The Tigers have thus far this season played Hampshire laws, but showed their versatility going to 6-man competitive scrums in this afternoon's contest. U13s play slightly modified laws from the adult game; no lifting in the lineout, the scrum can only wheel up to 45 degrees and they can only push the scrum a metre & a half, which clearly makes it challenging to push your opponents off the ball if you don't win the initial strike. Hungerford had 14 players, so it was decided to drop the flankers making the scrum 6 man and play 13 a side.
From kick-off, the forwards put Hungerford under pressure, pushing them back to their 22, but unfortunately gave away a needless penalty, which the visitors took quickly, taking advantage of the hosts' field position to run in a try out wide, the conversion was missed (0-5 after 6 mins). Soon after the re-start, following tackles from Coppi, Jonas & Potter, a blind side run off the back of a scrum on the Tadley 5 yard line proved too much for the Tadley defence (0-15, 12 mins).
A quick switch around brought Gibson to hooker & Jones to the wing, both getting stuck in straight away. You wouldn't know that this was Tadley's first match at competitive scrums; Cable giving his opposing loosehead no end of trouble and Butler at least equalling his tighthead. Illegal binding from Hungerford gave Tadley the chance to clear their lines, but alas Bowles' smart kick into space was quickly covered by their full back who ran hard and straight. Some great covering tackles from Hanley, Bowles & Worth slowed the visitors' advance, but a crafty pop to their speedy 10 saw a converted try just wide of the posts (0-17, 25 mins) and the last play of the half.
A promising strong run from the replacement Hungerford prop from kick-off ended rather un-ceremoniously when a wild one-handed forward pass went a mile forward. The ensuing scrum was won by the now confident Tadley pack, Mills again choosing to use his backs rather than run himself, Martin setting the ball up for a ruck. The forwards provided text-book support at the breakdown; the Red Lane boys were putting together a few good phases of play here and starting to look dangerous. Bowles popped to Smith, who went on one of his dodging runs back towards his supporting forwards, setting up a ruck for Bedford to pick up and make further ground. Support was lacking and Hungerford soon had control of the ball. Chapman, Worth & Hanley this time having to commit to tackles to halt the visitors' progression. A missed pass giving them a 3-on-1 for a converted try (0-24 32 mins).
From the restart, despite some strong tackling from Potter, Smith, Bowles & Coppi, the visitors ran in another try out wide (0-29, 40 mins). This was quickly followed by another two quick tries from the visitors (0-43, 47 mins).
All credit to the Tigers, their heads never dropped and although their pride was a bit battered and bruised, the Red Lane U13s never gave up and put immense pressure on the Hungerford catcher, Hanley driving the opposition back in the tackle. The forwards swarmed like bees round a pot of honey, Potter surfacing with the ball, popping to Bedford driving forward; Mills passed down the line to Bowles who dummied a kick, instead popping to Chapman who gained a few yards and set up the ruck. Hungerford came in from the side and a quick tap penalty by Mills to Hanley’s crash ball gained a few more precious yards. Hungerford were clearly not expecting such a well organised attack and gave away penalty after penalty, Tadley happy to pop the ball to the Hanley. A large blind-side with Worth & Smith screaming their heads off on the 5m line went unnoticed, but no matter - another off-side from the visitors resulted in a quick tap from Mills, who this time ran round the sole defender who managed to get across on the blindside to score an unconverted try at the death (5-43, 50 mins).
Although Hungerford won convincingly, the Tigers scrum was impressive against more experienced opponents, the forwards & backline looked dangerous at times and ultimately the last 10 minutes of play showed the promise this young squad has to offer. All in all a tough entry to full-size pitch rugby, but a huge improvement on the performance against Andover a couple of weeks' ago, the side showing huge strength of character to finish the stronger.
Next week see the Tigers host Winchester in the Hampshire Cup, looking to build on their improving form.
Team: Butler, Bedford, Cable, Jonas, Coppi, Potter, Mills, Bowles, Smith, Chapman, Worth, Martin, Hanley, Gibson, Jones
Man of the Match: Potter, for good runs & tackling