1st XV
Sat 07 Mar 2020
Hadrians Cup Semi Final - Emerald Warriors
Berkshire Unicorns RFC
1st XV
Hadrian's Cup Semi Final

Hadrian's Cup Semi Final

John Kelly9 Mar 2020 - 18:28
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Unicorns demolished by exceptional Warriors


Tournaments are a test of resilience as well as ability and at this stage of the tournament the former is very much in play. Having picked up a number of injuries in the pool matches the Unicorn options for positions was somewhat limited and we knew going into the Semi Final that it would be a tough opponent whoever it was. Pool B had previous winners of the Hadrian's Cup in abundance and the Unicorns respect and look up to each and every one of those teams. After taking down last years winners the Newcastle Ravens in a very enjoyable match to watch the Emerald Warriors finished top of Pool B and would be our opponents. Runners up the Caledonian Thebans would face the Liverpool Tritons. Since the Ravens were knocked out by these teams and knowing the talent they have available to them we knew this was going to be a very long twenty minutes. Having played the Warriors two years ago we knew them to be a formidable opposition but we were hoping that a bit of Unicorn talent would trump the luck of the Irish.

As expected the Warriors started strongly and quickly broke through our lines to get the first try and conversion with ruthless efficiency. Despite some strong runs from Richard Dunn and John Hamp the Warriors line held up and play quickly moved to their favour again resulting in a second try and then a rapid third from an exceptionally well placed kick through. The Unicorns pulled out all the stops to try and turn that around but despite having a number of opportunities with our fastest players they were denied the space and acceleration to get to the Warriors line. Despite that, holding such a team to only three try's was an achievement in itself but there was a lot of work to do to turn it around.

Half time score 17-0 to the Warriors.

The second half gave the Warriors the downhill advantage and they used it to their advantage sending their beast of a runner through most of our line on a one man mission to the try line. This tank of a man ended Winger Eric Perkins and simply said No to Centre Andrew Jones leaving them in the dust as he stormed to the line. With a victory all but assured the Unicorns were playing for pride and the desire to at least get the score - something that was denied to us last year in the final against the Ravens. Dialling up passion and aggression is not without consequence and when combined with fatigue can have bad results. This manifested itself through the increasing regularity of high tackles on the Warriors side which they quickly realised could be played to their advantage. As an experienced side it is very easy to manipulate your opposition and through clever use of ducking into the contact the Unicorns already high tackles became penalty worthy. Such play also attracts controversy as nobody likes a tackle around the neck and as such the match began to get very testy. The contact also ramped up and Eric Perkins got his chance at retribution by ending their Centre with a hard tackle and Richard Dunn was given the opportunity to deploy his dump tackle to another Warrior back. Meanwhile Prop John Hamp was introducing the Warriors to Simbatown with a series of impressive dominant tackles and breakdown disruptions. More high tackles resulted in a penalty at halfway which was quickly followed by another as the ball carrier was high tackled by Prop John Kelly resulting in a spirited exchange which thankfully avoided any carding for either player. The patience of the Warriors paid off and again through the use of a well placed kick just beat Fly Half Darren Chester to the line to get the try which was converted. In the dying minutes of the game despite every attempt to get through the Warriors line the Unicorns failed and conceded a final try which ended the game and secured the Warriors victory.

Our Pool A brothers the Liverpool Tritons had not fared much better against the Caledonian Thebans which led to an all Pool B final which saw the Emerald Warriors crowned Hadrian's Cup MMXX Champions.

At this point the Berkshire Unicorns would like to thank the Newcastle Ravens for hosting another exceptional tournament and extend our thanks to all of the teams that participated and whom we played for a most enjoyable tournament. Though the stand out winners the Emerald Warriors and Aberdeen Taexali deserve all the kudos for their well earned victories the real winner was rugby and the spirit of the game that was present throughout the tournament and in the social events. We look forward to MMXXI!

Unicorns coach and 1st XV Captain John Kelly was very pleased with the Unicorns performance, despite their loss and reflected on the overall tournament. He commented "Having got to the final last year I think we entered this tournament with a bit of a lofty view of ourselves and perhaps felt we were going to have an easy time which affected how we approached our early games. Such complacency is deadly in this game and we were rightly punished for it. Once we got over this hurdle the team really came together and this tournament has seen some standout performances and development of individual players and the units within the team. All I can ask as a Captain is the team on the field giving 100% and in our final game against the Warriors I saw that in spades. We approached the last half of the second half with the aggression and passion I have not seen in the team before and indeed not in our league matches and if we can harness the positive energy from that, rather than the negatives, then we will be a formidable adversary both in the remaining league fixtures and in next years competition. Every Unicorn player can hold their head up high and be proud of their accomplishments, it is gratifying as a Coach to see the Unicorns face a quality and exceptional opposition team like the Emerald Warriors and for us to give them a game. Though we lost we did not make it easy for them and I have nothing but respect for their performance and ability. I can only hope that when the Unicorns reach that level of experience that we would be half as good. Both this years Semi Final and Last Years Final have proven invaluable learning experiences for the team in highlighting where we can improve and gives us role models in the likes of the Newcastle Ravens and Emerald Warriors that we aspire to emulate on the field. I have enjoyed leading the Unicorns in this tournament for the last two years and hope that our performance serves as inspiration to the team, so that next year we come back stronger and that our new Captain will finally lead us to victory."

The Unicorns do not get too much of a break this year and will be back in action the weekend for our penultimate league fixture and last home game of the season against the Birmingham Bulls.

Match details

Match date

Sat 07 Mar 2020



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