Blue skies – check.
Sunshine – check.
Breezy – check.
Eleven fired up Wolves ready to put in to action what they’d been learning for the last few months – check.
From pre-match warm ups the lads were tuned in. Their spirits were high and it was easy to sense they couldn’t wait to get on the pitch.
First game: Westcombe Park versus Cranbrook 2
The pre-match message was to start fast. “Do not get caught ball watching”. They came out the traps absolutely firing. From word go the tackles came in strong from the usual suspects: Matthew up for the first tackle as per, Jack Piller hitting strong and hard, Jamie powering in hard, William flying in with his precision technique and taking the game to the opposition, Toby getting stuck in showing he was up for it. Very quickly our lads gained the upper hand turning over the ball with tackle after tackle and on their first possession showed all the coaches that they had been listening perfectly to their “offload” tuition. Jamie running up hard and offloading in to Matthew who ran strong and straight and scored our first try. It was the perfect quick start and the boys could sense they were on the front foot. 1-0 half time and the chaps came out strong and fast to start the second. They kept their tackling coming in fast and machine-like. Cranbrook were pushed back in to their own half which was testament to our boys’ focus on the tackle. Another turnover, another passage of play in to Matthew, after having seen Oscar battling as hard as ever, bursting through for his second and quickly followed by Jamie stealing the ball and racing through to grab his first and the team’s third to end the match 3-0
Team skip off laughing leaving the coaches staring at each other. This could be a good day !
Second game: Westcombe Park versus Alleynians
From their first match Alleynians were well prepared, disciplined and try hungry. This was going to be a tough match and the boys were briefed accordingly. Again, we needed a fast start and strong in the tackle.
Straight from the whistle they showed again they were up for the challenge and again the tackles came in strong and fast – Toby, William and both Jacks doing their work with Matthew keeping both the defensive line in check and the boys focused on the passage of play. Alleyians were definitely stronger in their game and they showed their tackling spirit too but our lads again ran the ball fast and offloaded well and moved up as a team. Their hard work paying off with a well played move in the middle of the pack to get the ball to Jamie who burst through to run hard at the Alleyian defence and score our first try. 1-0 half time. Second half and the boys came out strong again with the play-of-the-game awarded to Jack Pep and Toby pairing up and driving the Alleyian attack over their own try line – a pretty special move. Having kept their attack pegged back to 10 metres out the lads earned a well deserved turn-over after some great tackles from Alex and Oscar – both stepping up and having a great game. A quick start with Mathew and Jamie passing in to Jack Piller who showed some quick feet, side stepped and ran through to score and take us to a deserved 2-0 lead. The lads’ tails were up and kept the tempo going to turn the ball over after 7 strong tackles. A quick start pass from Ollie to Matthew who took the ball on the run and ran through to end the game 3-0.
Final group game: Westcombe Park versus Edenbridge 2
The final game and the boys showed no signs of slowing down. We told the boys that we needed some tries in case things came to try-difference. So off they set. Once again they started on the defence but if anything that played in to our strengths. Both Jacks put in strong tackles quickly, Toby continued his machine-like approach to defence, William remaining focused and never missing his tackle, Ollie going in hard and fast, Benjamin getting stuck in and upping his tackle rate and Oscar battling hard – he may be small but underestimate him at your peril ! In came the tries with Ollie running up and scoring a quick brace and William capping off a superb display to grab his first try and take us to half time 3-0 up. The second half was much of the same. After a brief drop in concentration allowing Edenbridge to grab a quick try the lads all stepped up to put the game out of reach. A well worked try by James topped up by another try by Ollie saw out the match 5-1 and took us in to the semi finals.
Semi final: Westcombe Park versus Warlingham
We knew Warlingham were a well prepared disciplined side after having spent a weekend training with them. They lined up with a huge team but that didn’t put our boys off. Again they started in defence but went in strong and hard and quick and pegged Warlingham back. Things were going well but a quick break out wide from Warlingham in to their fastest boy who did extremely well and ran the length of the pitch to take them quickly 1-0 up. This was going to be a tough match! The chaps hunkered down and worked some good attacking play in to the Warlingham half who in turn were incredibly disciplined in their defence – matching every move and putting in some hard tackles. They turned over well but our lads continued to believe in their game and kept them pegged back in to their own half to turn the ball back. This was our chance and with some great work we saw the ball taken up the field by Toby, Jack Piller came in as 9 to feed the ball out right to Matthew who ran the ball up diagonally and offloaded perfectly in to Jamie who ran through to score the finest try this coach saw all day (maybe slightly biased!). Game on! 1-1 Warlingham came on strong but our guys continued to show their tireless commitment to the tackle and won the possession. A slight slip in concentration saw a wild long pass out left intercepted well by Warlingham who ran through to take us in to half time leading 2-1. The second half seemed to go in a flash. Wave after wave of disciplined attacking moves matched by strong and fast defensive lines by both teams – as a new coach it was a delight to watch two teams of 8 and 9 year olds playing such great rugby. However a couple of lapses in Westcombe Park discipline just at a crucial point allowed Warlingham to grab their 3rd try to end the game 3-1 deserved winners. Before the obligatory “three cheers” the referee took both teams aside to compliment them both on such a fine display of rugby.
We lost to a fantastic side but on balance we lost due to a couple of handling errors and penalties. Physically they were a much bigger side but in reality that didn’t play through in the match. I’ll echo the comments of the referee in the end “That could’ve gone either way”.
All day the boys executed the rugby we as coaches have asked of them for months. Offloads, focus on handling, disciplined defensive line, tackling high up the pitch.
So that’s where our day ended. Disappointed? Of course. But every one of those players played the finest rugby I have seen them play and they each should be incredibly proud – I know the coaches are! (Team: Jamie Crossley, Matthew Chick, Benjamin Reeves, William Reeves, Ollie Luscombe, James Heffernan, Alex Haynes, Jack Piller, Jack Peppiat, Toby Barenburg, Oscar Watson)