Stroud climb a mountain to beat Alpine opponents Matson
Stroud U15s win a pulsating Olympic inspired encounter in foul conditions
It was another away game and the fixtures still involved plenty of travelling. This time passports were going to be required as we set off early and ascended to the Alpine resort of Matson. Looks like a Brexit deal had been struck OK though as we weren’t challenged at customs to provide passports.
Luckily the temperature had risen so the snow storms were replaced with torrential rain. The dry ski slopes were busy with early season skiers and boarders. Matson vs Stroud was played on the alpine meadows at the base of the slopes. Would Stroud plummet to another defeat against their arch nemesis Matson who had inflicted one of only 3 defeats on Stroud last season, or would they ascend to new heights and reach the pinnacle of performance? Storm Callum was going to leave its mark on this game, would prop Callum be equally forceful and dent his opposing number?
Match Report #1
The match reporters 2 pages of rain lashed notes were in tatters. Here goes for a match report.....
Stroud scored first, then a few more. The ball was dropped more than once. Matson came back into it strongly. Stroud might have scored next – or was it Matson? Lucas scored a 95 yard try from the ski jump above us – or was it Jedd or Liam? The ball was dropped more. Matson scored at the end (probably).
Final score: Matson 10+ Stroud 10+
So we were none the wiser as to what had happened and who won apart from all getting soaked.
Best resort (Courchevel or Matson?) to my imagination and concoct another match report from the heart – just like Stroud’s performance…..
Match Report #2
Forwards: Lucas, Liam, Stoner, Jedd, Darion, Harry, Laurie, Mr T
Backs: Flash, Will, Dave, Keyan, Billy, Josh, Alex
Subs: Arthur, Ryan, Jamie, Euan, Callum, Bernie, Bailey (The driest people in Gloucestershire wearing our subs coats)
It was a lovely sunny day in Matson. Temperatures were in the high 30’s (probably Fahrenheit). The match reporter was strutting his infamous year-round shorts and T-shirt and Rayban’s look. Stroud were looking forward to some fast paced, fumble free passing in these perfect conditions. See a highly accurate match report so far……
The game was ready for kick off but no ball was produced. Perhaps it had floated away across the Channel? Sailor Eddie would return it next weekend. Anyway we negotiated the way forward with our European friends and Stroud brought the ball and Matson brought the ref.
Stroud kicked off and immediately put pressure on the Matson kick return which they knocked on. Stroud won the scrum restart and attacked right with Flash directing the play well, went through a few phases and eventually got the ball out to pacy winger Billy who squeezed down the line and had the foresight to manage to run it under the posts and give Will an easy conversion. 7-0 to Stroud.
Stroud took the next kick-off and made good yardage with Mr T and Keyan. The ball was slippy though and the teams traded knock-ons and scrum restarts for the next few minutes as both defences nullified each other. Even a typical Dave crash ball was more snowball as it slipped from his grasp. Matson threatened to score but more stout backs-to-the-wall Stroud defense on their own line was rewarded with a Dave rip turnover and chance to counter attack through Josh. Stroud worked the ball into the Matson 22 with good runs from Keyan, Darion and Harry. The forwards went into full blown Llama and pounded away with all the L’s - Lucas, Liam and Laurie – threatening to score but being kept out. Matson eventually stole the ball and attacked themselves from deep but the ball went to ground and Billy was quick to hack it on and touch it down in the right corner for an opportunistic try. The difficult kick from wide was narrowly missed. Stroud now leading 12-0.
Before you could say “Is that rugby jacket still waterproof Phil?” Stroud had scored again with Keyan returning the kickoff the length of the pitch down the left flank and managing to get it under the posts. Good kick and 19-0 was Stroud's lead.
The next phase of play saw a Matson player get sin-binned and EU chief negotiator Glaws-Dave going in to calm down the “negotiations”. Matson were coming back into the game strongly though and their pacy backs were stretching the Stroud defence. Only a great combination tackle from Dave and Billy stopped 1 certain try. Stoner was also loving the conditions and bringing down man-after-man – often forcing them into negative yardage. Matson were proud of their home record though and kept forcing their way into the Stroud half through a variety of Stroud penalty offences. Matson went all ski-lift on their lineout and snaffled the greasy ball well and set up a powerful drive to score a try in the left corner. Difficult kick was missed leaving it 19-5 to Stroud.
Matson quickly attacked back on the kickoff and went right and left. After a number of phases they sucked in a lot of Stroud defenders and then launched right. Only a last gasp diving tackle from Will saved a certain try. Matson kept the ball alive well though and eventually there swervy winger called "Super G" managed to slalom his way through a number of blue shirted poles and score another try on the left. The conversion was missed and the half time whistle went with Stroud still leading but coming under increasing pressure. Would they continue downhill at pace like Franz Klammer or step up defensively and punish their opponents Wayne Gretzky style?
Half Time: Matson 10-19 Stroud
Coach Samak hobbled onto the pitch to give an encouraging speech. His ankle and ligaments were in pieces and he had needed a 5 minute headstart to make the 30 yards. Good job Matson had attacked down the far left so he hadn’t interfered with play……
The second half was to be played as 13-a-side as Matson had some player injuries and not enough subs.
Matson kicked off long. Will did well to recover the bouncing ball cleanly. He looked up and wanted to kick right but Coach Samak was still on the pitch hobbling off and would be called for off-side. Will improvised and kicked long down the left flank. Arthur – thankfully fully recovered from his knee injury – sprinted after the ball. Seeing the slippy conditions he jumped into a bobsleigh and negotiated his way at pace down the Cresta run. As the ball/stone curled around on the Scottish ice he put in a lovely slide (brush and all) and recovered the stone ahead of the Matson full back. Somehow he then jumped to his feet, shrugged off an ice-hockey style body check and speed skated his way the last 30 yards to the try line for a fabulous solo effort. All the parents and judges stood up in awe and held up their score boards. 6.0 across the board. Perfection. Rugby, dancing, or alpine sports – Arthur could do it all…..and how much more Olympic themed can this match report get?
Will did another great kick from wide and Stroud were winning with the medal table reading 26-10. Hang on a minutes – I could read my drying out notes. This must have been the Lucas/Jedd/Liam 95 yard ski-jump inspired try. I will let Arthur correct me if I am proven to be wrong (again).
While the parents and players were still celebrating the Stroud try Matson took advantage of slack defending and scored a quick try down the right wing and with a good kick it was now 26-17 to Stroud. Now that Coach Samak had finally made his way off the pitch both teams decide to use the nearside flank for the remaining 25 minutes of the half.
Matson attacked again from the next kickoff and only a typical Alex tackle stopped another try from the pacy Matson winger. Both teams traded tackles and attacking runs. A sequence of penalties were awarded against Stroud. One of the coaches was quietly heard asking for an explanation – so quiet that Nicky at Fromehall M&J section was able to advise it was probably for a wet shoe lace in an off-side position.
Matson won their penalty lineout and again set up a forwards move and smashed through the Stroud snow drift and scored a try in the right corner. Another difficult kick was missed but the score had closed to 26-22 to Stroud. Could Stroud show character and good skiing ability and get off these difficult red and black slopes and get back to the enjoyable green and blue easy runs that they had started out so well with in 1st half?
Stroud managed to weather the next few minutes of Storm Matson and finally force a turnover with the help of Storm Callum and Hurricane Harry. Dave attacked right, as he got closed down a back-of-hand offload to Keyan set him off down the right wing. More superb tackling from Matson slowed up Keyan and forced him into a wipeout but he cleverly passed inside to Alex who managed to hold onto the bar of soap as he too was hauled to the ground. Good support from the forwards arrived and attacking runs from Euan, Jedd and Mr T were kept out. Eventually Dave managed to squeeze through a gap and touched down in the right corner. The kick was missed but Stroud were up by 9 at 31-22.
Matson kicked off and before you could say “Phil your coat is drying out nicely” Dave had swerved his way through a number of tacklers and scored a try under the posts that Will converted. 12 valuable points and a 38-22 Stroud lead.
Harry was on kick return duties next. More good Stroud forward moves from Bernie, Bailey and Orgy kept Matson on the back foot. Another series of infringements gave Matson a penalty but they missed touch and Ryan ran it back well to half way. Jedd and Euan went on strong runs but Matson managed to snaffle a loose ball and attack themselves. Punishing tackles from Keyan and Stoner as they “luged” and lunged their way around the pitch were making “skeletons” of the Matson players. “Sleigh Bob” was the call as another tackle took out the Matson winger called Bob. “Full house” shouted Russell as he had managed to mention all the Olympic sliding events in quick succession.
Matson had by then been forced out wide though – to avoid the stupid calls from the Stroud match reporter. They cut back inside though and again Alex was the last line of defence and managed to trip up the Matson attacker. Orgy won a turnover and the backs attacked but the ball went to ground as the rain intensified. A brave Jamie dived on the ball and did well to retain possession for Stroud. Stroud got sucked into a forwards battle at the breakdowns with Harry and Laurie in full flanker mode leading the way in the greasy conditions. Eventually Matson won the ball and with Stroud sucked in they scored an easy try down the right and under the posts. A good conversion and it was a 38-29 Stroud lead with 3 minutes to play…..
…..3 minutes later Matson were still attacking and scored another well worked try down the right. This time the kick was missed and the match reporters imagination had run out at the same time as the refs clock. After consulting with the ref for the official score it was agreed as…..
Full Time: Matson 34-38 Stroud
Stroud had played well in torrid conditions and finally beaten Matson – even more satisfying to beat them on their home turf after they had beaten us at Fromehall last season 29-20
We retreated to the clubhouse to dry off and enjoy classic Matson Alpine hospitality – Cheese Fondue and Milka chocolate for the players, and chips with curry sauce and schnapps for the parents. We all enjoyed going out on the piste after a hard mornings work! Once it got dark and the slopes were closed we retreated back over the mountain range to the lowlands of Stroud for a well earnt rest and 6 hours in the drying room with the ski boots and skis. As of 4pm I have finally dried off and warmed up. All 4 upper layers (2 waterproof) were soaked through to the skin.
I am sure Will and Keyan will emphasise with their St Peters rugby mates and enjoy the bragging rights at school on Monday. All the players can take great pride in this result though as everyone contributed and any victory away at fortress Matson is to be savoured. Great effort to bring 22 players – thanks to the parents for their on-going support. Special mention to injured Fin to come over as well and support his teammates.
Full credit to Matson for playing so well in challenging conditions and pushing our team so hard in the 2nd half. The match was played in great spirit by both teams and both can be proud of the entertainment they served up for the supporters.
Apologies for the Winter Olympic puns and any factual inaccuracies in this report and not mentioning everyone in the right context. My memory isn’t what it used to be…….