The Complete Set!
Yesterday the squad had a roller coaster ride at the 26th Herts County Festival before claiming their 6th County Cup in succession. The conditions throughout were appalling with rain soaking the squad and our supporters for 4 hours or so before the sun came out to witness Keir drive over the line in the final in the last play of the game to win the cup. A fitting way to finish their Mini Rugby careers with the last act being the winning try from the most dominant and successful Mini Rugby team our club has ever had.
We were drawn in Pool A alongside Letchworth and Tabard. First up in the rain were Letchworth and the team perhaps went into this game a little frantically with the expectation to win by a few running high. However we all know that the shortened format and testing conditions would be a leveller so perhaps their was a sense of relief when we opened the scoring. Harry opening the festival account with a smart pick and go from close range. Letchworth came storming back and had an impressive powerhouse centre that was causing our defence some problems. Those problems escalated when we gave away a penalty around 10 metres out and he crashed through to score and even things up. It rattled our team but thankfully we have some experienced calm heads on young shoulders and Alfie darted through to put us back in front before the half time break. In the second half we played a little more calmly and Dominic used his own power and pace to run through from deep and score. There were no more concerns after this try as it broke the resolve of the North Herts boys but we certainly knew that our cup defence was going to be the hardest of all this year. Final Score Letchworth 5 Welwyn 15
Game two was quickly afterwards and we knew we needed to start much better this time and indeed we did! Cameron opened the scoring by taking a smart angle from close in before soon afterwards Alfie added a second by jinking his way past all and sundry. Cameron added a second before the half time break as the forwards mauled their way over the line and game was effectively finished at half time. It came at a price though as Cameron had picked up a hand injury that was to effectively rule him out of the later stages. In the second half Gus drove past the outside shoulder to score in the corner and Steffan once again proved why he is one of the most effective pick and go forwards in Herts with another try from a few yards out. Jack Briars completed our scoring when spotting a gap from the base of the scrum to snipe his way over the line. At this point the continuum dictates that the result stands at 6 nil however with the St Albans boys keen to go on we played out the final few minutes. This proved to be a good decision on their part as they scored in the final play when their tall forward used his strength to power over our line. Final score Tabard 5 Welwyn 30
As group winners we set up a Quarter Final Clash with Cheshunt and surprisingly Tabard beat Letchworth to set up a match with Tring. The game against Cheshunt was like many knock out games in that the first few minutes were fairly tight with neither side missing a tackle. However once the Welwyn backline had released Johann into action then the game quickly disappeared from Cheshunts reach. Two first half tries from the Welwyn express knocked the stuffing out of our opponents and set up a reasonably comfortable second half victory. The half confirmed that Cameron could play no more so the squad pressed forward with 17 players remaining. In the second half Johann completed his hat trick and our Captain added his third try of the morning to complete the scoring. Final Score Cheshunt 0 Welwyn 20
For the Semi Final we moved over onto the first team pitch where the playing surface was in much better shape despite the heavy rain. Tring are a regular opponent at County and also our opponents in the Semi Final last year so we knew they would be a well organised and disciplined side. This turned out to be a real battle with both teams giving barely an inch of ground in the opening minutes. Tackle after tackle was made by the forwards and as the half moved on we got closer and closer to the Tring line. However each time we crossed over the whitewash our players found a determined Tring player underneath them holding the ball up and saving his team from going behind. The third occasion was the closest but still the referee was not certain and we went back for another 5 metre scrum. In the second half the story was much the same as the game followed a similar path with Tring using their kicking to good effect to get them out of trouble. It was heroic stuff from the boys in gold and our players just could not get the breakthrough to seal the game in the short time we had. The referee blew for full time and the scores were still level. Most faces were confused as at first they thought it would be extra time however the dreaded toss of a coin was about to come into our squads playing history for the first time. Gulp!!
Alfie went off with his opposite number and the referee to the Centre Circle and all the players waited and prayed that the coin would fall in their favour. Tring called Heads but it came down tails so we benefited on this occasion. It was a muted celebration however on our part as we all agreed that it was no way to settle a game and our players consoled the boys from Tring who should hold their heads up high. Final Score Tring 0 Welwyn 0 (Welwyn won through on the toss of a coin)
The Final was perhaps not surprisingly against the hosts side who had thumped Harpenden by 3 tries to nil in their own Semi Final. It was also their 2nd County Final as they had met us when we won the Cup at Under 9 and the two games we had played this year had both ended in draws to share the Festival Cup. Our players were determined not to share this time as this was the prize we had held onto for 5 consecutive years and effectively their last Mini Rugby games of astonishing careers. With Hertford expecting a kicking game (that we had used to good effect in the past) we instead played a much higher back line and this allowed us to continually retain possession. We did most of the pressing throughout the first half but like the Tring defence the boys in blue are a very capable bunch and they held us at bay. Our forwards were excellent in this game and really took the match to Hertford. We tried to release our wide players but again the tackling from the opposite number was exemplarily. At half time it was still all square. In the second period we moved Jack back to scrum half and shuffled our pack round to see if we could get Steffan into play. This worked well as Steffan used his pace at the breakdowns to create havoc and give Jack and Alfie more time to set up our plays. The time ticked on though and it looked like another festival cup would be shared by the two teams. Daisy tried twice to crash over in the corner from the scrum but each time was held up. However this pressure was beginning to take its toll on the Hosts boys and in the final play of the game Jacks pass from the back of the scrum was taken at pace by Keir who dived over the line to win the Cup. A fantastic way to finish our rollercoaster day! Final Score Hertford 0 Welwyn 5
Alfie went up to collect our 6th County Cup from Saracens player Jackson Wray and the cheer would have probably been heard in Welwyn! A remarkable end to a remarkable season in which we have also won the Land Rover Cup at Northampton Saints, The Etihad CR Cup at Harlequins and the Festivals at Stortford, Tring and Stamford. A great way to end their Mini Rugby Careers!!!!
Well done to Alfie (Capt), Harry, Morgan, Charlie, Bradley R, Steffan, Cameron, Dominic, Adam, Gus, Jack Briars, Kyle, Saul, Keir, Johann, Calum, Daisy, Kieran and those players that didn't play on the day but are part of our incredible squad (Andrew, Joshua, Jack Byrne, Finlay, James Weston and Luke).