County Cup Final Here We Come !!!
By russell vale
Stroud U14s win a thriller vs local rivals Minch
The most important game of the season so far so we pass the match reporting duties to the much missed Arthur to keep him involved in the great spirit of Stroud U14s team. All plaudits go to Arthur. Any inaccuracies must have been Jonathan's editing……
Match Reporter: Arthur
Skies above Stroud RFC hung heavy as the long-awaited County Cup semi-final was about to kick off. The official match reporter was en route to China - before leaving he waxed lyrically about arbitrating between the Americans and Chinese over new trade tariffs - or some such stuff. Russell, if anyone, could step up. Our Man in Beijing!
Back to the local-derby County Cup semi-final and nerves were like taut piano strings in the Samak entourage. Mark was pacing up and down like an ostrich who had overdosed on immodium. “Early” match reporters decided to dictate proceedings into their phones and decipher the gobbledegook later!
The Stroud outfit looked sharp and focused during the warm up. As we waited for the U15’s to finish their match against Painswick on a shrunken pitch, the faithful were eager for the off, but shortly before this there was panic in the Fin camp with the realisation that a match shirt was still hanging up in the dressing room at Tower’s Towers. A quick dash to the far reaches of the kingdom and said costume magically appeared. Panic over. Or was it??
Forwards: Lucas, Orgy, Mr.T, Darrion, Laurie, Euan, Sauce, Stoner
Backs: Hilly, Will, Dave, Keyan, Josh, Nibbler, Alex.
Subs: Jedd, Haydn, Flash, Ryan, Fin
Stroud kicked off - Will launched the ball high and it was fumbled by Minch who were then bundled sideways into touch by Keyan. A maul was formed from Orgy’s clean lineout ball to Darrion and the strong backs launched their first attacking move. Mr T and Lucas rucked over as the ball went to ground. Quick ball gave Dave a chance to go around the outside, but Minch were having none of it and bundled him into touch.
The line-out ball was knocked on and the subsequent Stroud scrum produced fluid offloads culminating in a pass to Josh who had little time to ignite the afterburners as he ended up on the wrong side of the touch line.
A maul was formed after Stroud dominated the line-out and Will’s grubber kick unfortunately rebounded off the oppositions’ pins. The Ref, with the low-maintenance hair, decided our boys knocked-on but played the advantage. It seemed the memories of the game earlier in the season were getting into the oppositions’ heads after good Stroud pressure had the Minch and Stroud Show resembling the Chuckle Brothers - “To me”, “To you”, “To me”, “To you”. The inevitable knock-on went in Stroud’s favour.
Laurie and Euan’s strong attacking play from the scrum was in vain as the ball was dropped. Alex was tested in the air, skillfully assisted by Mjolnir, from a high Minch kick from the next scrum and the result was good - Thor eat your heart out. Sauce and the Nibbler got rewarded with a penalty after dogged pressure, and instead of a tap-and-go Will kicked for touch.
After our success in the line-out, Minch defended forcefully. Stoner pounced upon the loose ball after Will’s second attempt to hoik it high but it was knocked-on in the ensuing ruck. Powerful Minch forwards broke through the Stroud line after the scrum had been re-set and a skillful display of offloading brought them within a few metres of the try line. Following the penalty a clever set piece from Minch forwards produced a try in the corner. The try was unconverted.
Stroud 0 - Minch 5
After the restart a forward pass gave Stroud the scrum. As Hilly gathered he was engulfed, but our boys were there for him as a penalty came which was duly dispatched into touch. Play was paused with an injury to Alex after the subsequent line-out and maul.
On flounced Bill in high viz jacket and medical bag announcing “How difficult can it be?”!
Alex went off injured, a penalty was awarded, and Fin came on. Laurie held on expertly from the resulting line-out and Keyan stormed through, but was halted in his tracks. Nibbler and Dave cleared out the ruck and Will’s penetrating kick forced Minch to scrabble around. Dave tackled them over the line, gifting Stroud a 5 metre scrum. The promise evaporated as our boys knocked-on and Minch kicked down field. Fin was there to collect and, after the ball was turned over in the ruck, Minch too knocked-on.
“Time for some set piece moves”, I hear you shout. How about move No.1? The switcheroo worked well until Dave decided to lovingly embrace the Minch 7 and 8. There was a touch of deja-vu as the ball was catapulted long for Fin to collect, but a forward pass gave Minch a scrum. Orgy, with the legs of Elastigirl, turned the ball over and, as the opposition dropped their guard, Hilly whipped the ball out to Will and Dave who saw the gap and dived under the posts. Will converted and we had the upper hand. A minute or two of extra play and the whistle blew for half-time.
Stroud 7 - Minch 5
New ammunition for Stroud came in the shape of Jedd, Flash and a recharged Alex.
The said ‘man-mountain’ Jedd was involved immediately from the start as he caught the Minch kick-off ball, and then when a penalty resulted for the Home side. Little came from this as Stroud once again knocked on and, determined to get back into the ‘good books’, our forwards won a penalty at the scrum. Darrion made good ground from the Flash off-load and, after a quick tap-and-go, Euan and Laurie fought hard for territory. Clean work from the backs resulted in another penalty at the breakdown.
Momentum was gathering for the Home team although some of the female gender (and perhaps others?) amongst us were distracted by a well-turned pair of pins policing the near-side touch-line. All supporters needed to concentrate now, though one was struggling through her fixated hayes!
Will’s kick gained territory and Stoner’s crisp line-out throw to Jedd formed a maul. Minch ripped the ball, Mr T defended well, a penalty was awarded against us for off-side, but we regained possession from another knock-on in the line-out. Josh, still with his afterburners ‘idling’, made a break along the touchline but was neatly eased over. A clean line-out ball by the opposition was to no avail as the Stroud machine got its own back and pushed them likewise.
Lucas and Sauce increased the driving force and nice hands along the back row freed up Fin whose offload to Flash kept the ball in play, but once again the touchline became the victor.
Play was interrupted as Dave lay injured. Bill appeared again to administer paramedic homeopathy, but Dave was up and running before he’d even opened his bag!
The opposition had a penalty but Stroud won the next at the break down after the Minch line-out. Alas the ball was lost after a hasty tap & go. Once again expectations were raised as our boys dominated the following set pieces and they were awarded another penalty at the next scrum. Will sent the ball into touch. The clock was stopped again for a Minch injury assessment.
The subsequent scrum was re-set after Stroud knocked on in the line-out, but this time Minch tore off down the blindside, only for Dave to fall on the ball after a tackle and gain possession. Our Home-side’s counter attack was swift and, as Fin was let loose he cut inside and off-loaded to Keyan. An advantage was being played and Will put in a neat grubber kick through the Minch defence, chased it, and touched the ball down for our second try.
Stroud 12 - Minch 5
From the restart Jedd’s comedy timing was impeccable (even you, Jedd, still need to grow a bit to reach that ball!) and a sustained period of Minch pressure began. Stroud gave away several penalties but the clock was ticking down. A yellow card and indiscipline were balanced by heroic defence eventually leading to a penalty against Minch. As Dave launched the ball down field one of the opposition tried to keep it in play in true beach volleyball style.
There followed what seemed like a lifetime of Minch pressure and more penalties until the final whistle sounded!
Final Score: Stroud 12 - Minch 5
Well done to both teams. What a tense and closely fought match, and a brilliant victory for Stroud.
We all headed to the Clubhouse for beer and pasta and Jim crept to the gents for a change of knickers even though it wasn’t the third Sunday of the month (cheers Mark!). Tori arrived to bundle Will away into the waiting removals van, and we all now look forward to a County Cup FINAL in a few weeks. Jim - don’t forget a change of clothes for that one.... Calvin Klein have large reductions for bulk orders!
Back to the normal match reporter to close us out…..
What a great match, and a masterpiece of literature from the Early’s to celebrate!
Well played to Stroud who had a defensive masterclass to restrict the powerful and expansive Minch team to 5 points on the big Fromehall pitch. Stroud have now beaten Minch twice this season (both epic close games) to be crowned 5 Valleys victors. En-route to the final they have also beaten the mighty Cinderford with a last minute drop goal miracle, beaten Cheltenham’s finest Old Pats, and all that remains is to beat Bristol’s finest in Clifton. The Five Valleys is awash with rugby talent with Minch and Stroud both getting to the Cup semi’s (and both beating Gloucester’s best and other semi-finalist Longlevens), plus Painswick showing a resurgence in form which is great to see.
So what was the match reporter doing in China – many things related to Stroud RFC I’ll have you know…….
1) Negotiating the global TV rights to the Cup final at Hartpury, and the upcoming U15 season package
2) Opening the international branches of EPS, Project Analysis and Omega Resources as part of our tour shirt contract
3) Sourcing a low cost, high volume producer of Blue and Pink Rugby Tour shirts that are this seasons must have fashion item
4) Identifying this years #1 Xmas present – a Dave Samak Crash Ball Go Pro Head Harness is the favourite at the moment.
5) Scoping out the 2019 Rugby Tour so “Sam & Mark International Tours PLC” can get to work on the itinary and fundraising
6) Giving Chris H a break and negotiating next seasons match fixtures – hard work and an impossible task – was easier doing my world peace negotiations with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping, North Korean Supreme leader Kim Yong-un and President Trump
7) Sourcing Jims life time supply of Calvin Klein pants
The last one isn’t a joke. My luggage got left in London so I had no clothes for 3 days and had to spend my $10 voucher wisely. My tour shirt is reunited with its proud owner and I am off around Shanghai to show it off – and find some neon lighting attachments to “pimp it up” Chinese style.
So back to important matters – the Final is at Hartpury on Sunday 29th April vs Clifton – who recently lost in Bristol Cup final to Bath 17-0. More details to follow in the future.