County Cup Runners Up – Stroud and Proud
By russell vale
Stroud U14s slow start costs them chance of Cup victory, but deliver a 2nd half performance of real character
It was Cup Final day – location Hartpury College. The training home of Gloucester rugby who had recently been overturned by a blitzkrieg assault by the noisy neighbours from the South – Bath. Could Stroud U14s hold their own against the other noisy neighbours Clifton from Bristol? Could Will perform a miracle drop goal as time expires? Could Dave eat 14 hot dogs as a post match celebration?
The lead up to the final had been hard with injuries mounting and tired limbs getting frequently drained of lactic acid by Delia. In true Stroud team spirit everyone made the trip though to support the team and put in one last momentous effort against perennial champions Clifton. The GRFU were going to turn a profit this month with their £3 entrance fee and professional produced pamphlet that claimed we were in the Plate Final and not the Cup ! They were even charging for the pets that attended and the OAP discount for grandparents was still 300 Olde English pennies, but the benefit of closer proximity car parking…..
Forwards: Lucas, Orgy, Stoner, Darion, Mr T, Euan, Sauce, Laurie
Backs: Hilly, Will, Dave, Keyan, Josh, Fin, Alex
Subs: Flash, Nibbles, Ryan, Jedd, Bernie, Callum, Haydn
The game started with Euan returning the kickoff into a wall of tacklers. The forwards did well to secure the ball and give Will time to kick. Clifton fielded the ball well though and immediately attacked right. Their quick hands created an overlap and a run to the line but Alex managed to bring down the winger. Clifton were quick to the breakdown though and smashed over the line to score the first try – kick was good for a 7-0 lead within the first 2 minutes - just like Bath did to Glos.
Stroud kicked off and Clifton again attacked right. Another Alex tackle stemmed the tide but Clifton immediately recycled the ball and went left through their inventive backs. Dave managed to haul down their powerful centre just short of the line but the effort was for nowt as their forwards were onto the ball immediately and crashed over the try line for another quick try. Another good conversion and it was 14-0 and the Stroud players were wondering if they’d left 5 players in the changing room in error because Clifton were creating gaps left, right and centre.
Stroud kicked off and Clifton attacked again but a forward pass stopped them in their (fast) stride. Now Stroud had chance to exert themselves in the scrum but the set piece failed as they were driven off the ball. Clifton knocked on though and Stroud had another scrum but it was the same result with a Clifton win against the head. They attacked into the Stroud 22 again and then went for a cross field kick but Josh was well positioned to touch down in the try zone. Will kicked long on the 22 drop out and Clifton knocked on. This time Stroud won the scrum restart and attacked right with Keyan who made some hard yards. Clifton were dominant at the breakdown though and Stroud were penalised again. Clifton kicked for touch, won their lineout and attacked left. More costly missed tackles gave Clifton an easy run to the try line and an easy kick for a 21-0 lead.
Another Stroud kickoff and another strong Clifton run back. This time the tackles started to hit home with first Orgy, then Stoner and captain Will bringing down their opponents with great tackles. Clifton were awarded a penalty which they ran at pace. They knocked on in contact with Lucas and Sauce and Stroud won their scrum. Dave tried to attack from deep but the fast Clifton line was on him before he got into 2nd gear. Stroud then knocked on and Clifton had a perfect attacking scrum in front of the posts. This time they attacked right and their backs danced their way through a few tackles and scored another try. Good conversion and the lead was now 28-0 after 15 minutes and the game was effectively over - just like Gloucester vs Bath the day before. Would Stroud capitulate or would they dig deep and show pride in the badge? We knew deep down it would be the latter – now to prove it.
Stroud kicked off and Clifton were penalised at the next breakdown. Will kicked for touch knowing Orgy would find his man with the lineout throw. Mr T duly obliged and a good driving maul was formed. Hilly set an attacking move to the left. Clifton were repeatedly penalised for off-side and Stroud kept resetting the same tap-penalty move until eventually they knocked on. Clifton won the scrum and set up another attack but Fin put in a storming tackle nice and low. The Clifton boys were so powerful that tackling above the waist was never going to bring them down. Their dedicated strength and conditioning sessions were paying off big style.
Clifton were coming under some pressure – they hadn’t scored for 5 minutes – and the Stroud tackles were hitting home and we were now spending most of the time in the Clifton half. Clifton won a scrum in their own 22 and kicked the ball away which Alex managed to recover. Clifton were penalised at the ruck and Will kicked long for touch. Another Mr T lineout win set up the last play of the half. The forwards attacked through Darion and Lucas. Sauce was injured at the breakdown and Stroud were awarded a penalty deep in the Clifton half. By the time Delia had superglued and gaffer-taped Harry back together again the ref decided to call it half time and we never got to attack from our penalty move! Records will show we didn’t score but in our minds we had a guaranteed 7 points coming our way !
Half Time: Clifton 28 – 0 Stroud
Winston Churchill trotted onto the pitch to give a stirring half time talk about playing for the passion of the game and the Stroud shirt we were wearing and to show what we could do in the 2nd half. Churchill had last been seen at Minch in October disguised as coach Samak. It had worked back then and would it work now? Subs taken and Flash replaced Hilly and Jedd on for Orgy.
Stroud kicked off and Clifton knocked on in the run back with a good tackle from Stoner and Euan. Stroud won their scrum and attacked left through a slick backs move. Just as we thought we had a chance the last pass went begging and was knocked on. Chance missed. Clifton won the scrum and fed crash ball to their centre. Dave knew this trade-mark move all too well and was in perfect position to stop them and force a knock-on. Stroud lost their scrum though and Clifton quickly attacked but Fin was able to put in another good tackle that forced another knock-on.
Mr T went off injured and one-legged Bernie replaced him at prop. Clifton were penalised at the scrum and Stroud took a quick tap penalty. Darion burst through a few tackles but was eventually isolated and Clifton were given a penalty. They ran it again and kicked a high cross field ball that they caught spectacularly. Back to the left came the attack through their slick backs to eventually be denied by a knock-on in the tackle. Stroud won the scrum and attacked left through Keyan. Sauce and Laurie secured the ball well at the ruck. Flash got the ball out quickly to Will who saw a gap and kicked long. The Clifton fall back covered it well and ran it back straight at Fin. He obviously hadn’t seen Fin’s last 3 tackles and sure enough Fin went low and forced another knock-on. Superb tackle technique and this was giving energy to the rest of the team to feed on.
Stroud had a scrum on the Clifton 22 that they won. Dave crashed up the middle and Clifton were penalised. Another tap and go penalty was wasted though with a knock-on before we even got to contact. These silly mistakes were costing Stroud but it just showed the immense pressure they were playing under against excellent opponents who gave them no time to think. Clifton won the scrum and Flash did a good tackle, soon followed by Laurie. Clifton were getting pinned back in their 22 and eventually hacked the ball out sideways under constant pressure from the fast Stroud defensive line.
Stoner took over lineout duties and found jumper Jedd. Stroud set up a driving maul though but Clifton managed to steal the ball. They kicked long but Alex was ready to catch and run back. Just as pressure was starting to tell Clifton were awarded a penalty and ran right. More tackles from Sauce and Alex slowed them down but Clifton were so efficient their next guy just took the ball on and made another 10 yards. They were camped on the Stroud line but stout defending kept them out. They decided to go fast and wide and Keyan saw his chance and was unlucky to not intercept the ball and have an open run the length of the pitch. Clifton had a scrum on the 22 from Keyans knock-on and overloaded the backs to the left. This then gave their #8 a clean run to the try line on the right and scored an easy try. The kick from wide was missed leaving the score at 33-0.
More subs as Callum, Ryan, Haydn and Nibbles came on for Lucas, Josh, Fin and Darion. Stroud kicked off too short but instead of killing the ball they allowed Clifton to hack it on. Dave saw the danger and kicked the ball away nice and long but this just gave the Clifton backs plenty of time and space to set up a sequence of clever moves to attack down the left flank and score a try in the corner. Kick was missed with the score now 38-0.
Will kicked long and Clifton ran it back powerfully again. A good tackle from Keyan forced a knock-on. Stroud did well to win their scrum under intense Clifton pressure. The ball came right and Dave managed to squeeze down the wing and avoid desperate Clifton tackles. Eventually he ran out of space close to the try line. Laurie took the Rhino ball and was held up just short. Ball came left and Keyan looked to crash over but Clifton were determined to keep the score a shut-out. Their defensive work rate was immense in all areas of the pitch. Stroud got the ball at the ruck with Bernie and Callum doing well to keep Clifton at bay. More quick passes to left and Dave tried crashing through but was held up by an off-side Clifton player. A Stroud tap penalty and Euan got held up short of the line. Haydn and Nibbles kept the ball alive and the ball came out left and a diving Keyan scored in the far left corner for a well deserved Stroud try. The kick from wide and into the wind dropped just short but Stroud had shown their resolve and punctured the Clifton defence at last. The score closed to 38-5 and it was game on.
As Clifton kicked off we scoured the GRFU rules to see if ‘last try’ wins. While Jenks sped-red the 150 page rule book Will went inventive – what’s new? He caught the kick off, started to run it back, then kicked it over the top and put in the first tackle on the Clifton full back. That’s leading by example and showed the never die spirit that Stroud had played the 2nd half in. Clifton were forced backwards and had to kick the ball away. Alex ran it back and Stroud were penalised at the breakdown. Clifton were alert to our ‘last-try wins’ tactic and took the tap penalty and attacked quickly to the left. Ryan did well to slow the Clifton machine down but they were on fire. Next Alex made a last ditch tackle to bring down their speedy winger. Then as the Clifton pack secured the ball their big 2nd row crashed down the wing. Dave had learnt from his Stow jaw-tackle and positioned his head perfectly – this time in a 3ft hole the rest of his body had created as he dragged the player down. It was all for nothing though as the Clifton centre picked up the loose ball and sprinted down the open left wing and scored a try in the corner. The kick was missed with the score 43-5 but Clifton were now claiming the ‘last-try’ bragging rights.
As the conversion kick was missed Jenks got to page 149 of the GRFU Manual and shouted Eureka! He claimed that Bristol was not part of Gloucestershire and was in fact either part of Avon, North Somerset, Mercia or the Roman stronghold of “Provincia Britannia”. Before we had chance to lodge our complaint with the European Court the ref blew his full time whistle and claimed Brexit negotiations wouldn’t allow this.
Full Time: Clifton 43 – 5 Stroud
Players and coaches congratulated each other for a game played in great spirit and skill. Clifton were worthy champions and the result was never in doubt after their incredibly fast start with 4 tries in 15 minutes. Stroud had done well to keep their heads, stem the tide, come back strong and show their passion and skills and hold on for a 15-5 score line for the remaining 35 minutes of the game. They had done everyone proud and walked off the pitch to rapturous applause from both sets of parents with their heads held high.
Congratulations to Clifton for their exciting brand of attacking rugby with immense skill showed in the forwards and the backs. Defensively they were very well drilled and disciplined. The kicking game was spot on with conversions and out-of-hand kicks. No wonder they often run up scores of 50+ to nil against most of their opponents and win the County and out-of-county competitions with ease. Thanks to the refs from the Bristol Ref’s Association for their handling of the game and thanks to the GRFU for hosting the tournament and Finals day and giving the kids an exciting run of Cup fixtures and memorable day at Hartpury.
Stroud were fully worthy of their cup final appearance and the 2nd half showed what they could have done if we hadn’t started slowly. It was our first ‘big game’ experience and the pressure showed. We can learn from this, aspire to play like Clifton, and be ready for our next big games with more confidence of how to handle the pressure situations.
The kids collected their medals and trophy from the GRFU officials – something to be proud off to keep at Fromehall as a souvenir of a fantastic season of 17 wins against various tough opponents and only 3 losses (Matson, Bath and Clifton). We can rightfully claim to be the 2nd best team in Gloucestershire based on our results against the top teams. We just need to get faster, fitter and stronger to then aim for Clifton and try and be #1.
Hopefully we will get a Stroud News & Journal web article and in-print sports article. If so I will update the links here and email them out. It will be a much shorter article (I will ignore the 1st half!) – unless they agree to my plans for a 24 page celebration pull out……. If Prince Louis gets 6 pages in the Daily Mail then our kids are worth a lot more in the local paper.
Monday update: SNJ have published our report on-line un-edited (reduced down 90% and includes season review) so any spelling mistakes are mine. It will be in print on Wednesday so please buy a copy. SN&J Sports report . For those of you self employed you could have just read this article and saved yourself 20 minutes of lost productivity!
A link to Clifton rugby web article is here Clifton News article. If they do a more comprehensive match report I will link to that also. Their Final photos at Clifton U14 photos and also Clifton final photos page 2.
They might also have an article on the Bristol Evening Post later in the week.
Best of luck to the Archway boys for their school EDF cup final vs Tommies at Kingsholm stadium on Wednesday.
See you all for end of season BBQ and Presentation Day this weekend where we will celebrate properly the kids season long achievements.