With so many boys away or injured for the self style 'Southend Elite Festival' we called up 5 boys from the B's and what an impact and contribution they all made. We were drawn in the groups stages against Chingford and last years winners Teddington so knew we'd have to start fast.
Our first match (at 12.15) was just about the most perfect game of rugby I've seen the boys play. Out sized upfront the forwards were awesome and won and recycled so much ball. Once we got the ball in the backs we were outstanding and moved it exceptionally well running in 6 unanswered tries. Teddington had previously managed a 1-0 win against Chingford and their coaches we rightly complimentary about the way we moved the ball and we're unselfish in our passing and creating space for the team. Both George and Josh were on the end of two superb team tries which really emphasised the type of rugby we are trying to play.
In the second game we played Teddington who had won this Festival the previous year 2-0 against Southend. Never ones to respect a reputation our boys flew into Teddington from the start and put them under pressure. Throughout the game, which ended with us having over 70% of the possession, and we're clinical in our offensive defence. Into the second half we won a penalty on Teddington's 5 metres line. Harry's captaincy called for a forward maul and drive was correct and we drove over the line and touched down. Try award by the ref and we all ran back to restart only for several Teddington parents to suggest to the Ref that the ball was placed down over the dead-ball line. Sadly the ref decided to change his call and awarded us a 5 metre scrum instead. Despite this OE's dominated the rest of the game and ran out comfortable winners 0-0 to progress to the Cup Semi Finals against London Irish.
We had played Irish last season in a joint training session and knew what a quality side they were. In their group they had already dispatched of Blackheath 4-0 and Tunbridge Wells 3-0 so we knew we were in for a challenge. Whilst the boys we're well warmed up and ready for action they started slowly and gave the initiative to Irish. Within 8 mins we were 2-0 down through some poor tackling at the line out and weak midfield defence - not things we typically say about our boys. The second try however only galivinised us with Jacob scoring an excellent try just before half time so that a turned around 2-1 down.
Into the second half and the boys really stepped up a gear. An excellent intercept try by Josh running 3/4 of the length of the field saw us draw level at 2-2 and from there we dominated the rest of the game. With the scores level at full time we played a 5 mins period of golden try extra time where O'E's again dominated 75% plus of the territory and possession. Despite this we were unable to deliver the killer blow and so the result went down the the toss of a coin. Heads was called by the Irish Captain and the luck of the Irish won the day. All the boys were gracious in victory and defeat which is as it should be.
In the Final Irish played Beaconsfield who had knocked Southend out in the other semi. The game finished 1-1 with Beaconsfield winning on tries scored throughout the morning.
I am not ashamed to say that I arrived at Southend the morning with a fair amount of trepidation given injuries and unavailability. I left recognising that we had the best team at Southend having beaten Chingford and Teddington and been the better side in the Irish semi (at least if the result was subject to an independent panel). The boys and coaches should be extremely proud of what they achieved today. We've proved that we can live with and beat the very best teams in the South East of England with our 38 boy squad and we should be extremely proud of that.
Great players make great coaches not the other way around and today we saw 16 great players make all their coaches and parents very very proud. Well done boys - you were awesome!!!
So the early season festival run has come to an end. We have won the Blackheath B Festival, been runners up at the Bromley Festival and won the Plate at Foxbury. We have played and rotated 23 boys through the A team and they have all contributed and performed. The A squad in these three festivals scored an amazing 56 tries and conceded 5 (wow).
Now we're back to training and ensuring that we focus again on our basic skills and development through to the end of the season and the Colfe's, Westcombe Park and the Kent Festivals. On the evidence of the last three weeks we move forward in excellent shape and ready to take on the best of Kent and beyond.