Old Elthamians 31-0 Old Beccehamians
Good things do come to Rugby-men who wait and for one Head Coach a trophy-less run of over a quarter of century at this Sports ground came to a glorious end on Sunday morning with Old Elthamians U14s claiming their third Kent Cup title in dominant fashion. A fine blustery spring morning greeted both sides to the "Field of Dreams" and with an excellent turnout of OEs supporters including many non-playing squad members and their parents helping to make this fixture feel more like a home tie.
Sometimes all the pieces of a jigsaw just seem to suddenly fall into place. Sometimes the coaches have all their players fit, available and motivated. Sometimes a team plays to its full potential.
My dad used to tell me attack was the best form of defence and OEs progression through to this final certainly seemed to bear out this old boxing mantra. Forty six tries scored with one conceded in six short format qualifying matches saw OEs overwhelm their opposition through fluid, attacking rugby with a powerful and mobile pack. Sunday's performance however turned this theory on its head as OEs defended their way to a five try victory against a much fancied Beccs side who had suffered only one defeat all season.
The outcome of big games often swing on a few key moments. With just over five minutes gone and Beccs in possession on their own ten metre line but struggling to achieve any forward momentum Outside Centre Tilley crunched into his opposing Inside Centre, driving him backwards in the air and eventually into the ground, to turn over possession, quick ball followed to Outside Centre O'Byrne probing left and right but unable to find a gap eventually passing out to Baker on the Right Wing, with Beccs defence holding firm Baker cuts back to the left, passing to Captain and Number Eight Norman, onto Tilley then out to Left Wing Chanthrakumarun, still no gaps the ball's played back inside to Flyhalf Jagger and onto Tight-head Wilding who drove a hole deep into the Twenty Two. With the defence now tiring and quick recycling from Scrum half Davies, Tilley broke again on the right passing to Jagger, onto O'Byrne and quickly out to Baker who finally breaches the defence to score near the right hand touchline. A great passage play which set the tone for the rest of the match. Full back Jones kicked a marvellous conversion in a swirling breeze, 7-0.
A short period of possession for Beccs followed, desperately trying to establish a foothold in the game they kicked a penalty to OEs five metre line on the left and played a few phases briefly threatening the try line but ferocious and disciplined OEs defending forced the error, winning a penalty for offside and allowing O'Byrne to kick thirty metres upfield for an attacking line-out. A few phases followed with O'Byrne eventually scoring on the right after a typically belligerent run. Another excellent conversion from Jones, 14-0.
Beccs have a scrum on their twenty-two in front of the posts, driven back by a dominate OEs pack awkward ball is shovelled back to the Inside Centre who attempts the clearance but is brilliantly charged down by the marauding Back Row Watkins knocking the ball into the in-goal area where wonderful support play by Moyse at Open-side is rewarded with an easy touchdown for the third try. Three moments of defensive brilliance and this game looked over. Jones converts from in front of the posts, 21-0. Half time.
It's a great credit to the squad that despite bringing on virtually the whole of the bench after the break Beccs were still unable to mount any meaningful comeback in the second half. Replacements Harvey-Grey, Burfoot, Fisher, Pearce, Sebastos, and Toothill all eagerly joined the fray, Jones moved to Scrum half once again proving invaluable with his versatility. It's a Flanker, it's a Fullback, it's Charlie Watkins! A month of 7's rugby and Full Fat Milk had clearly worked for the flame haired enforcer as he produced his best performance of the season, switching between Back Row and Fullback seamlessly, a near faultless display in both positions. A scrappy second half was played out with OEs able to add two further tries one in each corner for Chanthrakumarun and Baker to make the final score 31-0.
This cup was won before the end of the first half as OEs denied their opponents time, space and possession with a stunning defensive display in what was surely the most compelling half of rugby they have produced to date. The last time these packs met OEs forwards had a wretched time especially in the loose where Beccs outplayed us. It's with great thanks and credit to our departing Forwards Coach that Wilding, Jeras, Kemp, Fitch, Khalil, Moyse, Watkins and Norman dominated both the set piece and the breakdown today, whatever you've learnt over the last few months boys treasure it. Discipline in the backs was much improved, patient in attack Davies, Jagger, O'Byrne, Tilley, Baker, Chanthrakumarun and Jones all remained composed under pressure, chased hard, missed no tackles, and took their chances. The bench when they came on maintained OEs dominance, denying the opposition even the smallest of concilations. When does the 7's start?
Good luck to Josh and JJ, you'll both be missed next season.
Steve Tilley, A Proud Dad