Clash of county heavyweights in nail biting 2nd half comeback
By russell vale
Stroud U15s travel to Banbury and beat Oxfordshire County Cup finalists in absorbing game
It was the first away game of the season and to find competitive fixtures we were going to be travelling further afield this season. We have gone on weekend tours to closer places but such was the dedication of fixtures secretary Chris he has got us travelling north, south, east and west for many miles to play some top quality opposition. Don’t think we need our passports yet, but perhaps for next season ? For those of you with green credentials you can apply for your Government discounted electric car with the evidence of his fixture list, and quoting #Stroud-U15s-on-Constant-Tour
First up was a 90 minute jaunt to Banbury in Oxfordshire – and we though Stow was far away. The Cotswolds looked spectacular through the mist as we ploughed our way through puddles the size of lakes. Every pub was crying out to be stopped at but at 9am they were still kicking out punters from the night before and not allowing in U15 kids who wanted to try the taste of ‘funny lemonade’.
It had rained for 2 days solid. Everything was sodden. Sailing Eddie would have been in his element, and would have probably got their quicker in his boat than the convoy of cars we took over. Delia being the sensible one actually camped out half way over to give Jedd an extra 45 minutes in bed. But how would he re-dye his hair again while in a camper van?
Our hosts were Banbury who were beaten finalists in their County Cup last season so we knew we would be in for a competitive game. Like us they were missing various players through Duke of Edinburgh expeditions or accumulated injuries. Stroud were missing 4 backs and 3 forwards but all the players were skilled to adapt into different positions thanks to the different training drills we ran and their natural skillset they had accumulated. This had given Coach Samak a big headache trying to work out a starting XV and then we realised it was 90 minutes of Keyan’s drum n bass music that had inflicted that pain.
To make this match report an educational read (its already a GCSE Grade 9 in Fantasy Literature) and to help with GCSE History/Geography and celebrate visiting new locations lets focus on some similarities between our market towns that dominate the local area.
|Sheep Link||Famous for woollen industry||Same for Stroud – and we have Jedds haircut|
|Medical Fame||Lots of hospitals||Where Zara gave birth (and Delia the Medic lives)|
|Literature||Cock Horse to Banbury Cross rhyme||Laurie Lee and Cider with Rosie|
|Food||Banbury Cakes||Fat Toni’s Pizza|
|Rugby Club Founded||1925||1873|
|U15 Rugby History||Losing Cup Finalists||Losing Cup Finalists|
Banbury had excellent facilities - a massive set of playing fields and car parking, a clubhouse decked out in Stroud blue paint, a bar that served Doombar, and they were even kind enough to erect a large gazebo for us to keep the kit and parents dry – just as well because rumour had it that Coach Jo had flogged ours on Ebay, or left it in Barnstaple after last rain sodden tour.
Forwards: Lucas, Liam, Stoner, Darion, Jedd, Harry, Laurie, Mr T
Backs: Hilly, Will, Dave, Keyan, Finn, Nibbles, Alex
Subs: Ryan, Jamie, Callum, Orgy, Euan, Bailey
Stroud kicked off and Finn was quick in with a crunching tackle. Teams traded knock-ons and scrums as the bar of soap, sorry ball, squirmed out of players hands. Banbury had a penalty and kicked for touch but again the wet ball affected the accuracy and it stayed in play as Alex caught it close to the line. Quick hands got the ball to Will who gruber kicked into space but Banbury recovered the ball well. Dominant rucking won Stroud a turnover but they failed to capatilise close to the line. Banbury turned the ball over and kicked the ball away wide. Keyan did well to catch the ball and run it to the left. As he was tackled he shipped the ball back inside to Dave who juggled it a few times but managed to control it as he dived over the line close to the posts. Easy conversion gave Stroud a 7-0 lead.
Banbury kicked off and Stroud made the error to let in bounce around a few times. Eventually the forwards gathered it and took it in turns to smash into their Banbury counterparts – Stoner, Liam, Harry and Laurie all made good yardage and a few dents in their opposite numbers. An alert Hilly dug out the ball from the ruck and quickly passed to Will. He kicked into space but Banbury tracked back and returned the kick. Alex ran the ball back but was held up in a maul. Banbury won the scrum restart on their 22 but a lose pass between the backs went to ground and an opportunistic Keyan pounced on the bouncing ball and scored under the posts. Another easy kick and Stroud led 14-0
The next try was even quicker in arriving. Banbury kicked off and Keyan returned it. Jedd was next to crunch through a few players. Quick hands through the backs went left and Dave found a small gap and exploited it in typically lethal fashion with another clear run to the try line. Reliable Will kicked the extras for a 21-0 lead.
Banbury hadn’t learnt their lesson and kicked the ball to Dave who returned it back with aplonk. Darion took on the attack down the right wing. Stroud were penalised and Banbury kicked deep for touch. In their first lineout they showed great technique with a clean lift, catch and dish move – all hallmarks of a well coached team. Good defensive pressure from Stroud caused Banbury to improvise and kick for the corner. Stroud matched their counterparts in the lineout skills competition and Darion took a great catch. Hilly with typical accuracy gave Will the space to execute an excellent pressure relieving kick. Darion won the kick chase and set Keyan off on a long run down the left wing. As Banbury scrambled back in defence a quick pass inside to Finn, and then another pass back out to Will gave our captain a score in the corner. 100 yards in 20 seconds started and finished by birthday boy Will. What a great pressie to him from the team! Unfortunately the buzzing feeling must have affected his kicking leg as his kick from wide just missed. 26-0 was the lead now
Quarter Time: Banbury 0 – 26 Stroud
Subs were taken at the interval to help give the players time to recover from the jetlag caused by crossing a county border. The coaches looked at the weapons they had. New boy Bailey had managed to squeeze into Keyans 13 shirt. After consulting the “New Zealand coaches guide” we came up with the Jonah Lomu plan to help solve our winger injury crisis and put him out on the wing and scare Banbury into submission. When Bailey admitted his 6ft+ frame and 16 stone was not qualified for a 10 second 100 metres we went for Plan B. Shirt 13 = Prop 1 and Prop 3. He could act as front row instead and help support Orgys slightly lighter frame. The other noticeable change to team dynamic was Ryan stepped in as emergency scrum half.
Banbury kicked off and Mr T caught cleanly under pressure and quickly passed inside to Keyan who made good yardage. Laurie and Stoner made good runs and then another Keyan bullocking run. Banbury were not shy in the tackle though and showed excellent technique to bring down our powerful ball runners. Jonah, sorry Bailey, took on the next attack and Rob Andrew did well to drag him down. Good rucking from Orgy and Darion gave Ryan the space to set a good backs move off to the right. Dave kicked for the try line but Banbury scrambled back to touch it down. A long 22 kickout gave Stroud space to attack with Finn and Laurie combining well. Banbury were coming back into the game though and stole a turnover through their good breakdown play. They attacked left and their powerful #13 (Jonah Mk 2) showed great strength and handoff technique to keep the ball alive and still move forward under constant attention of Stroud tacklers. Eventually Nibbles went low enough to bring him down. Banbury kept the ball alive though and Stroud were eventually penalised at the breakdown.
Banbury kicked for touch and Will attempted to keep the ball in play. The quick Banbury winger anticipated this and hacked the ball on and managed to touch down for a try but the ref went back because the linesman had been flagging for the ball out of play but everyone ignored him in the excitement. Because he had no flag we just thought he was overhead hand clapping to one of Keyans ingrained songs.
Back for the Banbury lineout and again a great catch from them. The ball came out through their backs who managed to set up another good attacking move. Just as they thought they’d evaded our tackles the ball carrier got taken out by a Stoner special. Banbury quickly moved the ball right but Stroud had done well to scramble back into a good defensive line (we like to think the new drill on Friday night was paying dividends already). Quick passing from Banbury evaded the tackles and looked to set up a 3 man overlap to the right but Dave gambled and intercepted a pass and sprinted 60 metres to the try line. Another easy kick for Will and the 4 easy conversions and 14 point turnaround would prove to be decisive in the end. Little did we realise that at the time. 33-0 to Stroud.
Mr T again fielded the kickoff and again another Keyan run. This time it ended with a knock-on. Stroud won the scrum against the head with a formidable front row of Bailey Left-Orgy-Bailey Right ! A quick crash ball from Will to Dave threatened the next try but ref Jo was waiting for the sleight of hand and called it back as a forward pass – “no birthday pressie for you son” was what he really meant! Stroud forwards were again dominant at the scrum though and won another against the head. Orgy was showing great technique with his hooking – helped by the 30mph forward momentum he had from the other 7 forwards.
Ryan went sniping – Fortnite style – lots of running with a silly dance at the end….. Only kidding. It was a typical swerving move that scrumhalf Flash would have been proud of. Good yardage was made into the 22. Jedd did a pick and go and got close to the line. Teams traded turnovers until Dave kicked for the try line and forced Banbury to retreat and touchdown. Stroud had a scrum on 5 metre line that they duly won. Mr T did a base of scrum pick move. The forwards went into Rhino mode and pounded the line with Euan and Stoner just getting held up short. Finally Stroud knocked on and Banbury had a scrum to escape the pressure. They kicked deep but Finn was ready to run it back. Banbury were staunch in defense though and forced another turnover at the breakdown. They quickly attacked left with their Hand-off machine #13 gaining copious yards. Again Nibbles put his body in the right place and brought him down well. It was all to no avail though as good support from the winger continued the move down the left wing. Dave hauled him down to save a certain try but a deft offload back inside to a well positioned support runner gave Banbury a clear run to the try line and a well deserved try. The conversion was missed from wide but Banbury had finally earnt their reward for a combative first half against relentless Stroud pressure.
Half Time: Banbury 5 – 33 Stroud
At half time the coaches reminded the team to stay focused and not let an Old Pats style meltdown take over after leaking a last minute try. Have prophetic those words would turn out to be…..
Banbury kicked off and Dave returned the ball at pace and was brought down by a powerful tackle. Darion and Alex had good runs and this setup Dave on a crash ball but he was stopped quickly and ended up going off injured for the rest of the game creating another backs reorganisation. Banbury were coming more into the game though and forced a few turnovers and attacked back themselves. They threatened to score but Alex put in a last ditch tackle and forced a knock-on. Banbury weren’t giving in though. Their next attack was thwarted by Will putting in a last ditch tackle on the sideline at the 5 metre line. Darion jumped well to win the Stroud lineout but Will had no space to kick and the ball cannoned into the lineout players and an accidental offside penalty given to Banbury. They kicked for touch, expertly won their lineout and set up a driving maul and scored in the left corner. The kick was missed making the score 33-10
Stroud kicked off and Stoner pulverised the kick returner. After a few phases Stroud won a lineout but managed to turn attack into defense as Banbury ripped the ball away from the forwards. They cut up inside and made it as far as the 22 before Alex put in a last ditch tackle. Banbury were supporting in numbers though and cleverly kicked for the corner and outran our defenders to touch down for another good try. Another wide kick was missed with the score now 33-15.
The last passage of the quarter was dominated again by Banbury. Their confidence was growing, Stroud were rushing decisions and couldn’t retain the ball. Hard work by Euan, Callum and Lucas was slowing down the Banbury pack but they were still giving clean ball to their backs to then attack at will. Big tackles by Nibbles, Harry and Finn was keeping them out from scoring again. Eventually Stroud won a scrum and kicked the ball out to finish the period still ahead numerically but under intense pressure.
Three Quarter Time: Banbury 15 – 33 Stroud
Stroud had managed to only leak 10 points so should be able to close out the rest of the game we hoped. How wrong we were! Ryan returned the kickoff well. He was isolated though and Banbury forced a turnover and quickly attacked down the left and scored again. No kick. 33-20 to Stroud. No need to panic (yet!)
Banbury attacked again from the kickoff. Liam this time putting in a great tackle. Stroud managed to get some quality ball though and with Keyan and Alex got close to the line. A series of 5 metre scrums went unrewarded. Banbury were growing in confidence from their much improved defensive effort. They attacked back from deep and Keyan and Stoner had to put in big tackles to slow them down. Banbury were irresistible though and great support running gave them a try to the right corner. Again the kick was missed but it was very close. The score was now 5 tries each. The difference being we had kicked 4 conversions vs none. Stroud 33, Banbury 25. Time to panic (now!)
Would Stroud capitulate and throw away victory or would they show character and close out the game? The supporters were loving the game. It was good quality rugby from both sides and great effort from Banbury to come down from 33-0 down to score 25 unanswered points. The next try would be crucial….
Stroud kicked off and Banbury errored in letting the ball bounce. Our secret weapon Liam the prop sized kick chaser was first to the ball and caught it at pace. The forwards supported him well. Lucas went Rhino. Harry went clearout crazy and took his opposite number onto the adjacent pitch. That definitely helped give clean ball to Hilly who timed his crash ball to Liam to perfection. Liam was forced off the pitch with a big tackle that clearly winded him but he toughed it out. Stroud had a penalty and kicked to the 5 metre line. Laurie won the lineout and this gave Harry the platform to break from the maul and dive left and score in the corner to the immortal scream “That’s how flankers really score tries Dad”.
So why the name change from Sauce to Harry I hear you ask? It was probably because he wanted his real name in lights so he can keep up with his Dads try scoring prowess for the Nomads – plus help prove to his DofE assessor that his rugby skills have improved. The wide conversion was narrowly missed but Stroud had a 13 point cushion.
Banbury kicked off and Keyan, Stoner and Bailey made punishing runs. The backs set up a great move to the left with Alex timing his pass well to release Keyan to force his way down the left flank. He left two players in his wake as they tried desperately to drag him down. Another wide conversion was missed but Stroud had turned the tide to lead 43-25 and take the wind out of the Banbury sails.
The last period was a Finn kickoff return. Strong runs from Bailey and Stoner – Bailey taking about 4 tacklers with him over 20 metres – certainly an impressive debut game. This drew in a lot of defenders which gave the backs space to work their magic. Alex to Keyan and then back to Alex made good yardage down the left. Banbury defended well though and eventually snaffled the ball. They attacked back with Euan and Orgy stemming the tide. Tired bodies littered the pitch. Banbury broke left and looked to have scored but somehow Ryan now playing at winger managed to chase down the attacker and drag him down from behind – somewhat illegally it had to be said but his effort to not give up was impressive. Banbury took the inevitable penalty and setup another lineout on the 5 metre line. They won the lineout and attacked right – as the space opened up and they looked to be able to walk in the final try they knocked on and the game was whistled dead.
Full Time: Banbury 25 – 43 Stroud
Tunnels and handshakes all round as both teams congratulated each other on an excellent game of rugby that was played with immense skill and determination by both sides. Team debrief was held and the highlights of the 1st half emphasised and the areas for improvement dug into. Special mention to Bailey in his 1st game for some rampaging runs and strong scrummaging, and for Ryan for stepping in as 2nd scrumhalf and contributing in many different ways attacking and defensively.
Stroud had managed to edge past Banbury due to our better ball handling skills in the first 25 minutes and defensive line pressure. Banbury had done fantastically well to come back so strongly in the 2nd half and close up to within 8 points. With 10 minutes to go it had been 5 tries all – the difference being we had scored most of our tries close to the posts, whereas Banbury had been forced wide to score and making the conversions nigh on impossible to do in difficult conditions. What was very rewarding for the coaches was to see the players dig deep, overcome injuries and manage to turn momentum around to score 2 tries at end of game to give us a points cushion.
We look forward to playing Banbury again. I am sure they will come back harder, faster and stronger when they get their DofE kids back and want to get revenge on us. Game On !
Thanks to the parents and players for travelling so far in challenging conditions. At least you were rewarded with a really good game and the nice buzz of driving home in sunshine on the back of a well earnt victory. Thanks to Banbury for catering for our kids and meaning that Mark only had to stop twice en-route to re-feed Keyan and Dave with Mars Bars, Subways and McDonalds. If Dave had played the whole game it would have been 4 stops…..and a large curry for tea. Just claim your day-out finances on club expenses like the rest of us are planning to do……
Banbury'own match report is available here at Banbury U15 web site