What a sterling effort! Five games and sixty minutes of hard rugby and Chichester emerged as victors of the Winchester U9 Invitational festival!
Our soft opening match against Alton Black provided a useful warm-up and a chance to stretch our legs in the Hampshire sunshine. Although strong, Alton barely made it into our half as the defensive line roared at them from every re-start. 6-0 or even 7-0 I think. Our second game proved a very different animal, New Milton defeated us (can you believe it?!) two years ago and although their coaches had forgotten, we hadn't. They were very confident and had a strong line of attack. Simon Howell's words must have echoed through our players' minds "stay in a line, stay in a line" - well it worked, New Milton were beaten time and again by our defence, often very close to our try-line. A close match, 2-1. But we were now fully in our stride.
As the smallest squad and the only non-Hampshire club to be invited, we were somewhat 'outsiders' and our card had been marked by our aggressive line of defence. We had two off-side decisions against us but the players responded well and then provided a faultless performance. We copied a double-pass technique at the re-start (the second pass being our 'punch' to a running player) and this worked well. Thanks to New Milton and WF for that. We won Pool B, four hard-fought wins with just one try scored against us.
We were now up against the winner of Pool A - and that team was decided in the final Pool A round-robin game - Wimborne against Oakmedians. We watched this tremendous match from the side lines, a very large and fast Oakmedians won and they looked formidable. Our players (and parents) seemed quite nervous about our final match. They looked big, they were fast. And they had more supporters. But they were clearly nervous about our Chichester squad, these foreigners from West Sussex.
An early try after some magnificent ball-handling ensured Oakmedians were on the back foot from the 'go'. They then hit us time and again with some big blows, not always clean. But our defensive line didn’t yield. They just couldn't find a way through. Our game-plan went like clockwork. Passing at or before the tackle ensured we were able to draw the man and offload before "tackle" had been called. After a truly heroic effort of passing, engaging, passing… we finally broke their line to score a second. Half-term and some exhausted faces but we were winning 2-0. The second half saw the opposition on the back-foot. As the time ebbed away Oakmedians realised they just couldn’t make it through our line -and the boys held fast. We were unlucky not to score a third. The final whistle, 2-0 Chichester. An awesome effort.
Congratulations to each and every player, some of whom may not have experienced this level of play before. Every person deserves to be singled out. Rory - for tackling the first receiver on, I think, every single re-start. Conor - for some super passes and being in the melee every time. Matty - for a superb tackling performance (David and Goliath), Hugo - for some excellent running and tackling (bravo Hugo), Jack - for taking some truly massive knocks and for coming back every time, Edward - for breaking through the defence, Hughie - for an all-round display of excellence in tackling and running. And to Rohan - for at least four tries, a heroic performance from him.
Congratulations to all.