U13 Bucks Plate Final
Late Heartbreak For ARFC
David and Goliath; the Big Bad Wolf and the Three Little Pigs; the Tortoise and the Hare – storytelling is filled with mismatched battles. Alas, there was to be no fairy-tale ending for Aylesbury U13s as they slipped to a narrow defeat against an impressive Chesham team in the Bucks Plate Final.
Taking the field on a cold, foggy morning in Bletchley, both teams started the game confidently, with Chesham quickly settling into their game-plan of picking and driving from breakdown and scrum, using the imposing physicality of their forwards to try and batter the Aylesbury defence into submission. However, having weathered the early storm, and more than holding their own in the scrum against a much larger pack, it was Aylesbury who put the first points on the board. Displaying the silky handling and speed that has been their greatest strength this season, the ball was smoothly moved along the three-quarter line, offering winger Harvey Springwell the room to show his pace and power, and he left defenders trailing in his wake to dot down under the posts. Full-back Cam White calmly slotted the conversion, to make it 7-0 to ARFC.
From the restart, it was clear that Aylesbury would have their hands full battling both the rumbling Chesham forwards and a somewhat elastic interpretation of the offside and advantage rules, repeatedly finding themselves on the wrong side of the referee’s whistle. To their great credit, they managed to repel several Chesham charges at the line from the resultant penalties, rarely managing to break out of their 22, but stopping a couple of certain tries with full-blooded commitment to the tackle. Sadly, Aylesbury’s composure deserted them when they had the chance to clear their lines, and a handling error gave Chesham yet another opportunity from close range, which was gladly taken by their enormous prop, who scored an unconverted try. 7-5 to Aylesbury at half-time.
Following the restart, both teams continued to play to their strengths, but when Chesham elected to uncharacteristically spin it wide, superb pressure from centres Dan and Ben forced an error which allowed the Aylesbury backs to move the ball out to the wing once more, and Springwell was again able to score under the posts, Cam knocking over the extras. 14-5 to Aylesbury.
As the game progressed, the size, strength and superb rucking skills of Chesham began to take their toll on Aylesbury, and their big ball carriers repeatedly rolled around the corner, sucking Aylesbury into a tight battle and keeping the ball away from their speedy outside backs. Aylesbury remained true to the defensive cause, but once again the high penalty count proved their undoing, as a quickly taken tap inside the Aylesbury 22 allowed the big prop another sniff of the line. Try scored and converted, bring it to 14-12 in Aylesbury’s favour.
A tight last period was in the offing, and despite Aylesbury’s willingness to move the ball, in the end they could just not cope with the discipline, intensity and physicality of Chesham. Having been pinned on their line once more, some panicky handling in the backs allowed Chesham to seize on a loose ball in the in-goal area; try awarded. 17-14 to Chesham. A final surge from Aylesbury saw them back into the Chesham half, but the attack was snuffed out and the referee signalled the end of the contest.
Whilst a disappointing result, to have reached a county final shows the level of progress made by this Aylesbury team through the season, and bodes well for next year. The squad never showed less than full commitment, and attempted to play flowing rugby at all times. Congratulations must go to a very good Chesham team, whose coach also singled out the Aylesbury flankers as having had a fantastic game. Above all, special mention should go to those members of squad who didn’t get on the pitch, the supporters and 1st XV players who travelled to offer their encouragement, and to the way that the players handled the defeat; with dignity and sportsmanship.