Bournemouth vs Marlborough U13s, D&W Cup
Mustangs dig deep on the South coast
On a day of high drama on the south coast, the Mustangs secured a hard-fought win in demanding conditions to make it two from two in the second-half of the D&W Cup. Whether it was the long journey, the blustery weather or the challenging pitch (for challenging pitch read: there are some members of the Royal Tank Regiment who wouldn’t have fancied giving it a go), the boys got off to a subdued start. Whilst there was nothing wrong with their play – set-pieces were working well, handling was good and tackles were being made – they just lacked oomph. Bournemouth were clearly a well-drilled team with bags of spirit and it was they who were winning the 50/50 challenges and turning over ruck-ball. Some of our key players were finding it difficult to get into fifth gear and subsequently a lot of the play was conducted between the two 10-metre lines. Eventually, and as is often the case, it was down to Ben to break the deadlock. From the sideline, it can often look like Ben just uses his natural talents of speed and size to brush off defenders and run home from anywhere on the pitch, but that would be doing him a tremendous disservice. He runs fantastic lines, is generally in the right place to support or receive a pass and has amazing balance for such a large lad. The first try was a perfect example. He took the ball at pace and aimed for a small gap, before a side-step wrong-footed a defender allowing a larger gap to open for him to run through and score. Thereafter the remainder of the first-half was largely played in the Mustangs’ 22. Bournemouth were unlucky not to score when a player knocked-on over the try line before grounding the ball, but they kept the pressure on and Billy was called upon to make several one-on-one tackles. After a succession of rucks on the 5m line, they were eventually able to squeeze through a tight defensive line and made the score 5-5 on the stroke of half-time.
The boys spoke about what needed to be done and recognised the requirement to up the intensity. The second-half got underway and it was clear that the urgency had returned. With the forwards rumbling along well, space became more apparent and Ben was able to score two tries in quick succession to secure his hat-trick and the boys some breathing space. There then came a superb try courtesy of the Mathieson Roadshow. Having sucked in a number of defenders and secured a ruck on the right flank, Ollie B – demonstrating his usual bravery in digging the ball out of dark places – flung the ball to Calum who looked up and saw a mismatch. Channelling his inner Finn Russell, he executed a delightful cross-field kick that placed the last Bournemouth defender under tremendous pressure. With Lewis and Benji steaming up, he fumbled the ball and Lewis cleverly kicked the ball over the try-line for Benji to leap on and score – great anticipation and awareness from the pair of them. At 5-20 it was starting to look comfortable but credit to Bournemouth who had no intention of throwing in the towel. Making the most of the rub of the green, they maintained the pressure and managed to get one back. Ben then instantly cancelled this gain with a cracking chase from the kick-off, kicking through and picking up a fumbled ball to race home for his fourth and to make the score 15-25. With two minutes to go and a scrum for the Mustangs on the half-way line, it appeared that the game was drawing to its conclusion. However, Bournemouth turned over the scrum and went through several phases before threatening the Marlborough touchline. After blowing for an infringement, Bournemouth tapped and went and were stopped illegally. The referee gave another free-kick which he allowed Bournemouth to take quickly again. He then decided that the Mustangs had again failed to retreat and awarded a penalty try – something of a rarity in U13s’ rugby. Finding some extra time, the referee called for the kick-off which the Mustangs elected to receive for what seemed likely to be the last play. They then demonstrated probably their best running and hands of the morning to set Ben off down the wing. It looked for all the world that he would finish his day on a high but a superb covering tackle brought him down on the 22. In the ensuing ruck, the ball went forward and the referee blew the whistle. Surely that must be full time? But no, more time was found much to the consternation of even the Bournemouth Head Coach who began to shout ‘time’ in an animated manner at his colleague with the whistle. After some brief and unnecessary shenanigans, the referee did in fact draw the game to an end and the Mustangs had just about done enough for victory against a spirited and well-coached Bournemouth.
Ultimately this was a game of character and the Mustangs will have gained tremendously from the experience. A difficult fixture against talented opposition where marginal decisions didn’t go their way and they came through despite a flat start.
Tackling across the team continues to improve and everyone got stuck into their defensive duties today. Billy stood out as the last line of defence and he made several critical challenges to win today’s Tackler of the Day. There were a number of contenders in the other category. It was fantastic to see Lewis make such a positive contribution on his D&W debut and Euan was extremely physical in clearing breakdowns. However, for yet more try-scoring exploits and an excellent all-round contribution, Man of the Match today