I’m delighted to bring news of the first half of the season in a bumper report!
Let’s start at the very beginning (in the words of Maria von Trapp…)
Preseason training was full of focus, with plans laid and stratagems concocted. And it was great to test out its effectiveness with a challenging match against the Woodbridge RFC colts team – playing friends in a friendly: but this is sport! And the opposition did have some mighty big men in the scrum. Undaunted our boys put up sterling resistance and held the line as equal partners for much of the game. With Will and James incisive in attack and George all-encompassing in defence, and with Saxon’s well-taken conversion securing maximum points on the team’s well-taken try out wide, it was all square at half time. And all square for the match it might have stayed, but for an unlucky bounce which fell to the hosts and offered them the one opening of the second half that either side could take. So honour in defeat by 7-12 for our boys against a team a good three inches taller and two stones heavier man for man.
The next game was against Thomas Mills – another journey into enemy territory. Another redoubtable performance! And victory this time, richly deserved thanks to the excellence of attacking pathways built on firm and resilient defence. Gabe’s early try and Saxon’s conversion settled nerves; Toby’s speedy second brought a swagger to the team! 14-0 – a dream start. What could dampen them? Rain of course! It fell, and with it Thomas Mills found opportunity to respond… 14-7; 14-12… Come on men! Up stepped Will to score and restore some order at 21-12. The second half was a mesmerizingly tight affair – all praise to Will and Toby for their orchestration of our defence, and to Saxon for fine tactical kicking to add to his hat trick of conversions. No more points, and a great victory to celebrate.
Returning to school, the firsts next played King’s Ely with a team bravely covering for peers called away to university open days and the beckoning of their futures. Bravery was to the fore as younger and less experienced players stood tall. But it’s difficult to settle quickly into change and King’s had the advantage of a stable team, leading to two well-worked tries early on. But our players were rapidly building match-play understanding: James and Will combined to score off the back of the scrum; and Gabe crashed over soon after to level the try count. And then – oh glory – Harry stole an interception for a brilliant try to take the lead. The second half started in a frenzy and once again it was Harry who saw the opportunity – a fourth try! A good lead but not a decisive one. And heartbreak followed with only minutes to go as King’s took their own opportunity to strike against the run of play and score – fewer tries but more points. Disaster and defeat; but a great game nonetheless, and sport at its most exhilarating… for the neutrals!
Matches against Colchester, and Bishop’s Stortford in the Cup competition, proved difficult for the team. A small squad and key players called away on university visits once again meant that those who lined up did so more in hope than expectation. That said the spirit and commitment shown was fantastic, and against Colchester in particular the game was very even for the first half only for tiredness eventually to take its toll.
The final game of the first half of term was against Culford. The weather was wintry, and fortune put down a chill finger too… and with both sides struggling to make full squads there was plenty of unpredictability in the proceedings. Culford started the faster, pressing the offside line to the limit and keeping Woodbridge penned in. But slowly our boys asserted themselves more effectively and the whistle blew for half time with all things even at 0-0. The stalemate continued to prove resilient to both sides’ best efforts for much of the second half, only for Culford to take advantage of a bobbling ball and a little space for the referee to acknowledge their touchdown. A successful conversion followed… would be decisive? Not if our boys were to have their way… Will led the charge and Saxon finished it off in fine style in the corner! A conversion from the touchline for the tie… but wind and rain against. Cruelly the conditions prevailed and the ball died just short of clearing the bar. So defeat it was, but glorious in its own way.