Its a funny old game this Rugby business...
The 14As round robin campaign decamped to sunny Reeds Weybridge and received some pearls of wisdom from a team set for revenge
Some call it "The Ultimate Team Game". Some say our game is only called "Rugby" because the name "Assault and Battery" was already taken. Some point out that in the game of Rugby, to go forwards, you must go backwards...
Well today was definitely a day for going backwards - the proof of the pudding will be to see if we can use it to go forwards next week.
Round 5 of Surrey Rugby's "League Lite" round robin comp was originally to have been a home match at Fortress Farnham but Reeds Weybridge U14s were hosting an event involving a visit from three England players including the Captain, Dylan Hartley, and so a venue swap was eagerly agreed upon.
At the appointed hour, both teams began to eye each other up. The Reeds team appeared to consist of a surprising number of 14 year old Giants. They must feed them on a diet of smaller children and haunches of venison caught in the wilds of St George's Hills! Amongst the selection of mountainous "boys" in Blue and Red the coaches recognised an astonishing number of recent Surrey and Harlequins players. All of the Reeds 4,5,6,7 and 8 forwards were County players or better and perhaps half of their back line also looked familiar. The Reeds right wing was a good 6'2" and with Jack Nowell out, we wondered if Dylan Hartley might have been dispatched to Reeds on a scouting mission by E. Jones Esq. Another familiar face was that man, Elijah, who until recently had been the London Irish Number 8 most famous for giving our Dylan Milner a ride up the 1st pitch on his way to the try line at Wilkinson Way when we played them in May this year.
It was beginning to look like a long afternoon was in prospect and our boys looked a little overwhelmed at the thought of the battle to come.
Farnham won the toss and chose the downhill leg. Tom Garner kicked off with a long ranging boot but the ball was eagerly snapped up by a Reedonian mobile escarpment who rapidly trucked the ball uphill. A few moments and a few deft passes later, the ball was popped down directly under the posts and was subsequently easily converted. 7-0 down 2 minutes into the game and the Farnham boys were wondering what had hit them.
Another kick off and another nice take from a burly Reeds forward. The Farnham boys were clearly rattled, failed to compete strongly enough for the ball at the breakdown and soon enough the ball was in the hands of Elijah who managed an astonishing turn of speed without Dylan on his back to score in the corner. Despite the acute angle a second conversion brought the score to 14-0.
And so the first half continued in the same vein. Farnham would kick off and deliver the ball to the hands of the opposition who with only a few exceptions largely managed to retain it, making it rather easier for them to score than us. After a total of 5 tries, the score was 33-0 and the half time whistle brought blessed relief.
At the half time team talk, Dominic gave the boys a few home truths. Our failure to compete for the ball at the breakdown meant too many turnovers and too little possession. The intimidation factor was causing a rash of missed tackles and if the second half was not to go the way of the first, we needed to fix both aspects. At this point the boys really showed their character. Suddenly some fierce jackaling for the ball was in evidence and some big tackles on their big guns went in. Despite the fact that we were now heading uphill, some pressure was being imposed on the Reeds boys for a change and this held them. At one point a great kick and chase from Max Campbell-Harris was followed through by Tom Garner who picked up the ball and put it down over the try line only to have the try disallowed because of a doubt over whether the ball was over the line (See Photo Below - The try line is the white thing immediately behind the ball !).
I would never be churlish enough to suggest that a match official needed a new pair of specs but given the score line it did not seem as if the benefit of the doubt would have been too much to ask occasionally. Fortunately we can be sure that none of the referee's decisions would have changed the result. Reeds were the better team on the day; that was not in doubt.
Another try for the talented Reeds right wing came next but this was followed swiftly by retaliation for Aston Ulisse who broke away with a dancing run down the wing to score under the posts. A nice conversion from Finlay Anderson left the score at 45-7 to the home side.
So - A game of two halves. A rout in the first but by fixing the errors, the second half saw a much stronger performance. Surprisingly Reeds had lost to a very physical Chobham side earlier in the season; we must be prepared for a bruising encounter if we don't want to be overawed by Chobham's aggression next Sunday.
Special mentions after the game went to Finlay Anderson for his kicking out of hand, Max Foskett for his get stuck in attitude, Adam Ogilvie for his work rate and Tom Casale for some great carries. Podium points went to Hamish Watson for some big tackles, Will Partridge for his epic battles with the big Reeds forwards in the second half but top step went to Aston Ulisse who really got to pin his ears back on a number of occasions today.
After a swift match tea, the team came out to meet Dylan Hartley, Dan Cole and Jamie George who had generously given up their afternoon to come down to the club to meet the junior players, watch bit of Rugby , coach some minis and inevitably sign their fingers off.
Good on them.