Yet another away game for the Yarnbury U15's. Today we were visiting our old adversaries Roundhegians. Their Senior team are riding high in Yorkshire 2 and defeated the Yarnbury first XV on the Saturday so it was up to the U15's to restore some pride (we'll use anything in a pre-match team talk).
This fixture over the years has thrown up some very close games with the results going for and against Yarnbury. Always an entertaining game, and played with a great spirit from both sides meant the spectators had something to whet their appetites.
To add to the drama and bring an air of uncertainty Roundhegians declared prior to kick-off that they were re-building a new squad after losing a number of key players due to the ERDPP scheme ( ah, the inevitable dreams of elite rugby for the chosen few, firmly believing moving to a "bigger" club will make their dreams a reality and edify their rugby "career". Good luck to those players chasing that dream and we hope you don't get hurt too much on the way. Just, you know, please, remember where you started and what your first club gave to you...). Anyway, enough of that melancholy; Were 'Hegians playing a mind game here? Lulling our boys into a false sense of security? Was it the truth?
In answer to those questions: One minute after kick-off; total mind games. Although it was declared before KO with utmost sincerity by the 'Hegians coaching team, one would be forgiven for thinking it was a case of mind games! 'Hegians were the much stronger team in the opening skirmishes and their back line were very organised and tough in the tackle. Yarnbury were a little rattled in the first 10 minutes of the half. The Yarnbury forwards then steadied themselves and started to gain dominance in the rucks and scrums. However, the 'Hegians backs were well organised and nippy. After a sustained number of phases 'Hegians zipped the ball out wide and their pacey back line scored the opening try on 12 minutes. This was no less than they deserved. They were organised and dangerous with ball-in-hand. Yet again, every game so far, Yarnbury start playing after they go behind. To add to the difficulty Yarnbury had an enforced replacement with strong tackling back row going off injured to be replaced by finisher (ridiculous terminology considering it was 12 minutes into the game, so perhaps re-named late starter?) Harvey Coates.
The forwards knew they becoming dominant and their confidence grew over the next few phases of play as they inched forward. After a couple of exploratory forays over the gain line from the Yarnbury back line, on the back of the marauding forwards, the boys found themselves deep into the 'Hegians 22. Cue the successful pick and go plays from the forwards which has been an outstanding feature of their game thus far. The 'Hegian's defence was resolute but it was only a matter of when, not if, the Yarnbury forwards scored. Prop Jude Sander falling over the line from a yard or two out carrying a couple of defenders with him levelling the scores. An unlikely missed conversion from the usually metronomic Ben Woods kept the scores at 5 - 5.
For the remainder of the first half it was the Yarnbury back row show. Dominant scrummaging and rucking saw no. 6/7 (he picks and chooses on the field) Jack Gallagher score from close range, conversion added by Ben, with the ubiquitous No.8 Charley Popely scoring a magnificent individual try two minute later, fending off two, perhaps three (it was a blur), defenders with deft hand-offs near the halfway line to run in under the sticks. Sadly, Ben missed the conversion, but that matters not. The halftime whistle was, no doubt, a welcome relief for the home side.
The second half was a much more even game right from the off. Refreshed from the opportunity to rest and have a chat the 'Hegians side took the game to Yarnbury and sought to eat into the scoreline deficit. The game was literally played in an end-to-end style and gave the crowd a very entertaining and keenly fought contest for the majority of the half. This was clearly evidenced by the fact that there were four tries in the first 17 minutes of the half. First, 'Hegians scored through their forwards on 8 minutes (missed conversion), second Yarnbury scored, on 10 minutes, through some strong running by replacement winger Oliver (OJ) Jones (missed conversion). Not to be out-done 'Hegians grabbed the next try, on 14 minutes, which was subsequently converted. Yarnbury clearly thought, "alright, anything you can do..." and scored the fourth try on 17 minutes which was also converted. By Ben. Touche.
This last try was a poignant one; returning to the Yarnbury team from a 5-year hiatus (he played the round ball game) was Daniel Longhawn. Talk about a statement of intent. Dan played like he never left. He tackled strongly, with excellent technique and was agile and industrious with ball-in-hand. Welcome back young man.
There were two more tries in the game, one per side. Yarnbury extended their lead on 23 minutes with Charley Popely bagging a brace on the day. Ben converted to improve is his percentage success rate. Charley's second try was just reward for his tireless performance throughout the game. He is carving out a reputation as being the engine room of the pack. A worthy man of the match.
The win was all but secured for Yarnbury but 'Hegians never gave up and battled on to the final whistle. They scored a further try on 28 minutes to bring the final score to 22-36. The score line flatters Yarnbury a little but they did deserve the win and were the stronger side for more of the game. Whatever re-building Roundhegians think they have to do they are clearly a good side and perhaps a touch too modest. We wish them well for the rest of the season and the home game later in the season should be a cracker.
Thanks to Simon for refereeing the game. The usual take-no-bull efficiency from the GSAL man. Good game.
Thank you to Roundhegians hospitality team for the cheeseburger players' meals. Good sausage sandwiches by all accounts too. Me, being the athlete I am, resisted the temptation...
Thanks, as always to the Yarnbury supporters, well travelled and very vocal. Respectful. Not to us coaches.