Under 14 A
Sunday 9th September 2018
Old Albanians RFC A squad v Huntingdon Stags RFC
This was our first foray into the realms of 15 a side rugby on English soil, with the boys now playing with a full deck in the scrum and obviously forwards as a whole. The early Autumn morning was pleasant without being too warm for the team.
Huntingdon Stags had kindly stepped into the void created by us not being able to tour down to Exeter as planned due to school matches on the Saturday, this also meant we lost 3 players due to knocks and one other with DPP duties. Into the fold stepped a few of our B team squad, not necessarily with a smile on their face, but boy did they perform well.
We have always had fun with Stags, they are one of my favourite teams to play against, the team is fair, work hard and there is never any issues, their parents are lovely and the coaches are always a giggle, so no nicer opposition could be found on this day. Many thanks guys for making the trip down the A1M.
We had decided to split the game in to 20 minute sections, hopefully 4 of them but more likely 3.
1st third (as it turned out)
As an age range, our coaching philosophy this season is to not worry about the results and for the team to learn how to manage the games themselves. It has been decided that to help the boys develop tactically and strategically the coaches will remain quiet on the side line, and when we say coaches, we all know that means me!
We were starting with a mixed A team (if such a thing exists) given debuts to new players (Martin Smeaton at fly half and Logan Noble on the wing), we also had 4 forwards up from the B team, 3 of whom started, Jack Brighton, Reuben McComb and Cameron Haxton (with Finley Rees pulled in very late on the bench as he had already trained that morning).
We have been working on our pods of three with not just the forwards but the backs as we are trying to integrate our backs and forwards this season. The game started with us receiving the ball and the team when straight into action with the pods working very well, we marched up the pitch, controlling the phases with good communication and composure, this lead to Jo Mason scoring from the wing after we had moved the ball wide. This was our first try of the new season and our first ever conversion at OAs and we missed, to be fair it was on the touch line and a long long way out.
Stags kicked off and we took control of the ball again, sticking with our pods and moving the ball wide, this led to a second try, this time by Owen Phillips not quite under the posts, an easier conversion attempt was landed.
Stags then hit back with a try of their own which they themselves converted. Our line speed not quite its usual self yet as we gave up ground a bit too easily.
The first third ended with Aiden Chennels scoring another try through the forwards but once again we did not convert. So we ended the first section up 17 – 7. At the drinks break we asked what was working well and what needed to be improved, we got the usual stock answers as to be expected the boys say what they think you want to hear, but and this was the pleasing thing there were some usual answers, they were thinking for themselves (which is what this year is about for us).
The changes had been predetermined to ensure everyone got the same amount of game time and the team had a bit more of a familiar ring to it (with a few exceptions).
We started brightly, again having a good control of the break down (totally different to the scrum where Stags owned us all day), we were not over committing, leaving numbers aplenty for the next break down and when the boys were ready we went wide to Junior Mason who did what Junior Mason does, get a yard and then sprint like the wind (run Forest run). Junior dotted won under the posts and we duly converted.
This was probably our most controlled third of the game. Line speed was better, we were tackling better and organisation was good. Oliver McGowan was next on the scoresheet, scoring from a rare scrum we won before we moved it wide with quick hands and a few gaps that could have been exploited. Conversion once again completed.
The forwards wanted back in the action and after finding ourselves in front of the Stags posts we were awarded a penalty and Owen Phillips dotted down after a quick tap, converted again.
If it sounds like this was an easy ride, it certainly was not. Stags are one of those teams that battle for the entire game, not letting heads drop and not resorting to foul play, they are a class outfit. As mentioned, they had the better of us in the scrum and had started to retain the ball better, they have some big lads that can run but one of our strengths (which was commented on by the Stags coaches) was that we do not commit to the ruck if we do not think we can win it. The third ended with us not conceding and the score 38 – 7.
Again at the drinks break, questions were asked, the boys were happy but in truth we squandered too many overlaps, we were not hitting the line fast enough and with the possession we had we should have scored a few more (case in note, watch the All Blacks from Saturday against Argentina. Argentina were very good (did you hear that Mr Jones) its just the Abs are very clinical).
Changes were again made, we moved some of the backs into forwards positions and gave 5 of the forwards a break. We are blessed with many backs this year, so everyone was on for their fair share, it did make us a small looking team though, but our hearts were big.
Stags apparently had a few truths given to them by their coaches and it worked, they came at us hard, with renewed confidence and vigour. They started to break our line, we were not dominating the gain line like the previous third and they rumbled on over, whilst missing the conversion. We could have gone into our shell a little bit, we were being out muscled but nope, back we came. We stuck to what we had been taught, we controlled the break down where we could and then exploited gaps with Logan Noble going over in the corner for a debut try. It was a long way out and we did not convert, must get closer to the posts guys.
Stags came back at us again to score a third try of the game, this time converting, there were about 10 minutes left. Could we regain parity of the third, or were we going to dominated? As you would expect from 2 committed teams they went at it for the last 10 minutes, with no ground given easily or taken without hard work but the remainder of the third was scoreless.
It was a great mornings effort, with some great rugby being played by both teams. Final score OAs 43 – Stags 19.
Lots for us to look at over the next few weeks. We need to find/develop a few more forwards so we have more strength in depth and we need to take advantage of the overlaps we develop.
Good luck to Stags this season, it was as always a pleasure having you.
Training for next 2 weeks then HML games.
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