Combe U14s win hard fought encounter against Blackheath
The Tornados left the festive spirit behind them with a mean defensive display to shut out the current Kent champions.
The teams last met in mini rugby so both sides were keen to test themselves and see how they had developed over the past two years. The Tornados were hoping to build on good results before Christmas against Southend and Hertford, as they start to broaden their fixture list. Their opponents, Blackheath, won the Kent Cup in 2015 and Combe players were well aware of their big powerful runners, who had caused teams a lot of problems in open play last season.
Combe kicked off up the slope and the early exchanges demonstrated the strong defensive lines of both teams, both in terms of quick line speed and effective first-up tackles, which meant that neither team was able to make any meaningful line breaks. The Tornados pack continued their upward trend this season with great commitment at the breakdown. Constant Combe pressure saw Blackheath playing most of their rugby in their own half, apart from some searing bursts down the wings which had the Combe cover defence scrambling, with some timely interventions from JP and Jacob, and Max throwing himself fearlessly into the path of runners twice his size (including one try-saving, if painful, block of a kick ahead by carefully putting his head in the way!). The best opportunity of the first half came from a rolling maul which made 20 metres as it rumbled towards the Blackheath line (and probably brought a tear to Norman’s eye as forwards coach). However, solid defence from Blackheath kept a clean sheet at half time. (HT 0-0)
Confidence was high as Combe turned around with the slope and slight wind in their favour. Alex started to turn the rushing Blackheath defence with a series of grubber kicks and chips over the top. The pack began to dominate in the scrum and get an edge for the first time in the match. The pressure told as the Tornados were awarded a penalty in front of the posts which, given how close the game was, Alex rightly decided was a valuable opportunity for three points. (3-0)
Nathan caught the ball from the restart and set off on a weaving run through the opposition defenders, only being caught a couple of metres from the try line. The forwards quickly secured the ball and a controlled series of tight phases saw Combe battering away at the desperate Blackheath defence, until the control and patience of the pack was rewarded with Jacob diving over the line for the first try of the match, converted by Alex. (10-0)
Blackheath looked a little rattled and the Tornados sensed the opportunity to take advantage. A break from Matthew, quick support from the forwards at the breakdown, a box kick from Ben, and a series of phases of play across the field and back, interrupted by two defensive penalties, resulted in George powering over through a pile of bodies for a well worked team try. (15-0)
Combe were fortunate with the next passage of play from the restart as a Blackheath player kicked the ball back towards their own line, with the full back out of position, Nathan winning the chase to touch down, converted by Ben. (22-0)
At this point, with less than 10 minutes to go, Blackheath showed great character and stormed into Combe with a sustained period of aggressive, driving play that had the Tornados scrambling and conceding a series of penalties as they struggled to contain their opponents. Blackheath were camped two metres out from the Combe try-line for almost the remainder of the match and only some outstanding team defence and heroic individual tackles kept the big attacking runners from crossing the line and grounding the ball. (FT 22-0)
Congratulations to both teams for playing a hard, competitive match, in the right spirit, and I am sure both teams will look forward to future fixtures.