Stroud U14s beat their closest rivals Minch in an epic encounter
2nd half performance of immense determination, skill and character to sneak victory at the death
This was the biggest game of the season so far. Away at arch rivals Minch. Normally we expected 3ft snow drifts, fog or driving rain but this time Minch had arranged for a Hurricane from the Azores to blow in to throw us off of our rhythm. Luckily it got slowed down over the Atlantic so the winds were only a minor irritant to handle in the game.
There had already been some inter-club and inter-school rivalry with the Marling-Archway game during the week. Players were tired after plenty of rugby but could they pull out 1 more big performance?
Warmups didn’t start well. Fly-half Will wasn’t sure he could play the game due to injuries from recent games. Keyans calves were causing problems. They really should get these bovine monsters off the common on a Sunday morning and let the golfers have a cow-pat free round…..
Keen golfer Coach Mark realised it was Keyan’s leg calfs instead and got an industrial sized tub of Deep Heat from his van that him and Mk II used on Friday night to get them through the Nomads game. After gelling his hair Keyan used the rest of the medical gel on his legs to free up some movement.
But worse was to come. Liam turned up with a black eye the size of a Xmas pudding and Arthur with a knee and leg injury that had more strapping on than an Egyptian Mummy. Both were ruled out of the game.
Forwards: Stoner, Orgy, Lucas, Mr T, Laurie, Sauce, Euan, Keyan
Backs: Hilly, Will, Dave, Josh, Joe, Fin, Alex
Subs: Darrion, Jedd, Haydn, Tom, Nibbler, Callum (Liam and Arthur present but injured)
Stroud kicked off and Minch went to plan ‘A’. Their big #8 Will picked up the ball and took aim at the heart of the Stroud defence – just like he had done midweek for the Marling team. This time his plan back-fired spectacularly as Dave met him head on and quite literally manhandled him back 10 yards to put everyone on warning that this game was going to be a real battle.
Minch kicked the ball away and Fin was able to return it. Will then placed his own good kick down the right wing and somehow Stroud chased it down and managed to win a scrum possession in the Minch 22. The scrum was duly won and Will cut left. He dummied to Dave and then turned up inside towards the posts after faking a Minch defender. As Minch tacklers closed in Dave appeared on the right shoulder again and Will placed the perfect pass back inside to the right and Dave scored the first try under the posts. Good conversion for a 7-0 Stroud lead.
Minch kicked off and Euan took the ball into a maul. He did very well to keep possession and then get to ground. Stroud won the ruck and Miner Hilly dug out the ball and Dave sprinted down the pitch and was finally pushed out of play on the right wing close to the Minch 22. Hilly had gone down injured and without a replacement scrum half Delia worked her magic and Tom was able to reset his dislocated ankle, shoulder, and broken rib and bravely run back to join the fray. These tunnel collapses during the rucks were going to be a frequent problem in the 1st half so Miner Hilly would need to watch his yellow canary and run for cover if a wave of Minch forward pressure threatened to envelop him.
Minch won their lineout and ran it out from deep. Sauce and Lucas combined with some good tackles. Minch were starting to impose themselves though and kept going through the phases to gain valuable ground. Will and Dave tried to slow them down with big tackles but Minch were relentless. They finally got their rewards with a strong run to the right and helped by some missed tackles they scored in the corner. The Stroud coaches were sure they heard the Minch back shouting ‘let me through and you can copy my French homework’ – so perhaps that was the excuse for the missed tackles. The kick was missed and Stroud led 7-5.
Stroud kicked off and Minch ran it back at pace but Josh put in a great tackle. Stroud won a penalty but the kick missed touch and Minch ran it back. Kicks were traded again as both teams sought territorial advantage. Minch adapted best of all though and went on a weaving run with more missed tackles (more homework swap arrangements?) and scored under the posts. This time the kick was good and Minch had taken a 12-7 lead.
Another Stroud kickoff and another strong Minch runback. This time Alex was able to put in a try saving tackle and also force a lineout. Stroud knocked on though and Minch won their resulting scrum. Their powerful backs made good progress and camped themselves on the Stroud line. Just as we thought we’d held them out the ball came right and Minch scored in the corner. The difficult kick was missed. The Minch lead was now 17-7 and Stroud’s heads were beginning to drop. It couldn’t get any worse could it?
Oh yes it could….. Minch ran back another kickoff and their #8 brushed off some frantic tackles on the wing and cut back in towards the posts but he didn’t count on Dave chasing him down and putting in a try saving tackle. Minch camped on the line for a few phases but Stroud won a turnover and Keyan and Dave ran it out. Dave then kicked for space but Minch covered the ball well and ran back down the right wing and scored in the corner for a 22-7 lead. The kick was missed.
The ref blew his whistle for half time and Stroud had been smashed off the ball park – just like we are used to doing to other teams.
The match reporter was struggling to find a way to put a positive spin on this performance. ‘Lipstick on a Pig’ and ‘Mutton dressed as lamb’ sprung to mind but then he heard the Churchillian words of the coaching staff and realised their might be a chance we could re-group and put in a respectable performance in the 2nd half. Could Stroud work a miracle and slow down these Minch players who’s midweek training sessions of ignoring the tackle pads and instead running through the cows on the common were paying dividends. Even the Minch forwards showed great technique in the loose with their cow-tipping inspired technique in the rucks explaining their dominance so far.
As the players ran back out onto the pitch a few of the builder parents offered some ladders and ropes to help the kids climb out of the immense hole they had dug themselves into. Perhaps that’s why they had played so poorly – they were demonstrating their building skills to do some paid work experience over the upcoming half term holidays?
Half time: Minch 22- 7 Stroud
Stroud kicked off – had plenty of practice at that so far – but this time Minch knocked on. Teams traded possession at scrums and rucks. Stroud were awarded a penalty and Will showed the urgency we needed with a quick tap and short kick. Joe chased it down well to secure good ball. Darrion had a strong run, followed by Stoner and Euan. Minch were penalised so Will kicked for the 22. Minch won the lineout though and bravely ran it out from under their posts. Eventually Dave won a turnover but it was all to no avail as knock-ons and scrums dominated the next few phases as both teams stepped up their defensive work and forcing errors. Eventually Stroud were rewarded with winning a scrum and a Keyan run down the left wing. Good play by Callum, Laurie and Orgy secured the ball at the ruck and Darrion spotted the smallest gap and picked up the ball and powered through the gap to score close to the posts. Will did well with the kick to close the score to 22-14 and start to show the Dunkirk spirit (aka Stroud passion) we had asked for in the half time speeches.
Minch kicked off and Keyan ran it back in typical combative style. The deep heat and finally worked its magic and he was a becoming a raging bull – quite apt on a common surrounded by cows. He was brought down by a combination of a Matadors cape (Spanish or Catalonian to be topical) and a Farmers tazer but this just gave Dave and Darrion chance to open their legs and run down the left wing. Minch were awarded a scrum though and they sniped up the blindside but Alex playing at winger now forced them out of play. Stroud won the lineout but knocked on in a subsequent attacking move. Minch won their scrum and kicked for the corner but a combination of Keyan and Fin secured the ball. Stroud were feeling brave and ran the ball out from under the posts with Stoner giving a lovely pass to Darrion who sprinted halfway up the pitch and was brought down by a last gasp tackle. Minch were penalised at the ruck though and Stroud kicked for the 22. Callum came off for a well earnt break and it was great to see him play so well.
Stroud won their lineout and Dave improvised with a short kick for the try line. Bad luck was the only thing that stopped him picking up his own kick and scoring under the posts. Minch were awarded a scrum on the 5 yard line but Stroud showed great heart with fantastic scrummaging by Jedd, Mr T and Laurie forcing a turnover that Keyan gleefully picked up and scored by the posts. Will’s good kick closed the score to 22-21. Was the comeback still on – how many minutes were left? The game had been stopped for a number of times for Delia to repair the players and also to administer beta-blockers to the coaching staff.
Minch kicked long but Dave and Keyan ran the ball back to half way. Minch stopped them though showing the passion they still had to hand on for victory. Will improvised with a deft kick that Stroud recovered. Minch were penalised at the breakdown and Will asked for the kicking tee. Very brave to kick from long distance into the wind to try and win the game – but that’s what we expect from our captain to lead by example.
The crowd hushed. The kick went up and before it had crossed the cross-bar we could tell it was successful because flag man Mark flashed a grin as big as you like. Stroud had taken the lead again 24-22. Would Minch come back from this?
Rugby historian Lucas was heard to say – reminds him of the World Cup in 2003 and England over Australia. He wasn’t even born then – or perhaps he was and that explains his physical size towering over most other players…. Next thing you know Mike Tindall jogged over from the Minch bench, pulled on a Stroud shirt and was heard to say ‘ World Cup 2003 – great memories - let me on the pitch and close this thing out’…..
Minch kicked long and a Stroud knock-on gave them a great attacking platform on the Stroud 22 with options left and right. Minch won their scrum and attacked right but good pressure from the backs forced a knock-on. Stroud won their scrum and Keyan pounded up the left wing and was eventually felled. Minch recovered the ball but were forced out of play. Stroud won their lineout and instead of playing defensive they did what they do best and attacked again. Centre Tindall took on the ball at pace and barrelled his way through the Minch players – dwarfs flying in all directions. It really was World Cup 2011 re-visited now. Tindall scored in the right corner and the players erupted in relief. Then we realised it wasn’t Mike but Dave that had scored. Mike was back at home tending to Zara’s horses evidentially……
Will missed the kick but it didn’t matter as Stroud had pulled out to a 29-22 lead and the ref blew his whistle for full time. Stroud had achieved a miracle and come back to score 22 unanswered points against very strong opposition.
Full time: Minch 22- 29 Stroud
Players, friends, and school-mates exchanged handshakes (and homework) and met in the club house to eat cheesy pasta. Speaking of cheese there is plenty in this match report…..
Both club captains did speeches to congratulate each other and Will was awarded Man of the Match. Just imagine what he would have done if fully fit !!
The match reporter was relieved. No need to put lipstick on this 2nd half performance. It would write itself and prove to be a peach of a performance after all.
What an immense game and great character shown by both teams in this absorbing encounter. Players had come off injured and got themselves patched back up again and went back out to battle – very impressive as this truly was a physical encounter that both teams didn’t step away from. Stroud’s fitness showed through at the end so those warm-up drills are worth the effort boys….
Stroud had dug themselves out of a massive hole and built a very impressive foundation to carry on the rest of their season with – 3 County Cup games to look forward to now.
Minch provided match report - complimentary of our performance! - available here