Sidmouth U12s - On Tour

The tour games started on Saturday 16th at Evesham RFC in cold, damp conditions – snow was visible on the hills as we drove to the ground ! This fixture consisted of a three-way mini tournament, with our opponents Evesham and Bowden starting off proceedings, giving us the chance to size up the opposition. It was evident that Evesham were very reliant on two large athletic players, while Bowden were smaller but with great handling skills and teamwork, so these games would give us a real test against different types of opposition.

Sidmouth started their games by playing Bowden and had a cracking first half. Sidmouth initially had phase after phase of direct running to get close to the tryline, then a quick clearout at the ruck and crisp passing got us over the tryline for the first score. The next score was initiated by a strong drive, then the ball was recycled to Ted Osborne who, despite being tackled short of the line, managed to reach out for the score showing real composure. The boys had their blood up by now, and very quickly a strong run broke two tackles for the next score. A few more phases, and a three man overlap for Sidmouth wasn’t needed as we closed out the first period with another score to make it 4-0 for the half. The second half was much closer, with Bowden showing what they were made of. The half started with great phase play from Sidmouth inching us closer and closer, until the pressure told and we were finally able to crash over for the score. Bowden then turned the tables on us and started making progress our way, until a break looked certain to score, only snuffed out by some excellent last ditch Sidmouth defence. Some tense play followed, with Bowden showing great hands, support and continuity, battling against the superb defensive line speed from Sidmouth putting them under constant pressure. Eventually the Bowden boys won out, with great hands getting the ball repeatedly the width of the pitch until Sidmouth ran out of defenders and Bowden scored. Honours even for the second half at 1-1, with both teams showing real teamwork.

Next up were Evesham, who were a different team altogether. Evesham started the scoring with passes flying the width of the pitch until we ran out of numbers and conceded the score. Next up came one of their big players, whose size and speed caused a few of our team to miss their tackles so he got straight through for the score. Sidmouth got back some possession for a while and started to make forward progress, but then lost a scrum against the head, and the big Evesham fly half showed fine skills with a kick and gather to score. Next up they scored from a strong run into the corner, then came another of the trademark kick and gather tries for the opposition fly half. The half was notable for a series of fine tackles from a fearless Alex Hooper who chopped down player after player. Score for the half was thus 5-0 to Evesham. The second half continued with the one-way traffic score wise, with a great Evesham break from the blind side of the scrum scoring in the corner. Next up, we regained possession on our tryline, but unfortunately the clearance kick was charged down for the score. Evesham continued the pressure with phase after phase until a great run took them over. The next score was unusual in that it was a soft one – Evesham scored straight from the kick-off. Sidmouth kept plugging away and making progress, but the two star players for Evesham always seemed to make the difference and provide go forward. We came dangerously close with a series of forward rumbles up the pitch until the ball was turned over just short of the tryline and cleared. The last score was again for Evesham with a strong run into the corner. Final score for the half was 5-0 to Evesham, but it never seemed that one-sided – the main difference between the two sides was two players for Evesham that Sidmouth had no answers for. However, we never gave up and it was a gutsy performance, with great teamwork and support play, all we seemed to lack was the defensive line speed that had been so obvious in the first game.

Sunday dawned bright and sunny, with dry conditions giving the potential for a good running game. Whether this would turn out seemed in doubt, as some bleary-eyed boys turned up at Cheltenham North RFC, having had a late night and sleep disturbed by a 2am fire alarm. Cheltenham had some huge players, so it would be interesting to see if this would prove a repeat of the Evesham match. However, the boys were undaunted and set out with a plan to run the opposition ragged.

Spending the weekend together obviously paid dividends, as the team played as a team from the off. Initially getting possession from a turnover scrum, Sidmouth went through phase after phase the width of the pitch, inching forward each time until the pressure told and the score was gained. This was a true team try, it looked like every member of the Sidmouth side touched the ball several times in the build-up. A carbon-copy score followed, with Sidmouth again winning the scrum and working the opposition from side to side for the score. It wasn’t all one-way traffic though, Cheltenham had some huge players who weren’t afraid of direct running, but the Sidmouth defensive line speed and gang tackling eventually won the turnover, upon which they switched seamlessly into attack and again worked the ball from side to side until getting the score. 3-0 to Sidmouth for this quarter.

The next quarter saw Sidmouth again making gradual forward progress, but Cheltenham managed to turn the ball over on their own tryline, and broke out. The Sidmouth defence went with them, and this was no easy score, but after they’d worked it from side to side they managed to ground the ball in the corner. Sidmouth continued with the fast gameplan, and taking a quick kickoff with a great chase regained possession, then the trademark whole-team side to side passing got us over for an excellent team try to even the score. Cheltenham came straight back, with their strong runners making ground despite tacklers hanging off them, but the Sidmouth team’s workrate and defensive commitment managed to turn the ball over to save a certain try. Next came a great bit of individual skill from Joe Richardson, who latched onto the end of a series of passes, beat two defenders and ran the length of the field to score. Sidmouth then kicked off long, the excellent chase harried Cheltenham and kept them pinned on their own line, then we turned the ball over and the team drove the ball over for the score. 3-1 for the quarter.

No slouches,  the big lads of Cheltenham decided to play to their strengths and used their ball carriers to make gradual progress forward. Eventually they got the ball to a big lad who drove down the wing and we were just unable to stop him. A determined Sidmouth kept the ball in the Cheltenham half for a while, but the opposition won a turnover and we were unable to stop their big, fast wing flying down the side to score a fine wingers try. The one-way traffic continued for a while, with Sidmouth soaking up pressure, until Cheltenham broke out and another score looked inevitable, until a fine trysaving tackle from Miles Lewis stopped the inevitable – this obviously fired him up, because moments later he joined the attacking line from fullback and flew through traffic to score. 1-2 for the quarter.

The last quarter was the best yet from Sidmouth, who had really started to believe in themselves. We opened the scoring with a great drive, followed by spinning the ball the width of the field for a fine wingers try. Next up was a series of phases making gradual progress forward, til Harry Lister straightened the line, took out several tacklers and managed to offload to Henry Rousseau, who despite having two or three defenders between him and the tryline five metres away, was determined to score come hell or high water and drove unaided through them. Next up was a beautiful bit of individual skill from Ed Cooper, who gathered the ball from kickoff and nimbly skipped straight through the opposition to score. Last score was a full-blooded forward drive from a penalty finished off with great work from George Pierson-Lovesy. Final score 4-0 for the quarter for an overall score of 11-3 to Sidmouth.

This was easily Sidmouth’s best performance of the year. Undaunted by the size advantage of the opposition, the entire squad played as a team, with great handling and support work in attack and great line speed and commitment in defence, all played with a great sporting spirit and camaraderie. With such a superb team performance it would be unfair to single out any single player for mention – but we can single out the coach, Stephe Kruger, whose hard work and support over this season and others produced such a great and skilful team performance. A great tour, enjoyed by all.