Westcombe Park Colts v Old Brodleians
National Plate Final - Franklins Gardens
7th May 2012
“When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things."
As U17s we wept, as Alexander wept because there were no more worlds left to conquer. As U18s, we decided to think as men and leave childish things behind us to go for the glittering prize of being National Champions.
It meant serving up a B team in the main, to contest the U18 Kent league for others to crow about, but our sights had moved on as a squad and as a club. Even in this respect we were magnificent by claiming the Kent Bowl with a staggering 21 players unavailable for the final due to our ambitions, quite incredible as most squads don’t even have 21 players on their rota.
In these days of teams folding and clubs merging, the care and attention that was given to our B side over the years rather than abandoning them in favour of only an A team has resulted in over 40 boys being delivered into the senior sides next season. A credit to Aggie, Ian, Pete S & Graham and a fantastic result in its own right.
To get some idea of the enormity of what the Colts have achieved today however, it is worth noting that Sevenoaks are the only other Kent side to have won a national title and even that was at U17 and now we have joined them on that very exclusive podium, possibly even one better as this is our 2nd consecutive National Final, the best of the best!
So on to the match.
Although the weather was typical for a May Day bank holiday eg miserable, a perfect playing surface awaited us at Franklins Gardens, home of the Northampton Saints. By chance the coaches arrived at the stadium at the same time as the Northampton first team were finishing training on an outside pitch. Whilst some of the mums worried that these behemoths were our opposition and the dads were star struck, the boys just enjoyed some friendly banter.
Westcombe kicked off and after the ball was secured by OBs, the Yorkshire Colts champions, the opening minutes saw both teams testing defences in midfield. A clever kick through was fielded by Matt Holmes on his own try line and with no angle he managed to clear to just outside the 10m line. OBs won the line out and gained ground to just outside the 22m and although the ball was turned over, Westcombe were penalised for holding on. From the resultant penalty OBs took the lead on 6 minutes but this would be the only time in the game that they enjoyed this advantage.
On 10 minutes a Westcombe kick was fumbled under pressure just inside the OBs 22m and the ball was eventually forced out of play. What followed was a thing of beauty. A perfect Sam Perry
throw was collected by Richard Adenyi-Jones who was held in the air until Sam had run around the lineout to receive Richard’s pass. With Sam heading for the back of the line out, and his counterpart following him, a switch to Will Grist saw the back rower charge down the line and then down the 5m channel to score without a hand being laid on him. The watching Courtney Lawes shouted “sick try boys” which I’m told is a compliment! The conversion was missed but Westcombe took a 5 – 3 lead.
Immediately from the kick off Westcombe were penalised again for holding on but the relatively easy kick was surprisingly missed. The drop out reached the OB half and quick following up saw the opposition tackled on the half way line although Westcombe were pinged again. From the OB scrum put in the ball was taken against the head and picked up by No.8 Tom Dowding. With the defence back expecting to be attacking Dowding was able to reach somewhere close to top speed before a tackle was attempted. This was dealt with by a strong handoff and although it was forward versus backs in the race for the line, there was only going to be one winner and Dowding scored Westcombe’s second try for a 10 - 3 lead on 14 minutes.
OB’s converted a further penalty to bring the score back to 10 – 6 after 17 minutes but Westcombe again forced play back into the opposition half after a clever run by Josh Livett
and a clinical kick by Matt Holmes. Another Livett run released Matt Swan
into space and with an overlap there for the taking the pass just eluded Joe Birch
. Although the OB line out was won by Will Grist the ball was turned over and a fabulous kick saw Westcombe marched back to their own 22. OB stole the Westcombe line out and quick ball saw their centre break a tackle and he looked to be heading for a try until double tackled by Livett and Swan just short. OB recycled possession but a deliberate knock-on gave them the chance of an easy three points, which they again failed to take.
The half ended with OBs playing their most expansive rugby of the day. A Westcombe line out inside the 22m was deemed not straight and from the resulting scrum quick ball was fed down the line at pace. A huge overlap should probably have resulted in a try but OBs gave Dan Hamilton just enough time to tackle his opposite number into touch for the last play of the half. On balance 10 – 6 was probably a fair reflection with Westcombe scoring the only tries, although OB’s could have shaded it if they had their shooting boots on with Combe giving too many penalties away.
OBs strong end to the first half continued in the early part of the second period when Westcombe had difficulty getting out of their own half but strong defence ensured the try line was never seriously threatened. The pressure was relieved in the 41st minute by a strong run out of his own half from Matt Swan
who released the supporting Matt Holmes who was tackled but not released for a Westcombe penalty. Holmes converted from 35m for a 13 – 6 lead.
The restart was taken by Louis Wilson
who fed Joe Theuns
for a typically strong run into the OB’s half. Although Westcombe knocked on in contact, another scrum was won against the head by Sam Perry
, and after a fantastic pick up off his toes by Livett the ball was kicked deep into OB territory. The lineout was knocked on by OBs but gathered by Louis Wilson
who fed the rampaging Tom Dowding on the 22m and he again showed his strength and pace to score his second try after 45 minutes. A Holmes conversion stretched the lead to 20 – 6.
The restart didn’t go 10m but was skilfully gathered by Reece Conlon
who, believing for one moment he was Tom Dowding, shot into the OBs half. Whilst his hand off was as impressive, his pace wasn’t and he was brought to ground on the 10m line. With 20 minutes to go Westcombe rung the changes with Dan Fox
replacing Will Grist and Rory Tanner
rejoining the fray for Joe Birch
Dan was asked to take a short rest after pulling a player back off the ball and the resultant penalty was put into the corner on Westcombe’s 5m line. OBs won the line out and spun the ball wide and they tried to pierce the centre channel where Illyas Morrison stood firm, to his cost, as he was groggily led off the field with concussion (to spend a night in hospital), to be replaced by Ben Hennah
From the scrum restart OBs broke quickly and looked to have scored in the left hand corner but were tackled just short. The ball was quickly recycled across the line but having sucked in the defence they scored a good try in the right hand corner. Despite their earlier travails with the boot, a fine conversion was landed from the side line to bring the score back to 20 - 13 with 13 minutes remaining.
Strong running from the forwards and clever kicking from Holmes and Alex Tagg
saw Westcombe spend the next 5 minutes in the OB half. For probably the first time in the game the very evenly matched forward battle was beginning to go Westcombe’s way with the indefatigable props Reece Conlon
and stephen dalton
leading the way but despite numerous phases of play the OBs defence stood firm. But from turnover ball OBs kicked out of defence and found Rory Tanner
inside his own half in broken play. After breaking two tackles Rory glided first outside then inside his defenders before sprinting for the line. Another Holmes conversion stretched the lead to 27 – 13 with 5 minutes left.
replaced Joe Theuns
and Joe Birch
replaced Alex Tagg
, with Holmes moving to scrum half and Livett to fly half before Tagg returned for the final onslaught 5 minutes later.
Richard A-J caught the restart but was tackled on the half way line and pinged for holding on. OBs took a quick penalty and had another when Westcombe didn’t retreat 10 meters and yet 10 more meters for arguing. With time running out the Yorkshire team were now desperate and moved the ball at pace to their right winger who looked to have scored in the corner only to knock on in the tackle with Matt Swan
. Whilst Westcombe won the scrum some impressive scavenging by OBs gave them ball which was moved across the entire width of the pitch to their speedy left winger who was for all money going to score in the corner until tackled out of play by the ubiquitous Matt Swan
The final whistle blew and the players and supporters celebrated the best achievement by a junior team in Westcombe’s long history. For almost all of this team National rugby at the junior level is over as the rules are being changed and the Colts competition will be capped at U18s from next season.
Thanks are due to the East Midlands RFU for organising the day, and indeed the entire competition, to the referee and his assistants who missed very little and finally to Old Brodleians players and coaches who took defeat as gentlemen.
Such was the intensity of this closely fought match that some tough decisions had to be made by the coaches in terms of substitutions. As a result Josh Cross
, Connor Jarrold
and Elliot Hulf
, each of whom has played an integral role in the team reaching the final, didn’t get on. Such is the team spirit amongst this exceptional group of players that their attitude and support was superb to the end and each was thoroughly deserving of their winners medal. Thanks also go to the travelling reserves Ryan Hackett
and Paul Ashby and to all other players from a squad of 34 that have represented the Colts in this tournament.
This has been a squad wide contribution this season with faces not selected on the day who should be duly noted for their season long efforts. Paul Ashby always there, Ryan Hackett
a stalwart contributor were both un-used travelling reserves.
, Connor Jarrold
and Josh Cross
were all subs but never saw the pitch on the day but their season long contribution is duly noted and respected by all.
Matt Williams, George Skinner
, Matthew Page, Ben Ecclestone, Andy Wren
, John Stainsby all made contributions at different points of the season as well and without these players our collective performance would not have been possible.
Well done boys……NATIONAL PLATE CHAMPIONS 2012, a result that due to changes in the way the EMRU is now doing Colts, that will never be beaten again. Yours will be the last name on that trophy for Under 19’s.