Stroud enjoy the sweet taste of success with a night feasting on M&M’s
By russell vale
Stroud U14s start their tour with an enjoyable evening of rugby vs Monmouth and Malvern
The tour started with a panic. Cinderford had withdrawn on the Thursday afternoon. Were they worried of damage to their pitch, or was their fly-half still practicing his drop goals in an attempt to out kick maestro Jonny Sexton - sorry Captain Will - in a duel at the death – just like the momentous cup victory we got over them – much more satisfying than a 79 minute Irish possession to beat France at the death….
The coaching staff frantically phoned around everyone that might have lights. Tesco’s in Lydney had plenty of lights in the car park, but only a squad of shopping trollies as opponents. Speech House had some candles, and 4 families of Wild Boar available for a “Rumble in the jungle” – but we thought the H&S police wouldn’t sign off on that.
Eventually Monmouth came up trumps and the tour was back on again. An international match to kick off the tour. What could be more exciting. We quickly applied for visa’s to enter the Principality and jumped in our fleet of cars and coach to travel West. A whip round on the bus from the kids tour pocket money then paid for the Severn Crossing. For those on the coach a “cracking” time was had by all – apart from the coach driver he managed to smash 2 windows navigating the twisty dark streets of Monmouth.
On the coach and at Monmouth the new Parisian pink tour shirts were handed out – the kids excitedly pulled them on – the coaching staff less so as they breathed in deeply, faces going deep red as the skinny fit shirts settled down nicely on their beer guts. At least in the rush for the bar later there would be no loose material for the other parents to pull the coaches back by their tops.
Many thanks to our match shirt sponsors Bristol Street Motors (via Jo?), EPS (Phil), Project Analysis (Jenks) and Omega Resource (Rick) for a fantastic souvenir tour match shirt that will surely get many a wear over the next few seasons.
So in true tour tradition I now pass you onto our guest match reporters Geoff and Rick.
Guest Reporter Geoff
Please insert these phrases where appropriate…..
* “go home yoghurt knitters”
** not strictly true, but I’m not actually sure who was on the pitch at the start.
*** “vegetable rights and peace”
As the bus crossed the river into Wales, sheets of rain descended from a darkening sky, and the mountains loomed black on either side. “Haway Man!” muttered Mark Samak with trepidation, as he entered the unknown land “it looks a bit like Newcastle”. Stroud owed our hosts in Monmouth a huge debt of gratitude for putting on the game, yet the doubt remained: were we about to become Cotswold lambs to the Welsh slaughter? As the Stroud players trotted out into the Principality Stadium drizzly evening, they were greeted by a wall of noise “ewch i waddodion iogwrt adref”* from a capacity Monmouth crowd. On the plus side, the excitement of playing under lights was always likely to lift our lads, at least while they were on the left-hand side of the pitch.
The first game was between hosts Monmouth and fellow tourists Malvern. Your correspondent is not entirely sure who won that one (Russell – it was Malvern), but before long it was time for the famous blue-white-and-pink shirts to do their stuff.
Game 1 - Malvern vs Stroud
Backs: nibbles, keyan, dave, alex, hilly, will, josh
Forwards: Orgy, lucas, stoner, jedd, harry, laurie, Bernie, Darrion
Malvern’s start was caught by Keyan, who immediately tested their defence with a swerving run through the middle. Breaking three tackles and covering 60m, it looked nailed on for a try straight from kick-off, until a stunning last-gasp tackle brought him to ground a few metres short. Malvern won the 5 metre scrum against the head, and then won a penalty, which was kicked for touch without much territory being made. Fine pressure from Stroud resulted in a turnover close to the try-line, and Hilly fed Dave who crashed over for the first try of the tour. A superb kick from the right hand touchline by Will landed Stroud the extras.
From the re-start, Stroud scored a simply superb try: Laurie caught and ran, offloaded to Hilly in support, who fed Dave rampaging down the right. Stroud then moved it through multiple hands all the way to Josh, lurking in the shadows on the left wing, who touched down in the corner. Apparently. The conversion was narrowly missed, mainly because Will couldn’t see the posts.
Another restart, this time a pretty nasty bobbling one, was well fielded by Nibbles, who set up another Stroud attack. From a breakdown, Stroud’s 10-12 combination worked very nicely as Dave found a great inside line onto a cleverly delayed Will pass. Unfortunately the referee, outrageously and quite wrongly, called for a forward pass. You just can’t get the match officials these days.
Malvern managed belatedly to get into the game. They gave a great shove at a scrum on the Stroud 10-metre line, and shipped the ball through hands to the right. Perhaps deceived by the lurking darkness over that side, Stroud’s entire team shuffled across, leaving a Malvern overlap of approximately 12 players on the left. The ball was duly moved back across, and Malvern scored in the corner. A good conversion effort rebounded from the post, leaving the score 12-5.
Darrion and Josh gave a great kick-chase from restart. Under pressure, Malvern tried to move it left, but were stopped in their tracks by outstanding tackles from Finn and Stoner. Eventually the pressure told, and Stroud won turnover ball. Dave bursting through was well supported by Hilly, who went to ground. In the absence of a 9, Darrion picked from the back of the ruck and scored a wonderful unstoppable try: a just reward for his impressive form in recent weeks. The conversion was a bit controversial. Most people thought it was over, except for the touch-judge, who should stick to journalism. 17-5.
From the re-start Josh fumbled slightly, and then produced an outrageous between the legs pass to Will H, who broke down the left. It would have been try of the century, but sadly a knock-on was called against Josh, clearly showing that the ref may know the rules, but he has no poetry in his soul.
Malvern’s big quick lad made a great diagonal run to the left and briefly looked like a score was on the cards, but a tackle was made (too dark over there to see who made it) and Stroud were on the move again. Hilly to Dave to Finn, out to Josh, and a brilliant offload back into Finn, who was smashed back in the tackle but still managed to offload to Stoner. Stroud recycled to the right and won a penalty which was taken quickly by Will. Dave burst through and after another ruck Alex came into the line on a typically elusive run. A few rhinos down the right were eventually brought to a halt by the referee’s full-time whistle.
Final Score: Malvern 5 – 17 Stroud
It was a rapid (actually immediate) turnaround for game 2, as spectators and coaches began to look forward to food and drink. The Stroud players on the other hand, were well up for a big game against Wales Monmouth. Traditional Stroudie shouts of “hawliau llysiau a heddwch***” could be heard from the pre-match huddle.
Game 2 - Monmouth vs Stroud
Backs: Dawson, Wilkinson, Tindall, Robinson, Lewsey, Cohen, Greenwood
Forwards: Thompson, Vickery, Woodman, Johnson, Kay, Hill, Back, Dallaglio**
Monmouth kicked off, and before your correspondent could get his notepad sorted out, Billy had scored a wonder try under the posts, after bursting through any number of tackles on a run down the left. Will added the extras.
After some messy play in the murk on the far side of the pitch, the ref penalised Stroud and Monmouth kicked for touch and an attacking line-out. The first choruses of Bread of Heaven started to ring round the stadium as the Welsh fans sensed English blood. In response, Stroud unleashed their surprise weapon: Lucas at full-back. It was great tackling by Finn (again) and jackaling by Stoner that snuffed out the Monmouth attack and started Stroud going forward. A rhino charge by Darrion almost broke through, but some fabulous tackling stopped him at the last. Mr T cleared out and secured the ball brilliantly, and it was Darrion back for another charge, playing as if his ancestors had been personal enemies of Owen Glendower.
Further subtle tactical changes were made, with Stoner going to fly-half. Bernie took a knock which resulted in Delia’s first foray onto the pitch – a successful one as it turned out as Bernie was able to continue. Stroud won a scrum against the head, and Archie produced a perfectly weighted pass onto Jedd’s burst. A great attacking line from the big man took him to within 5 metres. Another great line from Liam, and another great feed from Archie, but the ball was dropped agonisingly forward with the line beckoning.
By now Stroud’s philosophy of 15-man rugby was in full swing, with Keyan going to left-wing. Monmouth won the ball from a scrum, but HP Sauce was all over them, and Laurie took advantage with a great pick-and-go. Winger Keyan burst down the left and fed Billy who looked odds-on to score, but was brought back for a knock-on somewhere in the gloom on the far side.
Monmouth finally got some attacking momentum and got to the Stroud 22 after some lively running and handling. Eventually the ball came out left but was knocked on just when a try looked a certainty. Billy retrieved the ball and fed Laurie running a great inside line. Archie then fed Liam on the burst, but the Welsh defence was like Offa’s Dyke, only bigger and a bit more mobile. A scrum in the middle of the park led to a classic Keyan run, traversing several miles and leaving stunned defenders scattered in his wake, but yet again he was brought down short of the line by superb last-ditch Monmouth tackling. No bother: Darrion was on hand to rhino it over the line for another try. The conversion taken by Lucas (obvs), was narrowly missed, but the Rob Cook style with which he prepared was so impressive that the fans reckon that Will will have to work hard to regain his position as first choice kicker.
Archie retrieved the kick neatly and fed Finn, who fed Darrion and then on to Keyan and Mr T. A knock-on led to a scrum, with Stroud unleashing yet another tactical masterstroke – Hilly at number 8. Surprisingly, Monmouth won the scrum and kicked. Finn collected brilliantly on his 5-metre line, but was snagged and Monmouth regained possession, laying siege to the Stroud line. Great defence by Stroud, including fine tackles by Archie and Keyan, led eventually to turnover ball. Billy nearly ran the length of the pitch, was superbly tackled on the line, only for Finn, arriving about 15 minutes later, to accept the offload and touch down. Lucas kindly allowed Keyan to take the conversion, but it was sadly missed. The game duly ended. Another Stroud win, and some food for thought for the coaching team, who really will have to reconsider some of the positions they have assigned players to over the last few seasons.
Final Score: Monmouth 0 – 24 Stroud
Thanks Geoff – cracking read. Now onto Rick’s masterpiece.
Game 3: Malvern v Stroud
And so Stroud, taking the field with the on-looking Eddie Jones copiously taking notes about the mighty Stroud U14 coaching (and noted especially the interesting positional set-up adopted throughout the evening... “maybe indeed there is hope for Mako at 15 and Care at 9 with May at 4....” he pondered...).... and with a deep kick-off from Hammond jnr, we were underway. Upon collection, Malvern took the ball and broke right but on the far side (that was near pitch-black) someone at Stroud tackled someone from Malvern... and the ball fell to our open side flanker Dave (“...interesting, playing non-flankers as flankers”...., thought Jones) who broke through for a try under the posts, which Will H managed to slot comfortably, Malvern 0 – Stroud 7.
From the restart, Archie showed a clean pair of heals and made a great break (from full back.... “hmmm” said Jones, “maybe I’ll experiment at 15 too...”), taken on by Dave and pack support until a knock-on resulted in a Malvern scrum. A dominant and bullying display by the Stroud no.8, Hilly, brought a surge forwards, but the ball squirted out for Malvern who broke right, only to be met by the wall of a winger that was Mr T (shouting “I aint getting on no plane, fool!” – google it kids, it’ll be worth it...).
The line out was well thrown by Orgy, and though a scramble ensued, Dave somehow came up with the ball (unless he had a spare ball hidden on the dark side of the pitch, producing it miraculously for his own personal use and breaks.... “maybe I could try that on the weekend”, pondered Jones, “cos my team are sh1te at winning breakdown ball, maybe we should have more balls to play with...”) but in the tackle the ball broke to the Malvern-flyer, who showed a superb pair of heals and with pace to burn he was over the try line and Malvern back in the game at 5-7, with the conversion missed. The ref was seen to be staring daggers at the technical coach, Mk1, whose team selection was now causing a raised heart rate for the ref... or was it the San Miguel and Friday night exercise that saw the refs blood pressure rise alarmingly.... anyway, the bingo-team-selection continued...
Malvern gathered the restart, showed great hands and ball retention, only to be snuffed out by Jed and in the melee that ensued, Hilly saw a blindside gap and darted off for a 9-like snipe sprint/ 8-like bullocking trundle to the try line for a score in the corner. Will H step up to take the kick from out wide and had an Elise Christie moment (google it, boys....) and the score was 5-12.
Other stuff then occurred whilst the match reporter took a few moments to get cash for son number 2 who desperately needed a J20 from the bar and a phone charger – life critical matters – and by the time the match reporter was back on duty, a break was underway from Malvern, only to be stopped hard and short (no pun intended) by Barnsey..... and that, as they say, was that.
From the shadows of the dark-side, Jones snuck onto the pitch & shook the hands of the various coaches, and seemed to pass hic cv in hopeful application, in case Stroud needed more coaching support and Jo was heard to say “only coach support we need is a better driver....” and with that, we skedaddled off to the bar/ clubhouse for a feast of Indian snack selection, more pizza than would fill the grand canyon and saw Will H give and receive more ties than at a Charles Tyrwhitt sale (one for the dads). Onward for the mighty Stroud Warriors.... let the tour shenanigans commence....
Final Score: Malvern 5 – 12 Stroud
Now back to the normal match reporter with some more fictional writing, with the occasional fact thrown in for good measure…….
Malvern and Monmouth played each other twice in an open game of rugby. Both teams showed great skills with special mention to the Monmouth winger who had only been signed up for 24 hours and showed great skill and pace to score 2 tries in the final game as Malvern came back well at the death to snatch a 12-10 victory. It was definitely a day for wingers with the best try of all the games being the Malvern winger retreating back to his own try line to recover a kick and then sprinting to the opposite corner of the pitch, avoiding various tackles to score an end-to-end try that got the whole place buzzing.
Special thanks to Jo for reffing all the games and managing to keep up with play with all these pacy players determined to leave him in their wake. Less could be said for the 2 aging flagmen that had less mileage to do and in some cases couldn’t be bothered to cover the conversion kicks. Phil later claimed he had covered 16,000 steps that day but we are sure that was because he was popping off to the bar every 10 minutes to get another pint of Stowfords instead of taking his linesman duties seriously.
Final Positions: Stroud 1st, Malvern 2nd, Monmouth 3rd
All the teams congratulated each other for a thoroughly enjoyable evening of rugby played in great spirit by all 3 teams. Rugby was most definitely the winner.
We returned to the clubhouse and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening of drinking and chat with both teams and were fed upto the eyeballs with a great spread of food. The coaches did speeches and the club captains exchanged tour gifts.
Curfew was called and we had to go and find the coach. He had managed to extract himself out of the winding roads with no more damage. All the lads took the coach because they heard what fun it was – and were probably running side bets on how long the cracked glass would last before it fell apart.
We arrived at Whitemead lodge complex and luxury accommodation awaited us – anything would be an upgrade after Colditz@Ilfracombe last year.
Many thanks to Monmouth and Malvern for allowing us to join their Tour evening and hosting us at such short notice. Special thanks to the Monmouth catering team who did a sterling job to feed as many mouths as they did – and still manage to keep Dave’s hunger pangs at bay.
Best of luck to Malvern for rest of tour (how cold was the canoeing on Saturday?), and to both teams for the rest of the season. We hope both teams continue to develop their squads and go from strength to strength. If you want to get some bigger lads come across to Gloucestershire and bottle our Cotswold tap water because it works for us !!
Malvern have done their own match reports and are very complimentary of us – on and off the pitch – which just summarises the ethos of our club and what Mark and Jo told the kids in the team huddle on Friday night. Link to it Malvern report here
And so the chaos continued. A fixture panic to start and a weather panic at the end. Day 2 and 3 of the tour is reported here – with a bonus alpine match report for Sunday! Link to Day 2 and 3 report here