There were familiar opposition in store at the Tring festival, even more so with the late switch of Buckingham to another group meaning a round robin league with fixtures against Hertford, Tring, OA's and Harpenden - A daunting prospect!
Camelot's opening game came around after a long wait to start and saw us faced up against Hertford. Kicking uphill in the first-half the defence had to be strong as the opposition enjoyed more of the possession, but struggled to make much ground.
It was following one of many scrums in the middle of the field that the only score of the game came. It was a Hertford put in, the scrum-half passed it out well, the next man looked to play another pass out wide, but as he did so Dan Hoyes had already seen the pass coming and was there to intercept and break clean away to give Camelot the lead.
Attacking downhill second-half should have eased the pressure on the defence...but it didn't. Still Hertford enjoyed more of the ball, and when Camelot did win it back, too often it was being lost in the rucks.
Despite all this pressure, Hertford remained frustrated and contained. With no further score, Camelot held out for a victory.
FT: Camelot 1-0 Hertford
The wait for the second game was long. Keeping focus was a challenge, and credit to the squad because when they finally ran onto the field against a strong looking Tring side, they were straight into competitive mode. And they needed to be.
Again the first-half was very much a midfield battle with possession very much even. The closest to a try came when Freddie looped a lovely kick forward from a defensive position, superbly chased down by Dan, but unfortunately the defender was just equal to the chase and prevented the score. 0-0 at the break.
Attacking up the hill second-half Camelot started to let the ball do more of the work with some good passing movements, and it eventually paid dividends.
A good passing move along the attacking line reached Caolan outside, he cut back in, laid the ball off to Dan who now had the space to run through with ease and score. 1-0.
Tring fought hard to get back into the game, piling pressure on the defence, edging closer and closer to the try line. Yet there was no way through, and when the referee awarded a penalty to Camelot and announced last play, Dan took no chances and cleared the ball out of play to confirm the victory.
FT: Camelot 1-0 Tring
After such a long wait for the second game, the third match followed straight on. At least they will be switched on and alert? Already in game mode and ready to go? Er, not quite...
OA's (well, a scratch team that also included a handful of Barnet players) stormed into an early lead with the Camelot defence caught napping allowing an opposition player to run clean through, unchallenged. Such a try conceded had become uncharacteristic in recent weeks, but it happened again moments later as again the defence seemed switched off, or maybe mentally overwhelmed at the thought of playing OA's, as another clean run doubled the oppositions lead...and we were still early into the first half.
The next score was going to be important, and it came from Camelot right on the stroke of half-time. With pressure being applied it was Freddie who found a small gap and pounced for the line...To the parents and supporters right behind the try line it looked as though he may have grounded it a couple of centimetres short, an argument put forward by the OA's defence, but the try was awarded and Camelot went into the break just one score behind, 1-2.
Again the next score was going to be important, and with Camelot attacking downhill, the come back was on...briefly. A ball turned over in the ruck and another clear run and OA's had increased the lead to 2 once again. 1-3.
With plenty of time still to go Camelot turned up the pressure and enjoyed sustained pressure just feet from the OA's try line as the returning James Isaac and Seb both tried to use their power to cross the line, but the opposition defence held firm. Play after play, just yards from the score zone, but still Hemel could not find a way through.
Another penalty, just five metres to go...some quick thinking from Caolan sees him tap and go, the defence are bamboozled and Caolan goes over to score. Game on.
Still Camelot dominated, and fought for an equaliser with superior passing and rucking to their opposition, but time had caught them out and there was no way back into the game, despite a gallant effort the poor start had proved costly.
FT: Camelot 2-3 OA's
Tries: Freddie, Caolan
Such had the match scheduling panned out, it was not a long break before the final match of the day and a mouth-watering clash with a Harpenden side, that were on their way to winning the competition, and provided formidable opposition.
The encounter was a real battle, with the sides equally matched tackle for tackle; pass for pass, very little between the two sides. Early doors Harpenden enjoyed more of the possession and territory, and it was during this spell that they controversially took the lead with, what ultimately proved to be the only try of the game. Again the parents and spectators behind the try line had the perfect view as the opposition drove towards the line and it looked as though the ball had been spilt (knocked forward) before it was recycled and passed out to the player that ran over the line to score. With no TMO available, the try was awarded, and Camelot had a battle on their hands. And battle they did.
For the remainder of the game Harpenden were on the back foot, defending stoutly against the Hemel attack. On the stroke of half-time it looked as though Seb may have equalised as he pounced over the line, to the parents at the far end it was unclear if the ref had awarded the try or not, but then a loud cheer from the opposition players confirmed that the ball had been held up and the try not given. Where was that TMO?!!
Second-had and Camelot were attacking uphill...and attack they did. Dominating possession, and camped out just metres from the try line, move after move, drive after drive and run after run was thwarted by a solid defence that was holding out superbly. Any threat from Harpenden had diminished, for them it was all about defending the slender lead they held...and in fairness they did that, and they did it very well.
There was no way through for Camelot, but they had pushed Harpenden all the way, given them a real battle and shown great pride in the blue and white shirt they wore.
FT: Camelot 0-1 Harpenden
Although not undefeated this time around, it had been another challenging festival in which Camelot came up against the biggest, and best, clubs in the area and never once - apart, perhaps the first couple of minutes v OA's! - looked out of place, not losing a single game by more than one try against clubs that, on paper at least, should be wiping the floor with Camelot. A credit to all involved, and reason to look forward to next week's season closing festival at Aylesbury with great hope, and dare we even say, optimism.