Tour Day 1
It was Glos RFU vs Somerset RFU. A one-off match to claim County bragging rights. It was also the 1st day of the Stroud U15s tour to the sunny South West. At least the weather couldn’t be any worse than snowy Forest of Dean that ambushed us last year……
…..Michael Fish had been brought back from the dead to provide the eagerly anticipated weather forecast. Just a small breeze coming in were his immortal words…….
We all jumped on the tour bus. The kids ready kitted – boots and gum shields in place – just in case the coach was late and no time for pre-match changing. 45 mins later we had battled through the Stroud traffic and made it the 5 miles to the M5. Realising we were going to be late warm-ups were conducted on the coach to try and save time later on. Coach Jo was also wearing his refs kit and boots. He too conducted his normal pre-match warm-up routine on the coach. 45 minutes of not drinking, then eventually giving in as Coach Mk II force fed him a can of Somerset scrumpy. Coach Mk II – aka hop along assistant linesman - then downed 14 cans of Guinness to aid his decision making process. It was going to be dark and wet and windy so not seeing more than 5 yards wouldn’t be a problem.
Where we going shouted the players? “Wellington” came the reply. Cold sweat broke out amongst the Marling school players. Bad memories of Wellington College after getting beat by them in Schools National Cup 5th Round. The Marling players demanded to be dropped off at Bristol Parkway and wanted to get a train back home rather than face the Twickenham winners again. The coaching staff calmed them down. “It’s Wellington RFC in Somerset. Not Welly College Berkshire. Still be a tough game so stay focused and don’t drink too many cans of Iron-Bru and Red Bull on the way down”
Luckily the M5 traffic wasn’t too bad – the only problem being the strange guy in the blue van that followed us all the way. Lucas led a players revolt and gave him frequent sign language from the back window. We arrived at Wellington for 7:30 and realised it was Jenks following us – lucky it was just a Thumbs up sign the kids were trained to display.
A lovely ground with an impressive stand, changing facilities and clubhouse was waiting for us. A nice bunch of people and a raucous crowd were settled in for the night. Somerset Cider was freeing their singing voices and a great atmosphere ensued. And then it rained, and rained and rained. And then it got windy, very windy, and then tree bending gale force. Michael Fish had got it wrong again……
A quick tour speech was given by the coaching staff, including coach Churchill. An express 20 minute warm-up was held and then the game was ready to start under the watchful eye’s of ref Jo and lino Mk II.
In tour tradition I now pass you over to our volunteer guest match reporters who were manful to step upto the plate, but too slow to run away from the match reporters clipboard when he went searching for journalists…..
I stood on the side-line, free of said clipboard, ready to finally watch my son play 120 minutes of rugby 1st hand and not have to make it up from my notes like most weekends. 3 minutes after kick-off Alex hobbled off the pitch with a tour ending injury and I wouldn’t get to see him play live rugby. As a penalty I went to grab the match reporters kit and make him write-up the 2nd half as an incentive to get back on the pitch – but he clutched his shoulder and claimed that Delia wouldn’t let him use it for rugby or writing so back to the adult match reporters……
1st Half Guest Match Reporter: Geoff Hilton
The report will be added later when Geoff’s notes have dried out, or were they blown away into the Bristol Channel in the wind? It will be worth the wait based on previous years reports.
As a teaser let’s just say it was a good battle with the teams trading tries with Stroud pulling away towards half time.
2nd Half Guest Match Reporter: Mark Organ
There was a short break for half time and a quick restart caught out the second half match reporter who emerged from the warm club house into the rain to find he had missed a try. Anyway, it seems that the restart did not go 10, Stroud won the resultant scrum, Will H took the ball on the burst, put a well-timed pass out to Dave who ignored all opposition and ran in to score.
Wellington’s restart was cleanly collected and lobbed out to Archie M who made a good strong run to the Wellington 22 but was brought down by a strong Wellington tackle. A knock on in the tackle gave Wellington a scrum but an infringement by Stroud turned this into a penalty which Wellington were quick to take. As strong attack was snuffled out as the runner was bundled into touch by an Stroud payer who was unidentifiable owing to the distance, light and rain.
A short period of Stroud attacks with solid Wellington defence came to an end when Wellington stole the ball in the loose only to be quickly dispossessed following a great tackle from Hilly which set the ball loose for it to be quickly collected by Will H. A long intelligent kick from the fly half was adroitly collected at pace by Archie M who duly ran over and scored under the posts. Will H popped it over for another 2 points.
Keyan called for and collected the restart and made a darting run from Stroud’s 22 nearly as far as the Wellington 22. Archie C who had been mobile and strong all evening was at hand to gather the ball as Keyan was floored by a couple of brave Wellington backs, but more strong defence from the diehard Wellington crew abruptly thwarted the determined Curtis.
The Wellington scrum gave them temporary possession before being relieved of ball carrying responsibilities by the hungry Stroud, who then conceded a penalty in the darkness from an infringement known to the referee alone. Wellington chose to kick for touch and breathed a sigh of relief when the spiteful wind blew it almost back to the kicker but then just into touch. The Wellington attack was killed off by another crunching tackle from the nonchalant Stoner but a smidgen of rare indiscipline from the 5 Valley boys prompted the man with the whistle to rattle his pea and award another penalty to Wellington.
Ever-eager Wellington took it quickly but were unlucky to spill the slippery ball forward giving Stroud a scrum. A clean ball from the back of the scrum was quickly distributed from scrum half to fly half and then swiftly to Keyan who caught it on the burst and ran half the length of the pitch, being almost rude in his disregard of The Wellington defenders who thought they might interrupt his passage, planting the Gilbert neatly behind the posts. The swirling wind did not prevent the relaxed Hammo from slotting the perfect conversion.
Jedd collected Wellington’s restart confidently and set off on one of his new, hallmark knees up runs which would have Mother Brown proud and which Wellington were finding a challenge. Great support from the ever-present Archie C ensured that Jedd’s off-load was put to good use with an incisive run which was eventually brought to a halt by the resilient Wellington defence.
The rain got harder and wet hands led to a rare Stroud mishandle and a scrum for Wellington. More naughtiness of some kind in the scrum prompted the now sodden referee to use valuable breath to blow his whistle and afforded Wellington the opportunity to threaten Stroud again with another quick penalty. A good run from the hosts finished inside the Stroud 22 when well-organised defence deposited the Wellington attacker into touch.
Play moved into the wet and dark side making it just about impossible to follow and some spectators went inside, presumably to see if the game was being televised. A penalty brought Wellington out of the tenebrous gloom and a slickly organised attack from the backs earned them a well-earned try in the corner. The very difficult kick was only narrowly missed.
Stroud’s kick back to Wellington saw an instant attack by the re-motivated home side but in his inimitable modest destruction of invaders Stoner was having none of it and his crunching tackle caused a Wellington spill and a Stroud scrum. The scrum broke up quickly leaving Jedd free to collect the ball before handing it over to the backs who displayed their strength with the ball in hand and an ambitious opportunist kick by Dave nearly paid off but went a metre too far and out of play.
Wellington responded at the restart with another dangerous attack but solid defence regained the ball for Stroud and a clever short kick by Will H looked set to add to the points tally but went into touch. There followed a few minutes of to and fro, attack and defence when both sides showed skill with the ball in hand and at the same time brave and solid defence. A rare forward pass by Wellington gave Stroud possession. Then the rain got really hard.
Stroud won a penalty, and kept the ball in hand until the conditions dictated otherwise whereupon the referee succumbed to trench foot and blew the final whistle.
Final Score: Wellington 19 : Stroud 52
A great game under challenging conditions in which both sides played brave and expansive rugby. The Stroud section of the stand had thinned out considerably, possibly due to the inclement conditions; more likely owing to the home supporters’ rendition of Mr Brightside. A small price to pay for the amazing hospitality we were shown from our friends at Wellington RFC.
Now back to the normal match reporter…… Thanks Geoff and Mark for your reports. Very entertaining and surprisingly accurate – even with the darkness, sodden notes to read from. Much better than the normal guy – you can take over the reporters job next season…
We retired to the clubhouse and were fed copious amounts of top quality grub. The kids were fed like royalty. Pork Belly, Chips and Peas. It was like the set of Masterchef. All that was missing was Beef Wellington - Boom, Boom! Or was it a clever ploy to get half the squad to transfer down to Welly for next season? The brown envelopes filled with cash, the professional contract and the offer of free public transport confirmed they were tapping up our players. But Somerset is too close to Bath, Bristol and Exeter rugby clubs and our kids liked quality Premiership action so declared their undying loyalty back to Stroud RFC and the promise of an occasional trip to Kingsholm to watch the mighty Glaws.
Speeches were held and tour memento’s exchanged. Rugby stories were exchanged and a good time was had by all. Many thanks to Welly for their great hospitality – special thanks to the kitchen staff in particular and Alison and Nick for the admin/co-ordination. Although the score looked one sided it had been a tough game with both sides giving their all and great skills and commitment in the difficult conditions. Welly had kept us honest in the 1st half and got us worried, but a 2nd half of Stroud dominance edged us ahead and gave us a comfortable cushion at the end aided by Stoner inspired tackling and classic backs attacking moves from all areas of the pitch. What was especially satisfying was the great defensive pressure that forced 3 tries deep in Welly territory – 21 easy points out of a cushion of 33 points so defense does win games!
We departed Welly at 10:15 and hoped for a quiet trip to the North Devon accommodation. Nope - the kids were buzzing and more dubious “music” filled the bus. The wind was buffeting the bus. Nearly forcing us over the cliffs and Exmoor ravines as we snaked our way up and down challenging roads. Good job it was dark and we were full of Cider - the adults that is. Couldn’t see if it was a 5 or 50 yard drop. The dutch courage from the alcohol – and Bills drinking game of musical “pass-the-hip-flask” was helping us immensely.
We arrived at Watermouth Lodges and in record time dropped the bags at the accommodation and made it back to the bar before last orders. 3 hours later we finally called “Last Orders” and went to bed a bit worse for wear. The subtlety of the howling wind forcing power loss, losing the lights and setting off the burglar alarms was the final straw that sent us packing.
The coach driver being the consummate professional had gone into marketing mode and retired to bed early in his sponsored PJ’s wearing the logos of our generous contributors:
- Project One Analysis Ltd
- Omega Resources Group Ltd
- EPS Electrical Contractors Ltd
- Curtis Developments Ltd
- Alternative Plumbing and Heating Solutions
- Central Cladding Systems Ltd
The rest of the weekend awaited. Could Stroud continue their fine form against Bideford on Sunday?