Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

A long way, but worth it

[Having written the following I see Mike's done a match report as well (below) which is no bad thing, having two different views of proceedings. Enjoy!]

Wimborne is a long way. I think we kinda knew that anyway, but the fact that Hayley et al managed to get through virtually all of Matrix Revolutions on the way down before we even made it to Hampshire (let alone Dorset) was indicative. Randy's iPod filled in the rest of the journey, as did the Two Towers on the way back once we had dropped Randy off with her machine gun toting friends - but more on that anon. After all the main reason for spending five hours in a car with the sound system turned up to 11 was to get to the match - and it wasn't a bad one too.

It has to be said that a fair few people have been looking on this game with a degree of trepidation. If there was a "Club of the Year" last season it was undoubtedly Wimborne, who seemed to come from no-where to dominate the U17 season with podium positions in all three national events - Cup, 10s and 7s - while at the same time remaining a pretty decent bunch. I think that there were some concerns that we were on for a damn good hiding, a concern that probably grew a bit when it was realised how many of our forwards we'd be missing.

Come the day, though, our hosts (who were helped by Salisbury) lent us a few girls who played very well indeed against their erstwhile team-mates allowing a very competitive 15-a-side game to be played.

And what a surprising game it was. Wimborne had a couple of girls out and a few new girls in their team, which may have been significant, but rather than the fast running game we'd sort of expected (based on the conditions and past experience of the "girls in black", who had now become "girls in green and white" just to confuse us presumably) we had a forwards battle that was as close to complete stalemate for the first two third of the first half as its possible to get. Until the final few minutes I'm not sure that either side managed to get into their opponents 22 and its possible that some backs - certainly wings - may have been wondering exactly why they were there...

It was a real war of attrition, but a war in which gradually Wimborne gained the upper hand - their pack getting the better of the rather makeshift combination we had been able to field (certainly light on a prop - Carla filling in here, but its not her best position). Wimborne did close on our line near the end of the half, but it remained 0-0 and never looked like being much else.

The second half did result in some more open play, perhaps as the forwards on both sides began to tire. Both sides were, however, guilty of not moving the ball quick enough - Wimborne possibly more than ourselves as we were lucky on two or three occasions when the centres suddenly came over all white-line fever when they had wings outside them with massive overlaps.

The deadlock was, however, broken near the start of the second half - and one of our oldest problems was a key contributory factor, viz fannying around and ultimately fluffing responses to restarts. The Wimborne kick-off - which was not a deep kick - bounced around for seemingly an age with those nearest seeming to treat it as an unexploded bomb, and then when someone did take on the job of picking it up a rather wild pass (perhaps a result of the rapid arrival of the Wimborne hordes) seemed to hit Nikki(?) in the head. The referee then took a 10 metre exception to something that Sasha may or may not have said, and Wimborne now had a penalty well into our 22. Some sterling defence kept them out for fair while but we simply could into clear our lines and there was a degree of inevitability over the eventual score.

The second try was - ironically - an object lesson in how to return a restart. In fact Randy's kick was very good - deep and into space - but Wimborne organised very quickly and were soon pushing deep into our territory. Again a long period of defence, but again we simply could not get it away, eventually their forwards driving over in the corner.

As the clock began to run down we did finally stage an attack and were camped on their line for the last five minutes or so, but failed to take full advantage of a series five metre penalties and scrums, the ball being held up over the line at least twice before Wimborne finally cleared into touch to end the game.

It was a defeat then - but 10-0 against a team of Wimborne's quality ain't bad, especially after the woeful performance in the training game with Basford last week. Randy may have complained about not getting to see much ball on the wing, but at least it was getting to Jess at outside centre. In practice there was little to choose between the sides beyond Wimborne's more powerful pack. It was a loss, but a loss with many positives - like Kettering last season... who we went on to beat, of course, later on when it really mattered. So... who knows...

And so - after a very convivial post match session - it was the long way home, especially long for those of us travelling via deepest Hampshire to meet the friendly folk Randy lives with. There is something surreal about pulling off a main road in an ordinary leafy suburban town and entering the world of green and khaki. In some respects the place where we parked to unload Randy and her baggage looked like a university halls of residence, except with added extra tanks, APVs, and guys with SLRs wandering around. The feeling of unease that this provoked was the ramped up a bit when Hayley and Carla managed to set the car alarm off while I was handing the pass back, resulting in a speedy exit before we were suspected of being a bomb or something. Actually the guys on the gate seemed rather pleased to see the back of us...

County next weekend, then... well rather in the lap of RFUW as it should be Regional 10s but my guess is that it probably won't be unless the denizens of Twickenham really manage to pull a dramatically impressive rabbit out of the hat being as no venues have been set yet, never mind any calls for actual entries. Hey ho...

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