This week saw the combined Toc H-Broughton Park Under 13s in a home game against Manchester Rugby Club. With both teams having big squads and to give everyone plenty of game time a second mini-sided development game ran alongside the main game.
From the kick off the Manchester team were strong, direct and well organised. Toc-BP on the other hand looked like they were still in the changing room, doing well to keep Manchester from scoring until the seventh minute only due to some individual efforts in defence. When they did get the ball in attack the few individual breaks were soon halted or turned over due to lack of support on the shoulder or at the breakdown. Manchester added two more tries to lead 3-nil at the break.
The second half started much as the first half finished with Manchester quickly getting a fourth score and it looked like it could be a long hard day for the Toc-BP team! However the impact of a few rotations in personnel from the development game plus adherence to the coaches’ half-time teamtalk to focus on getting the defensive line organised and aggressive, and getting close support in and around the breakdown in attack, started to shown dividends. Good work by the forwards secured the ball deep in their own half which was cleared downfield, closely followed by Georgie in pursuit to collect and score the first try of the day for Toc-BP. The improved Toc-BP performance matched the continuing form of Manchester, with possession and advantage seesawing from one to the other but with neither side getting close to scoring until a quickly taken penalty on the Toc-BP 22m line saw Ollie make good ground with another mazy run, before quick support, continued recycling, and willing runners at the breakdown was rewarded when Adam crashed over from 2m. A minute later Manchester scored again with the last play of the half and levelling the score for the half at a much more agreeable 2-2.
Manchester came out of the blocks fast in the third half and scored again after just a minute or so. Five minutes later Manchester were off again with a strong run from a ball won at a centre field scrum and looked odds-on to score down their right-hand wing until a superb cover tackle by Ollie halted the move. But only for a moment, as the Manchester support arrived quicker and in greater numbers than Toc-BP and they ran in their seventh try of the game.
Although 7-2 down on the scoreboard, Toc-BP were not for lying down and rolling over and hit back with great intensity. Two minutes later and after a series of 8 or 10 phases, during which the forwards were relentless in the rucking and recycling, space was created for Georgie to profit from the hard work and quick hands. Minutes later a slick combination saw Adam carry hard midway in the Manchester half to hold the defence in tight before offloading to Conor to speed past a few defenders and feed Sam on the wing to run a curving outside line and score in the corner.
Georgie finished the third half with another couple of tries, including a cute chip and chase, but these opportunities came from the hard work of teammates to suck in the Manchester defence first and thus create the space for Georgie's pace to exploit. A lesson seemingly learnt from the first half, where route one ball to Georgie and other individuals didn’t give them the edge against the well organised and tough tackling Manchester defence – I think the phase is “you’ve got to earn the right to go wide” (Warren Gatland). Third half result: 4 - 2 to Toc-BP!
The final score was probably 7 tries to 6 in favour of Manchester (although I feel Manchester may have got one more in the final half that I missed recording?!) and on balance they were deserving of the win. But up against by far the best side we’ve played so far this season Toc-BP ran them a very close second in the end. The spirit and determination of the fight back after a poor first half was a credit to all who played. Plus the lads showed some signs of 'learning on the job', to play in the right way to make and take their chances. All-in-all some great plus points despite the loss.
Man of Steel awards justly went to Adam for a storming forward display of hard running and hard working, plus a long range try, and to Ollie for some great cover tackling, aggressive defence around the rucks, and good organisation and counterattack running.