To try and summarise the season Camp Hill 2nd XV have just had, as well as attempt to portray the success that has been achieved by this group of players, is no easy task. However, this End of Season Report aims to recount the road to glory as well as highlight some of the stand out performers from this great side.
It would be wrong to say that this was down to a handful of individuals, as this season has shown that both the squad spirit and overall team performance has never been stronger. That has been a defining characteristic of this youthful side, which has managed to maintain a consistent core to the squad for the first time in a few years. From this, a platform of high standards was set early on, in which momentum was built and this juggernaut of a side quickly identified themselves as the side to beat. Following a 41-22 pre-season victory over Droitwich, the League was kicked off in style with a resounding 86-0 victory over Sutton 3’s . This result really set a precedence, as the side went on to win 7 of the next 8 games, scoring 195 points in the process and claiming a 20-18 victory over a very strong Bridgenorth side. With confidence sky high and an element of cockiness creeping in, the side were brought crashing back down to earth with a 14-15 defeat at home to DK Wasp. It was the wake-up call the side needed, proving that this league would not be a walk over and that they would have to be at their best week in week out to secure the title.
The side went on to win 4 of the 5 games leading up to the festive break, 3 of which were league games. This included a key victory over Stourbridge (Camp Hill 2’s closest title contenders) where Camps sent a clear message to the rest of the league with an emphatic 42-12 win. The Try of the season was also scored in this game. With less than a score separating the sides, half time approaching and Stourbridge meters from Camps Hill try line, the ball was turned over and found its way into Tom Smith’s hands, who launched up the pitch leaving Stourbridge in his wake! As the full back and winger closed in on him around the half way line, he popped the ball to the supporting Harry Cunningham, who continued the lightening paced counter attack with his little legs tearing up the ground beneath him. Beating the Stourbridge defenders to the try line by the skin of his teeth he dived in for a critical score, winding himself in the process and having to be substituted off! This ultimately broke Stourbridge’s spirit and resolve, allowing Camp Hill 2’s to go on and record the vital win. The following week, the side proved their character and determination by digging deep to record a hard fought 19-17 victory at home to a very strong Luctonians side. This meant Camp Hill 2’s topped the table going in to festive break and gave the lads something to celebrate over Christmas.
Coming back in January with the weather inevitably worsening, the team had to adapt their free flowing running game to combat the declining pitch conditions. This is where the Camp Hill 2’s pack really came into play and began to steal some of the limelight from the free scoring backline. With the side returning fatter and rustier thanks to the Christmas celebrations, they ground out what would prove to be a vital draw away to Wolverhampton. Again this provided a reminder for the squad that the league would not be handed to them on a plate. Given the performances in the first part of the season, Camp Hill 2nd XV became the side to beat and opposition teams began to up their game significantly to try and claim a high profile scalp. However, this only spurred on this improving side, who would remain unbeaten until the final game of the season!
Those 7 victories included some historic games against incredibly strong opposition. The pick of the results included a big "W" of local rivals Moseley Oak 2’s, in which Camps recorded a 71-7. As well as this, Camp Hill 2’s recorded what was for most, their first away win to Sutton Coldfield 3’s, which was also a contender for game of the season. With Sutton packing their side full of 2nd Team players in an attempt to combat the form side in the league, Camp Hill 2’s not only matched them but despite being decimated by injuries in the first half, out played Sutton in virtually every area of the game. Camp Hill ran out 32-21 winners which also saw the return of Darren Forder, who not only pulled on the Camp Hill shirt for the first time in 3 season, but also seemed to find his calling, playing 60 mins at scrum half!
The welcome return of Richard Simmonite and Rich Brown to Camp Hill late in the season, was a timely boost. The arrival of new boy Shawn Lindeque brought some southern hemisphere brawn for the side, shoring up the lineout and adding some much need aggression to the breakdown. All 3 excelled in the last few games and aided in the final push towards clinching the trophy. Camp Hill were able to reverse the earlier Seasons result on DK Wasps, putting in one of their best performances and recording a 43-0 victory.
The week after, Camp Hill 2’s all but sealed the League Title with a clinical 51-12 victory over Droitwich. On the final day of the season, the club went all out in making the day one to remember for the lads. Despite a loss to Stourbridge, Camp Hill 2nd XV achieved their goal and secured the League Title, leaving the pitch to a guard of honour put on by the 1st XV and Club supporters. The special day sparked huge celebrations that went on late into the night, giving the lads the rich reward they so badly deserved. This really has been a season that both the club and players will remember for years to come.
With such a successful season filled with high quality team performances, it’s hard to really single out specific players. The combination of youth and experience has been the perfect blend throughout the season. With Camp Hill’s successful Colts team from last year graduating into adult rugby, there were a large amount of lads looking to nail down their spot in the side and show the club what they were capable of. This youthful enthusiasm was harnessed with a number of the more ‘experienced’ players being forced to turn back the years and play some of the best rugby of their careers, just to fight off the challenge from the young guns! Most notably, Danny Ingram, Liam Morrissy, James Kimberley and Nick Humphries brought experience and level headedness to the side, as well as leading by example with some consistently outstanding performances.
With the squad littered with ex-Colts, the side would always be challenged in the league by more experienced and sizable teams. However, the strength and character of these young players proved they were more than capable to meet the challenge. With the side going from strength to strength each week, their development was only accelerated. Regan Rowley and Tom Smith were 2 of the players that caught the eye of the 1st XV selectors and were quickly called up. Kieran Hayes having tasted 1st XV rugby before also had a couple of early call ups, but remained a key player in the 2’s pack for much of the season. Were it not for the 1st XV strength in depth in their positions, Ben Love and James ‘Trigger’ Hollies would have also had more 1st XV game time.
As mentioned previously, the pack were not the biggest on the circuit. However, they offered the mobility and fitness that other packs just could not match and with the free flowing game plan this 2’s side operated, it meant that they outplayed their opposite number for virtually the entire 80 mins. For the first time in countless seasons, Camp Hill finally had a plethora of front row players to select from and this aided the 2’s no end! Players such as Akeel Hussain, James Kimberley, Phil Dams, Chris Brown and new boy Pat Clark not only out scrummaged opposite front rows, but were present all over the pitch. None more so that Phil Dams who scored some of the most critical tries at all the right times throughout the season (most notably against Luctonians). Danny Ingram deserves to be mentioned also, as he was a contender for player of the season! Acting as the Vice Capt for large chunks of the season, he brought a calm head to the side, as well as putting in some brilliant performances to show the young lads he still had some life in him yet!
Moving into the backs, it’s not possible to name everyone but as a whole, they offered some scintillating rugby that left opposition supporters in disbelief at times! Andrew Cresswell was one of the standout players whenever he played. His strength in defence was matched by his lightening quick attacking game, producing some monstrous line breaks that left opposition defences baffled! As is the Camp Hill’s 2’s way, the crash ball centre tactic was maintained through the season by Nick Humphries, who was at times mistaken for a prop! There were some concerns when he broke his hand mid-season that the platform he offered our backline would be sorely missed. However, the timely return to Camp Hill of Curtis Thompson ensured that our successful attacking game plan could continue. The young juggernaut proved to be a force to be reckoned with and shone throughout the second half of the season (many claimed he was the new and improved model of Humpo, though lacks the kicking game!). Ben Taylor continued last season’s form, scoring 26 tries in 28 games. Despite being dubbed ‘Dad’s Army’ by some sections of the club, both Liam Morrissy and Warren Taylor showed they could still muster up some magic. Liam, playing mainly at 9, expertly marshalled the young pack (there is even photographic evidence of him putting in a tackle during one game). Warren seemed to be the side’s knight in shining armour on multiple occasions. Risking divorce and long term injury, he turned out last minute for the side on a number of occasions and produced some spectacular rugby!
Through injury and 1st XV call ups, the 2’s were left without a recognised winger for large sections of the season. However, 2 players stepped up and made the positions their own, racking up 23 appearances between them. Sam Hartley , an ex-Colt, found some great success out wide, notching up 6 tries and adapting to adult game with ease (as well as making his 1st XV debut in the closing stages of the season). Dan Halifax, having joined the club mid-season, proved to be invaluable out wide, tackling anything that came his way (saving the side countless tries) as well as offering strong running lines in attack.
Mr ‘Utility Player’, Sean Heaney was an outstanding Vice Captain and a terrier on the pitch. Had it not been for a season ending injury whilst playing for the 1’s, he would have racked up the most appearances for the side than any other player. With his move down the Newquay happening over the summer, he will be sorely missed next season.
Off the pitch, it must also be highlighted that Martyn Powis ‘Pogo’ does an incredible amount for the side. Some may have taken him for granted previously, but all the lads have really come to realise this season just how much he does for this side and how hugely appreciative of him we are. Rain or Snow, he is there week in week out and never lets the side down. He has been a fantastic person to bounce ideas off in terms of selection, but has also provided wise words when the team has needed them the most.
Before moving on to the Awards, I wanted to take the opportunity to thank all the players that turned out for the side over the course of the season. As I have said before, the team spirit in the squad was incredible and made the whole experience of captaining the side all the more special. It has been incredibly tough for me throughout the season to select sides with so many players being at the top of their game, making it virtually impossible not to pick them. I could not have asked for anymore from the lads and I am thrilled that we all got out rich deserves and claimed the League Title. Despite what the results and score difference show, we have had to dig deep throughout and the strength of character from the entire squad has ensured we didn’t falter from our goal.
Young Player of the Season:
Ben Love started the season in the 3rd XV due to the level of performances from the front row. However, when his opportunity came, he grasped it with both hands and has been a mainstay in the side ever since. He has picked up numerous Man of the Match awards and proven to have a very bright rugby career ahead of him. With his natural position of LH Prop, it is testament to his abilities that he has not only played Back-row, but also Outside Centre (forming a formidable partnership with Humpo on occasion!). Again, were it not for certain players ahead of him in the 1st XV, he would have had his debut this season.
Player of the Season:
James ‘Trigger’ Hollies has played more games than any other player and for good reason. Despite being promoted from the Colts team, he has adapted to the adult game with ease and since the early part of the season, has been the first name on the team sheet (after myself of course!). The Line Out has been a main area of strength for Camp Hill 2’s this season and a large part of that has been down to Trigger’s line out jumping. He has offered an easy target for our hookers to throw to and has stolen countless opposition line outs. However, it is his open play that has improved no end over the course of the season. Despite baulking up, he has used his mobility and fitness to be everywhere on the pitch. His work at the breakdown has been tireless and he has often provided himself as a strike runner off our backline to win the hard yards. With the progress and development he has made, as well as making his 1st XV debut, a call up to the 1st XV on a regular basis cannot be much more than a season away for him.
Team Stats (Friendly & League Games):
Game Played - 25
Games Won - 20
Games Drawn - 1
Games Lost - 4
Point For - 871
Points Against - 286
Points Diff - 585
RFU League Table – Midlands Reserve League, Division 3: