Birmingham & Solihull Colts 5 Westcombe Park Colts 12
National Colts Plate Quarter Final
A long day began with an 8.30am meet for the coach trip to the midlands and following a good run on the motorways our best laid plans were almost scuppered early doors when the carefully thought out pre-match nutritional plans were put in jeopardy by a power cut at the motorway service station. Fortunately power was soon restored and business was brisk for Colonel Sanders and BKs.
On a bright, sunny day the match was played on a massive pitch which we thought initially may play into our hands given our express pace on the wings. As it turned out this was largely a forwards dominated match, a turn of events dictated by the home side which enjoyed at least two thirds of territory and possession and had a clear plan A to pick and drive through the middle with their sizable and physical pack, led by a behemoth in the second row.
In the first 15 minutes all the play was in the Westcombe half as we defended the breeze but the defence was excellent and the home side’s sole chance of points came with a penalty awarded for standing up in the scrum, but this was missed. The visitors made a rare foray into B&S territory after about 20 minutes when a kick from our own half was not dealt with by a hesitant defence and the bounce favoured Combe when Illyas Morrison gathered the ball and outstripped the cover to score in the corner. Matt Holmes slotted a massively important conversion from wide out on the touch line and Westcombe led 0-7 after living off scraps.
The home scrum was starting to dominate but more heavy duty defence by the entire team ensured the Westcombe line was never seriously threatened and towards the end of the half the visitors started making inroads into B&S territory. From only their second foray into the opposition 22, good field position 10 yards out in front of the posts was disrupted illegally by a hand in the ruck resulting in a yellow card for the B&S fly half. With a simple penalty there for the taking, and with perhaps the home side settling on the try line for the obvious kick, Combe took the brave decision to tap and go with the ball fed down the line at pace to Sam Perry on the wing. Sam cleverly drew his man and instead of going for glory just five yards out passed to Joe Birch who scored in the corner. The conversion was missed but a half time lead of 0-12 secured.
The first 10 minutes of the second half saw much of the play in midfield with the home team shading the scrums but the visitors dominant in the line out where much good work was done by Messrs Cross and Adenyi-Jones, although as usual great credit should also go to the lifters and Sam Perry, the hooker. Perhaps the only negative in an otherwise heroic performance was the decision on some occasions in the second half to run the ball instead of using the wind to gain territory. From such a phase of play the ball was lost on the 20 minute mark when the referee adjudged Westcombe were holding on, B&S tapped and for the first time in the match we saw some pace and trickery from the home backs resulting in a try in the corner. The conversion was missed but B&S were back in the game at 5-12.
The last ten minutes seemed to last an hour and were watched nervously by this correspondent with hands over eyes and by Pete Holmes from behind a tree! The home team continued to throw everything they had at Westcombe but amazingly the defence held out under massive pressure as everybody tackled as if their lives depended on it. This was commitment of the highest order.
If there was a “men” of the match award it would surely go collectively to the pack which refused to take a backward step all day and stood up to be counted in each and every one of the 70 minutes. The award is traditionally however a “man” of the match and my reward for writing this report is to choose him. So stand up scrum half Matt Holmes who harried his high class opposite number all day and probably made more tackles than anybody, all this despite feeling unwell!
Thanks are due to the ref who was excellent and to B&S for their hospitality. Well done also to the Westcombe bench, most of who didn’t get on but I am sure realise that in a game of this magnitude, at the sharp end of the tournament, the management’s overriding responsibility must be to win the game.
The Colts move on to an away semi-final against either Havant or Loughborough.
PS Lots of good match photos on the club website. Thanks goodness the cameras stayed in their bags on the coach home!!!