U10 Kent Mini Rugby Festival 2019
By John Gildersleeve
It’s all about the team
U10 Kent Mini Rugby Festival 2019
Aylesford Bulls RFC
Sunday 24th March
The next stop on the Edenbridge U10’s journey was Aylesford Bulls RFC. A club, rich in rugby heritage and values, was to welcome some thirty-eight clubs from the South East in this Kent mini’s rugby festival. The warm-up was not as planned or of significant length, due to Sat Nav issues but once the team did come together, captain Brodie rallied the troops, distributed match shirts and organised a huddle to reunite this band of brothers.
A glorious morning with deep blue skies set the scene for match 1 against a decent drilled Medway team. It was a dream start with numerous passes to hand which allowed Harry to make a powerful dart down the wing to score the opening try. The team continued to play fantastic rugby with all those training hours put in really starting to reap the rewards. Ball retention was as I’ve never witnessed before, they wanted that ball and they wanted it bad! In defence tackles came thick and fast, with one tackle providing a spill of the ball which Brodie scooped up and ran to the line for the second try of the game. And it wasn’t any time at all until Brodie received the ball and ran to the line again for his second and the team’s third try. A solid captain’s display, leading from the front – this he must have learnt from the mighty figure of Alun Wyn over the past few months! 3-0 Half time. The second half was no different and, if anything, the intensity went up a notch. The passing was slick and tackling was ferocious. A turnover, any large company would be proud of, by the hard-working Will set up Harry for his second try. And again, we kept on coming, Daniel with his huge drive on their ‘big man’ gave Leo an opportunity to head for the line. With still a bit to do, Leo confidently skipped his way to the line with a couple of shimmies thrown in too! With less than a minute to go, how fitting that Brodie scored the last try of the game set up by the work horse Max who continued to tackle hard. A captain’s hat-trick no less. What a start. A clean sheet too. And some very proud boys were clapped off the pitch. Who needs an hour to warm up anyhow…?
As the festival BBQs roared into action, next up on pitch 4 were Tunbridge Wells. One of Kent’s biggest clubs with a huge pool of players to select from. This time, the start was not as clinical with a few missed tackles allowing their speedster to grab the ball and score the opening try. And with almost exactly the same scenario they scored the second try after some poor defence. It was now apparent that this was a totally different challenge to the first game. But a team, taught to remain calm and focussed, moved through the gears and after a long stint of possession, the ball landed in Brodie’s hands who opened up his stride and scored in the corner. What a try! Now looking strong again, Harry went in and rucked over the ball to give Sam Innes clean ball. With a perfectly timed pass by Thomas (a player really finding his feet in this strong team), Leo caught the ball and galloped to the other corner to score our second. 2-2 HT. The fight back was very much on. Jack came out of the blocks, similar to a hungry lion who had been locked up for too long, running a perfect line setting up Edenbridge’s next try scored by Sam Ward, who’s awareness and quick thinking was too good as he dived on the loose ball. We were in the driving seat for the first time and it felt good. And to put the icing on the cake Will made a steal, that any criminal would be proud of, and scored to make it four tries on the bounce. Full time and a 4-2 victory. Wow that was fantastic and testament to the team for keeping a clean sheet in the second half. It is massively encouraging to see the boys using their rugby brains, passing the ball when right to do so and taking new found responsibility.
Still buzzing from the drama of the last encounter, Kevin provided the team with some well-deserved cakes. Feeding time at the zoo came to mind as this hungry set of players gobbled down every crumb. No surprise really. The adrenaline was flying but energy had to be reserved for the next two matches. As parents headed off for coffees, burgers etc.…. we all used the break to refuel and get prepared for the unknown quantity of Old Dunstonians.
The third match was an absolute masterclass with skilful running lines, immense tackling and brutal rucking which made this contest very one sided in our favour. The team were really starting to gel, breaks by Daniel and constant unselfish passing from Sam Innes and Max set up one try after another. Jack and Harry punching holes through the middle always crossing the game line, Will quietly causing a nuisance wherever he went and the slick hands of Leo, both Sams, Brodie and Thomas meant that the tries kept on rolling in. These were not lucky scores by any means but more carved out of a team showing self-belief, discipline and an ever-improving skillset. Harry scored the first with a bursting run through the middle. Leo side stepped the entire team (and ref) twice to score two classics. Max ran in the next with a strong canter down the right touchline. Brodie continued his scoring ways with two tries that even his beloved Scottish team would have been proud of. Jack got on the score sheet next with a well finished try after a turnover by Will. But the player of the game had to be Thomas with his collection of well taken tries. None of them 100% guaranteed and with work to do, Thomas showed the determination, speed and skill to reach the whitewash six times - a record for one match. This, however, was all about the team. A team showing confidence, leadership and quick thinking on how to break down oppositions. A team beginning to realise that there is no ‘I’ in team. 13-0. Huge congratulations and thank you Kevin for those pre-match cakes…whatever was in them, same again next time please!
The sun was warming up as were Jason’s vocal chords, as we headed into the final grudge match v Thanet. A team also unbeaten in its three previous matches. Very soon after the starting whistle, it was evident this was going to be some contest. At times, with bodies lying all over the pitch, it was more akin to the small battle of 1066 fought just up the road from here. Tackles were coming thick and fast from both teams with neither wanting to give an inch. The breakdown was keenly contested with strong rucking becoming a focus. This was the first real test of the day…we were up against it here. Strong ripping of the ball and some text book tackles allowed the ball to move out wide but the gaps were just not opening up like they had been before. The ref had a tough job on his hands as this game ebb and flowed moving rapidly from one side of the pitch to the other. Finally, and just before half time, Harry ripped the ball from the long-haired Thanet player, carried the ball forward giving some space to Thomas who headed for the corner. Try, touch or a high tackle?? The crowd awaited the ref’s decision…TRY. 1-0 at half time. The players were blowing and the scars were beginning to show but no let-up in the second half. The intensity lifted again with tackle after tackle by all the team. No one was hiding here. However, with seconds left on the clock, Thanet came back to score leaving the final result at a fair 1-1 draw. Gasp…..What a battle! A proper game of rugby and possibly just the right way to end this wonderful morning’s play. A real demonstration of sportsmanship, discipline and respect for a team equally pumped and motivated as ourselves.
Big thanks to John, as always, for all his hard work and to all the parents for their continued support. Let’s just say the Sunday lunch beer tasted that very much sweeter after a morning we won’t forget in a while. Well played all. We have a special team we can be very proud of.