Comeback Kids Claim County Cup Cliffhanger over Cinderford
By russell vale
Stroud U14’s win a thrilling County Cup contest with an unbelievable drop goal finish
So time for the most anticipated match report of the season……until the next one.
It was a County Cup decider between the 2 unbeaten teams in the group:
East of River vs West of River
Valleys vs Foresters
Blue vs Red and Black
Stroud vs Cinderford
Stroud were missing a few players with recent injuries to Liam and Nibbler forcing them to pull out – but they were there to support their team mates.
Warmups were chaotic –no space to move, dropped passes, cold hands in a biting wind. It didn’t bode well for a quick start to the game. The 2 minutes Remembrance silence was impeccably observed by everyone. The tension rose as both teams prepared to go out to battle on the pitch that luckily did not resemble the Somme, unlike the car park.
Forwards: Stoner, Orgy, Lucas, Darion, Laurie, Sauce, Euan, Keyan
Backs: Hilly, Will, Dave, Arthur, Josh, Finn, Alex
Subs: Mr T, Jedd, Haydn, Tom, Joe, Callum, Flash, Eddie
Stroud kicked off and Cinderford started strongly with attacking phases left and right. Forwards and backs taking it in turns to batter the Stroud defensive line. Big tackles from Stoner and Keyan showed that Stroud were up to the task though. Stroud kept their discipline though and a big tackle by Lucas and quick rucking by Laurie and Orgy won Stroud a penalty. They took a quick tap penalty and the ball came out left to Josh who sprinted up the wing but was tackled into next week by an alert Cinderford covering tackle. The ball was secured though and came back quickly to the right with Hilly sending a great pass to Will who passed onto Dave who lit the afterburners and sprinted down the right wing brushing off attempted tackles. He was intercepted though by the Full Back but as we thought the opportunity had gone a great inside pass to fast supporting Arthur gave Stroud the first try under the posts. Easy conversion for a 7-0 lead.
Cinderford kicked long – picking on their ex-player Keyan. They must have forgotten what he was like as he ran the ball back hard but 3 tackles later he was dragged down. Infringement at the ruck gave Stroud a penalty that Will kicked for touch. Stroud won their lineout but a loose ball was picked up by Cinderford #8 and he attacked the Stroud try line but a last ditch tackle by Dave denied him the try and he knocked on. Stroud had the scrum 5 and a great shove by the forwards won the ball against a powerful and imposing Cinderford pack. Stroud had 2 options – kick for touch as the coaching manual says in 99% of times, or set up for an attacking move. We genuinely saw Alex lined up outside the dead ball line – closer to a 4x4 pickup in Rodboro church than the posts. Therefore it had to be the Katrina set move. Nope it was the Dave crash ball. He took the ball at pace inside the try area and set his sights on the Cinderford defenders. Swerved one, ran over two, cut inside another, outran the full back and scored under the opposite posts for a 100 yard stunner of a try. As the parents were gathering their breath Dave nonchalantly wandered back – looking for two lungs, a hamstring and a hernia. He’d need those later to replace the other body parts that got damaged. Another easy conversion for Will and a 14-0 lead to Stroud. Stroud were in dreamland but the Cinderford machine was going to come back strong for sure.
Cinderford kicked short and Euan caught it well under pressure. A ruck formed and Stroud won another penalty. Another excellent Will kick gave Stroud an attacking lineout that they caught cleanly and set up a drive. Ball out to Will who did a sublime dummy, drew another defender and passed to Arthur who made good yards. Then onto Keyan but Cinderford knew what to expect and their excellent defence forced a turnover. Sauce was competing well at the breakdown and making Cinderford earn every hard yard. A few pick and drives from their big forwards sucked in the defenders with brave tackling from Orgy, Lucas and Stoner just delaying the inevitable. The ball came out quick through the powerful backs and crisp passing drew the Stroud defenders but kept the ball alive with the right winger. He sprinted down the right wing but a combined Josh-Alex tackle on the 22 denied a try. Cinderford were supporting well though and went blind down the wing again but Keyan man handled the player out of play.
Stroud won their lineout and ran right. Sauce and Darion both made good runs but Cinderford held up a maul and earned a scrum on the Stroud 22. They duly won this and their powerful #8 picked up the ball and ran left to score their first try. The kick was missed with the score now 14-5 Stroud.
Stroud kicked too short so Cinderford took a scrum on halfway. They attacked powerfully but more stout tackling from Finn forced a knockon. Stroud won their scrum and attacked left. First Arthur made a gap out of nothing. Then Keyan and Stoner took the ball on. Cinderford were incredibly hard to break through though and kept forcing Stroud back at the rucks. Dave released the pressure with a long kick that Cinderford just won with a long accurate lineout throw that launched another attacking phase. They expertly attacked down the right again and this time their pacy winger got past the last ditch diving tackles and he scored in the corner. Alert chasing back from Josh though forced the touch down in the corner though and not an easy run under the posts. The tough kick from wide was just missed. How crucial could those 2 points be?
Another Stroud kickoff and with the wind in their sails (as tribute to Ed the sailor) Cinderford launched a devastating barrage of an attack. Flank left, flank right. Send in the big tanks to secure more ball. Out to the backs who saw a gap and attacked the line. Alex dumped the centre on his back but it was too late as he did an expert timed pass to the winger who scored in the right corner. Again the conversion was missed – but now Cinderford had scraped a lead at 15-14. Stroud looked on in disbelief at this ‘Shock and Awe’ attack that in 5 minutes had wiped out their hard work. Worse was to come as a lengthy injury timeout was needed to get Dave off the pitch and miss the remainder of the game. A re-jig with Josh to centre and Joe out to wing.
Stroud kicked off and a good kick chase and tackle by Euan earnt Stroud a penalty. Will saw a gap and took a quick tap penalty and then kicked for a gap but the wind bounced the ball out of play before we could recover it. Cinderford won their lineout but Stroud managed to steal it. Josh had a good run but was tackled strongly and would eventually lead to him missing the 2nd half. Stroud were excellent at the rucks though and kept Cinderford forwards at bay. Hilly did more excellent passing to setup the next attack that was eventually stopped by a knock-on. Cinderford won their scrum and attacked left but a crossing violation halted a promising move for them. The half petered out with various scrums and lineouts but Stroud showing their heart with combative runs from Laurie and Stoner.
Half time whistle went and both teams stopped for a well earnt breather. Stroud had been immense in the first half but Cinderford had clawed their way into a narrow lead and inflicted some punishment on a number of Stroud players. Could the ‘finishers’ come in for Stroud and hold off a determined Forest team ? It would be an immense ask…… Another re-jig of the subs with Keyan moving to centre and Flash, Eddie and Mr T joining the mayhem.
A call had gone out to Painswick to see if we could transfer in their tackling machine of a full back to help slow down the rampaging Cinderford backs. Alex took this as a threat to job security and vowed to show Cinderford what he could do in the 2nd half.
Half time: Stroud 14 - 15 Cinderford
Cinderford kicked off and Joe showed great technique with an over-the-shoulder catch. The teams traded attacking and defending phases. Stroud had a scrum that Will attacked the blindside but this was a planned move to then do a switch pass back inside to Keyan who sprinted left. He was hauled down but the ball stayed alive with Joe carrying on the move and then Stoner dishing out his typical forceful running. Another ruck and good ball protection from Orgy, Sauce and Lucas set up a Rhino call. But Rhino was more Cheetah as Flash saw a gap and took the ball straight past the Cinderford pack. He was stopped though and this time Euan called Rhino and the forwards got their way and had some fun running the punishing few yards. Cinderford were penalised though as they tried to stop the Rhino barrage. This gave Will a penalty kick to try and reclaim the lead but the kick just drifted left in the swirling wind.
Cinderford did a drop-out 22 and kicked long. Laurie had anticipated well and ran the ball back strongly – he was having a fab game in all phases. Keyan then took on the ball and Flash had a snipe down the right wing but was forced out of play. Cinderford were penalised for a non-straight lineout which Stroud decided to take as a scrum. Good choice as another strong push with help from a fresh Mr T and Eddie secured good ball. Stroud attacked left and the ball was close to the try line but more impressive Cinderford defence held out Stroud and won a turnover. They attacked right and exploited a gap in the Stroud defence. Alex was the last chance and he put in a fine try saving tackle. Stroud won the ball at the ruck and ran it back well with Will, Arthur and Finn. More stout defence though won another turnover and this time Cinderford opted to kick high. Alex caught cleanly and juked his way past a few tacklers. He was dragged down but Cinderford were penalised and Will showed great technique to kick long and into touch.
Stroud won their lineout on the 22 with a leaping catch from Laurie. This set up a driving move but Cinderford showed great technique to steal the ball. Again they kicked long to relieve pressure but Alex was waiting with another catch and run back. At the next ruck Flash set a good move to the right. Will did an excellent dummy and cut inside. As Cinderford closed him down he set up an attacking move to Keyan but he saw glory and forgot to catch the ball as the pitch opened up in front of him. Cinderford won their scrum and attacked right. The ball eventually came to one of their big guys (OK – they were all big!) and he powered down the right wing. Alex showed great technique to force him down the wing and then tackle him out of play. Lineout to Stroud but the ball was lost in the wind. Their biggest guy got the ball and set his sights on the Stroud try line but hadn’t reckoned on Alex waiting with another try saving tackle and subsequent knock-on. Little guys 1, Big guys 0. Glos DPP tackle technique had claimed another victim……
Sauce secured the loose ball and Stroud launched another barrage of attacking runs. Eddie put his head down and forced his way past the gain line. Lucas and Mr T combined were clearing out like no tomorrow. Cinderford players falling like skittles. Stroud were still camped in the Cinderford half but not able to penetrate the organised Forest fortifications. They had dug in well to withstand the constant Stroud attacks. But Cinderford also had the firepower to launch their own threatening moves. Another long range attack was parried by Alex and this time he stole the ball as well. Good pursuit by Will then setup an attacking move down the left wing. A lovely interchange of passes between Will, Laurie and Euan threatened to score but Cinderford were determined to not fold. The game was stopped while Arthur was carried off the pitch with a knee injury. We looked around for another back replacement. Delia had put in about 300 yards of hard running with her medical bag so she was an option but Jenks had forgotten to RFU register her so we sent on Darion instead to play winger. Stroud were going big in the backs – because forwards were stepping up to play in any position they could. Could the forwards remember the backs pre-planned moves or would they just shout Rhino and try and run over people?
Stroud run the scrum restart and setup a new backs move called ‘footy’. The ball came out fast to the right. Finn made a juggling catch and threatened to knock on so adapted with a sliding footy tackle move that managed to kick the ball backwards to Darion who caught it cleanly. Confused by the new move Darion resorted to ‘default mode’ and just ran straight and over a few people until he got chopped down by a big tackle that forced him into touch. Cinderford won the lineout and again kicked long to relieve pressure. This time Alex caught the ball and ran left. Good support from Joe kept the attack going. Cinderford forced a turnover though and ran back strongly themselves. Good tackles from Eddie, Finn and Jedd kept Cinderford at bay. New Tom joined the fray and did some good tackling. Stroud forced a knock-on and won their scrum under pressure from a strong Cinderford push. Eddie went for a run,then new Tom. Cinderford were getting frustrated and gave away a penalty. Will set his cross-hairs on the 5 yard line and aimed a guided missile of a long kick right where he wanted it.
Time was running out – could Stroud nick a try? Another Orgy precision guided throw was caught by acrobatic Jedd. The driving maul was on and threatened the try line but again Cinderford pulled a rabbit from the hat and stole the ball. They kicked long again, but the artillery shell – sorry ball – was caught by fusilier, sorry Full back, Alex and he set off on another swerving run back. He was well supported by Corporal Keyan and Sergeant Darion. Cinderford were penalised at the breakdown and penalised 10 more yards for back chat. Captain Will went to take a quick tap penalty but knocked on in his anxiety to launch another attacking move on the retreating Cinderford defenders. Will was mortified. Was this our last chance?
Cinderford won their scrum on the 5 yard line. Would they try and repeat Daves length of pitch run? Nope they followed the manual and kicked for touch. Stroud won the lineout with Jedd and attacked left. Fast hands from Keyan, Alex and Finn showed promise but Cinderford were holding on well. The ball eventually came back right with long passes from Flash and Will. Keyan and Darion threatened the right wing but Cinderford were in forceful mood to stop the constant attacks. Sauce and Orgy had covered every blade of grass to win ruck after ruck and won another crucial one. Ball came back to the left and Cinderford gambled on an intercept but just knocked on. Stroud won the scrum and Joe got to attack but Cinderford forced another turnover. Another long kick to relieve pressure and another Alex run back. Eventually the ball came out to Darion who again attacked down the wing. The Foresters got out their axes though and finished chopping him down in style. What felt like 3 broken ribs was irrelevant when he still managed to present the ball back for Flash to set another attack going.
This time the forwards took on the responsibility to make some gains. Eventually they were turned over and Cinderford did a lovely kick on the diagonal to give their winger something to chase. They didn’t reckon on Joe securing the bouncing ball and setting up another attacking move. Cinderford were penalised at the breakdown and Stroud brought on their super sub – Jonny Wilkinson. He, as expected, expertly kicked for touch. Time had to be up. This was it. Last play. 22 yards to glory. Orgy again found jumper Jedd and a driving maul was setup. The ball came back cleanly to Flash and he quickly zipped it onto Jonny. Before you know it a moment of inspiration and Jonny set his laser guided foot on the posts and did a drop goal from a wide angle outside the 22. Would it get there? Could the crowd ‘Will’ it over the bar ? Would Lucas stop screaming “Its like the World Cup 2003 again” ? Time just stopped – silence descended – like for the Remembrance pause. Then the refs whistle blew and he signalled the successful kick. Stroud had taken the lead in dramatic fashion 17-15. The players and crowd erupted in euphoria. Then the refs whistle went for full time and pandemonium broke out. Jonny Wilkinson disappeared again and morphed back to Will. He would have been proud of that drop goal…….
Full time: Stroud 17 - 15 Cinderford
So those missed Cinderford conversions had been crucial. Good job defenders for forcing them out wide to make the kicks hard, and well done Dave and Arthur for running our tries in under the posts!
Stroud had beaten the all-conquering powerful Cinderford team with the last kick of the game to win their County Cup group. Just incredible. And with all the injuries to handle and players battling through to do the blue shirt proud.
Everyone had contributed. Such a performance of great character. One of the best games seen on that pitch in many a year. We can start charging for tickets for future games at this rate. Beating Minch with that 2nd half performance a few weeks ago was special but beating a team of Cinderford’s calibre and playing with great skill, passion and commitment for the whole game took us to another level.
Cinderford were very generous in defeat. The game had been played in great spirit and both groups of coaches agreed what an occasion it had been. You could tell by the looks on their face as they walked off they weren’t used to losing. We look forward to a rematch with them later in the season at their place and I am sure they will be up for revenge. Delia – out with your magic sponges and plasters to get us ready for the return leg.
So now time for the Man of the Match award. We don’t normally do this but there was so much chat (over Keyans loud music we could still hear upstairs) between the parents and pressure in the bar to make a decision that here goes:
…..and continuing in alphabetical order: Archie, Arthur…….Coach Stone, Coach Samak….. Delia…. Etc etc….and finally Will.
So they were all men of the match. All contributed immensely. Not fair to try and pick out one over all of them. Win as a team and lose (infrequently) as a team. Captain Will kicked the winning points but he wouldn’t have been there without Orgys lineout throw, Jedds catch…. You get the drift…..
Mr Organ – you owe me a match report as I didn’t name a MoM as requested ;-)
So top of our County Cup group. Wins vs Painswick and Cinderford and a home walkover vs Cleve who pulled out twice. Not sure what happens next. Either a re-draw into a group with all other #1s (like last year) – which could mean Minch, Clifton (or Old Pats) and Tewksbury – or it might be a quarter finals draw against a weaker team? Watch this space.
FYI – Painswick lost 33-12 to Cleve in other Cup game. 21-0 down after 5 mins but then came back well to keep the game close.