Match Report
Canford School Boys-U14C vs  Marlborough College
On: Saturday, 16 Sep 2023
Venue: Away

Saturday 16 September Marlborough Away

This is a rite of passage … the first time you pull on your match shirt for your Canford debut and stride out onto the greensward with fourteen other ‘good men and true’. Well, twenty others … we were carrying quite a bench. You have now arrived, and are a bona fide member of the Canford School Rugby Club.

And so it was for our latest crop of Shells this Saturday just gone. A long coach ride to the Wiltshire Downs, and a challenging stroll up the long hill to the rudimentary changing rooms … but then to emerge into the sunshine, a quick warm up, boot and mouthguard check, and some final words of encouragement from some old bloke. Then the whistle blows, and the ball is launched into the air … let battle commence.

The game was split into four quarters, fifteen minutes each, to allow for multiple drinks breaks and plenty of rotation of players (they had thirty to our twenty-one). The first period saw our lads slightly reticent about getting stuck in, perhaps being rather too polite and wanting to play the deferential guests. The game was played very much in our half, even largely in our 22. We competed, and we tackled; but it was only a matter of time before they broke through and we conceded two tries in the period. However, with a few judicious words of constructive criticism at the first break, the boys began to gain a little confidence. This allowed them to be a smidge more aggressive in the tackle and at the breakdown, to the extent that they boosted their share of possession significantly. And with the ball in hand, we had far more opportunities to attack. And, joy of joys, we communally thrilled to our FIRST SCORE of the year as Nick Leung demonstrated a healthy turn of pace to score in the corner. Unfortunately, this was countered by Marlborough’s third score.

In the third quarter, improvements to performance kept rolling in, evidenced by the fact that most of the final two quarters were played in their territory. We (mostly) out-rucked them, and although our running lines were a little confused (and sometimes we actually impeded ourselves), even when we ‘coughed’ the ball in contact or at a breakdown, it was never too long before we wrestled back possession. So in Quarter 3, when a Marlborough lad had done something ‘very naughty’, and a penalty was awarded close to their line, whilst they meandered about to get in position, the quick-thinking George Seabrook grabbed the ball and darted over the line. Game on. OK, so they pulled another score back. Curses.

In the final quarter, again, lots of pressure and increasingly signs of people working together in twos and threes (we’ll work on fours and handfuls for the next match), we were again camped in their 22. A nice reversal of direction around the back of a maul into the blind side channel, an intelligent delivery by the scrum half, and Monty Jackson skittered over in the corner. Woo! Hoo!

But that was to be the end of our marauding. The clock was against us, and the ref blew the final whistle with the boys facing a 15-25 deficit (no conversions allowed).

Really pleasing was the palpable progress made by the boys through just a single hour of match time. Tiny boys had grown into little boys in just sixty minutes. Goodness knows where they will be, and how large by December.

Champagne moment? In the final quarter, having been pressurising our hosts for several phases, we butchered a ball in their 22, and it fell to a rather large and pacey lad who set off to go round the outside of our back line and then turn right to head down the pitch to our try line. Too many (!) of our boys dropped their heads, seeming to accept the inevitability of Marlborough poaching another try. But, Luke Richards – who had already shown himself to have a bit of ‘burn’ in attack – set off in hot pursuit. It took him fifty metres, but he refused to give up and, just as the pair entered our 22, Luke performed a very brave, and technically very impressive smother tackle from behind, ending up around the attacker’s calves … and like a wildebeest on the Serengeti brought down by a hunting dog, their lad was brought to ground. Luckily a few of our lads had also been committed enough to try to keep up the chase, and with reinforcements arriving at the breakdown, we managed to regain possession. Moral of the story??? Never, NEVER give up.

‘I think I might be quite looking forward to this season’ jpst