In the most exciting of matches Camelot Under 15's confirmed their place as runners-up in the top division of the county; that's the second best Under 15's team in the Saracens Herts Middlesex Junior Leagues (of which there are seven divisions); just take a moment to let that sink in...
...After an incredible year as Under 14's, including winning the County Cup, the boys were moved up to the top division where throughout the season they have come face-to-face with some really tough opponents, and this latest match against Hitchin was no exception.
It is too easy sometimes to get carried away with making the matches sound more exciting than they were in truth, but that is almost impossible to do when reflecting on this epic ding-dong of a battle that kept seeing the lead change hands in a tense affair. However, it did not feel like it was going to be that sort of a game after an uncharacteristic error-strewn opening 15 minutes saw Camelot trailing by two tries. The first came following a strong scrum, successfully moving the ball out of the back, but the ball was lost and Hitchin's Backs pounced, swiftly moving the ball along the line to score.
Soon after that lead was doubled, during a physical encounter a box kick was attempted to ease the pressure, but the kick had a lot more height than distance which put the opposition on the front foot, forcing more clumsy errors as Camelot looked tor recover, but before it could be tidied up the ball had been forced over the line and grounded. Neither try was converted, but Camelot trailed 0-10.
At this point, some parents were heard on the touchline to mutter under their breath, "we could get completely stuffed here". Shame on you! These boys are better than that, as coach Les Long noted after the game: "The way this team pulls together in tight situations and continues to believe, even when things look to be running away from them, is powerful. They have an identity and a togetherness that allows them to go back to basics, reset, and build back into matches with power, precision and full-squad rugby." And that is exactly what followed next. Heads did not drop, there was no arguing amongst each other, no ill-discipline, just incredible maturity to not panic and get back into the game.
This was a full pelt physical battle with both sides giving everything, and Camelot got the break they needed when Terence broke the line out on the wing, fended off the closest defender and sprinted over the try line with the ball held in the palm of his hand. Crossing the line on the wing got Camelot back into the game, but Terence's decision to use the extra strength and energy to get himself under the posts ultimately proved to be the match winning moment. With the ball straight in front of the posts, Freddie converted and pulled the score back to 7-10.
Before the break Camelot had taken the lead. Another strong scrum, Edward picks the ball out of the back, pops it to Freddie who plays the perfect pass to the fast-moving James Norman on the wing, he gathers superbly and from that moment he was never going to be stopped. The conversion is missed, but Camelot have turned it round to lead 12-10.
The second-half was a tight and tense game of rugby with incredible physicality that saw a number of players needing treatment for injuries before, in most instances, bouncing back-up. Camelot dealt well with long waves of pressure, creating the odd dangerous break themselves whilst competing in the rucks superbly. However, following wave after wave of attack, there was nothing they could do to stop Hitchin taking the lead again with a really powerful drive over the line. Crucially, the conversion was missed, 12-15.
Again the heads just refused to drop, these boys are never beaten. A penalty won inside Hitchin's half was kicked to the corner perfectly, setting up the line-out just seven or eight metres from the try line. Creativity in the line-out has been a strength all season and not for the first time this season a move first practiced in the warm-up delivered a try, and this one won the match. Again it was Jack that was lofted in the air, as both sides set to form the expected maul upon landing the ball it was instead popped back to George who darted through the gap between the touchline and the line-out to ground the ball in the corner. Another missed conversion, 17-15.
With plenty of time remaining there was a lot of defending still to do, but it was handled superbly with a combination of solid all round teamwork and some fantastic individual last ditch tackles; the scoresheet remained unchanged. An excellent game between two excellent teams, decided by one try converted as the teams shared three tries each, but in amongst the scoring there was some jaw-dropping physical contacts that further demonstrated the journey these boys have been on. As Les Long reminded everyone after the match: "Only two years ago, we played Hitchin at their ground and suffered a seven tries to one defeat. It is testament to the effort, commitment and improvements our fellas have made since then that we were able to make the same journey today and come away victorious."
FT: Hitchin 15-17 Camelot
Tries: Terence, James N, George