Marlborough RFC U13s vs North Dorset RFC U13s
By Andrew Child
Mustangs continue winning run in D&W Plate competition
Warning, hyperbole alert – this report may suffer from a lack of self-control. What a fantastic match. In a season where the boys have continually set the bar higher and higher, they raised it to stratospheric levels today. In the most appalling of conditions and against an excellent opposition, they put together an almost complete performance to come away with a deserved victory in this critical D&W Cup fixture.
North Dorset rightly came with a fearsome reputation. 55-5 victors over Bournemouth RFC the previous weekend, and a 55-25 defeat of RWB in an earlier cup match demonstrated that they were a team to be respected. And due to that respect, we prepared well. The boys trained with real intensity on Wednesday evening and were switched on pre-match today. They knew there would be no room for our traditional slow start and so had to hit the ground running. It was Ben who laid down the first marker, making a dominant tackle against their first runner that put him back about ten yards, followed by a swarm of counter-ruckers eager to turn the ball over. It was a scene that was to be repeated all game and the amount of 50-50 ball that we won, both in the loose and in set plays, was probably the difference between the sides. That said, North Dorset were superb at jackaling* and several promising early attacks came to naught after they forced penalties for isolated individuals holding on. Learning from this, the forwards attacked in numbers down the right flank and set up quick ball for Ollie B to release Calum. He slipped the ball to Ben who made it to their 10m line before offloading to Benji who outpaced the last defenders and dived over the line. Ben then got in the act himself with a fine individual run down the right flank, showing his customary pace and balance to make the score 10-0. North Dorset looked a little shell-shocked by this early onslaught but eventually began to find their feet and enjoyed a sustained period of pressure which they were unable to make count. An attack on our 5m line was repelled forcing spilled ball. Billy got on the end of this and quickly released Benji who beat 2 defenders and looked like he was going to have a run-in before a superb, last-ditch tap-tackle brought him down. This was followed by a scrum to North Dorset on their 10m line. Our pack had been performing extremely well and the props gave Samuel the platform to perform one of his amazing hooking exhibitions and win the ball against the head. The ball was fed out to the backs who quickly passed it through the hands to Ollie H, who outstripped the covering defence to score a true team try. At half-time, the Mustangs were well worth their 15-0 lead.
Our half-time team talk discussed the issue of how we rectify the jackaling situation. North Dorset’s would probably have discussed getting an early try to get back in the game. This would then have been rather ruined by the first play of the second half where Ben caught the ball from kick-off and ran the length of the pitch to score his second and our fourth. North Dorset’s resilience then began to show and the scored two in quick succession, both from mistakes made during Mustangs’ attacks, to get back in to the match. They were beginning to show some fluency and it needed two pieces of individual brilliance to halt their momentum. Firstly, Samuel made the most amazing covering tackle, getting his finger tips to the shirt of a winger and bringing him down when he had an unprotected try-line in sight. The screams of delight from those around him demonstrated how much it meant. Then James H picked the ball up on the halfway line and went on a mazy run, reminiscent of Sam Underhill turning Beauden Barrett inside out, which utterly confounded the defence. He was brought down just shy of the line and made a desperate attempt to ground the ball but just knocked on. However, from the subsequent 5m scrum, Samuel again took one against the head which allowed the ball to get out to Ben who powered over for his (customary) hat-trick. Then came try of the day. Ben started it, picking and driving from the halfway before popping to Jake, he made it into their 22 before getting tackled and offloading immediately to Calum who took the ball to 10m out before he was brought to the ground. Maintaining momentum, he released the ball to Austin B who powered over for a superb score. In filthy conditions, it was a great example of teamwork, support and excellent handling. We had one more fluent attack, which saw the backs release George. He made it past several defenders and looked like he would score before an excellent tackle caused him to marginally knock-on as he went to ground the ball. Thereafter, North Dorset really came back into it and managed to score 3 unanswered tries. It was therefore something of a relief to hear the referee blow for full time. This was an absolutely cracking match between two passionate, committed and skilful teams who played the game in exactly the right spirit. This was best recognised by the referee - who officiates senior County and Services matches - stating afterwards, ‘what a great game of rugby, I don’t remember enjoying a game so much all season at any level’.
Everyone tackled hard today. Regular contributors included Angus, Ed and Austin B but Tackle of the Day goes to Ben for his momentum-defining hit in the first seconds. In a majestic team performance, it can be isolated moments that make the difference. For numerous hooks against the head including two that lead directly to tries, a try-saving tackle, a couple of great runs and not to mention our first ever yellow card (and in front of his granny and grandad...), a most worthy recipient of Man of the Match is Samuel.
Thanks to our opposition for a superb game and for properly demonstrating the values of rugby, thanks to our referee for an excellent display, thanks to Max Stevens for continuing to help out the coaching team, thanks to all those non-selected players who were there to cheer on their team mates and thanks for the continued positive encouragement from the parents on the sidelines.