand corner for a try. Harry K converted, unseen by the backs coaches who were too busy congratulating each other on the success of the move. To be fair, it was beautifully executed and pretty to watch.
Paviors continued to dominate in this quarter, moving the ball wide and stretching the Dinnington defence time and again. Dom saw plenty of the ball on the left wing and was a real threat, running elusively and presenting the ball well when tackled. Stone and Isaac both had strong runs and Alistair, on his debut, almost barged over but was penalised for a hand-off just short of the try-line. Quick thinking by Jack C at a penalty saw him tap-and-go, clear through to the line, only to be brought back because the referee (me!) was not quite as alert as Jack had been. Whenever Dinnington threatened, they were held at bay by some good tackling from Paviors, with Danny and Harry B to the fore.
Finally, another storming run from Isaac took him through the Dinnington defence and over for another try, which he then converted himself.
All change again for the third quarter which saw Dinnington come back strongly, particularly at the breakdown where they were now quicker and more cohesive than their Paviors counterparts, driving them off the ball with good, low body-angles. Paviors were therefore unable to secure any worthwhile possession, so their attacks were only sporadic. Ben B, deputising at scrum-half, worked hard behind a now struggling pack and, with Dinnington attacking more frequently, Cameronâ€™s work-rate and tackle-count in defence was crucial. The forwards coaches indulged in their own little bit of self-congratulation after a text-book line-out â€“ caught, secured, protected and driven â€“ but generally Dinnington had the better of the quarter and could count themselves unlucky not to score.
Dinningtonâ€™s dominance continued into the final quarter as the Paviors forwards seemed to tire. Some of the Paviors discipline and decision-making started to deteriorate and an aimless kick was run back by Dinnington for their first try, which they then converted. Alistair, the debutant at prop, took the re-start drop-out (quite well, actually) earning himself an instant fine at the after-match Court. A messy line-out leading to a charged-down kick by Alex put Paviors under more pressure near their own line and a penalty for off-side at the ensuing ruck allowed Dinnington to move the ball wide left for a second try. The successful conversion was practically the last act of the match.
Final score: Paviors 19 â€“ Dinnington 14
So, a winning start to the season and some terrific play (by both sides), enjoyed by spectators, coaches (well, mostly) and referees. As is now traditional in this fixture, Dinnington joined us afterwards for Court, where misdemeanours were punished (plenty) and excellence rewarded (not so much). Thanks to Pete and the Dinnington team for their usual good-humour and friendliness â€“ we look forward to meeting again as the season progresses. A good start for Paviors but plenty still to work on if this is to be as successful a season as we all hope.