London Welsh u14s v Regents Park Royals
A game of three halves
London Welsh U14s Youth V Regents Park Royals Sunday 25th Nov 2018
A lively fixture, split into 3 'halves' to ensure game time for a large London Welsh U14s contingent. Coach Mark Croxon has a colour coded spreadsheet to plan rotation of a 25 strong squad over 3 periods, giving players an equitable run out whilst maintaining balance and avoiding loss of coherence. It can’t be easy. But the spreadsheet must have an extremely sophisticated algorithm: as the pleasingly large crowd of parents and coaches were treated to three periods of equally open, flowing, competitive rugby. Mark Croxon’s organisation and Regent’s Park Royals support for the 3 half format and a narrower pitch allowed the visitors, who were depleted for players following illness and school match clashes, to have match time.
Welsh looked dominant from the kick off, with forwards rucking cleanly and ensuring quick ball for scrum half Noah Davies, whose service was immaculate throughout. Noah has an uncanny ability to get his line moving with quick service in most circumstances – when his forwards provide clean ball, as well as off more scrappy possession. Sharp handling provided an early opportunity for new boy Asa playing at inside centre, whose strong running was rewarded with a try. Tom Howlett narrowly missed the conversion from a tricky angle.
London Welsh continued to enjoy plenty of possession and territory, with forwards Charlie Hale, Paddy Amey, Charlie Salmon and Luke Havilland working well at the breakdown. A second try soon followed for powerhouse number 8 Conraj Silcott, who broke through 4 tackles on his way to the line. Conraj is an all action player: always in the thick of it, he is a smart operator at the breakdown a destructive tackler and Tom Howlett converted. There's nothing like early points on the board to raise confidence, and Welsh were by now all attacking intent, putting the ball through hands and looking to test a dogged Royals defence through the middle and out wide. Pack leader Finn Lowry picked up the next try, after a typically abrasive turnover and break, converted again by Tom Howlett. Lowry is having a fine season: never less than full throttle, he is combative in the loose and an effective ball carrier in open play. Royals were having to dig deep in defence and their attempts to kick their way out of trouble were fielded well by full back Owen Croxon, who took every opportunity to run possession back at Royals all game. One Croxon grubber into the corner following a break down the wing took an unlucky bounce into touch. Finn McWeeney made glorious break, carving his way through the Royals defence, but was hauled down by the last cover tackler. Royals breathed a sigh of relief, only to be left clutching at thin air as Tom Howlett scythed through midfield to score a try under the posts which he converted himself. Howlett is a nightmare to defend against: a deceptively strong runner, he ghosts into space and reads the game a second or two of everyone else on the pitch. By the time defences are alive to the line he is running, it is usually too late. The classy Mauro Miller and speedster Scruff Humphreys added two more tries in the first period, converted by Howlett and Ben Barlow.
By the end of the first period, Welsh had raced into a 38-0 lead.
A quick turnround brought fresh legs onto the pitch for the second period. Fair play to Royals - they rallied somewhat and ran in a couple of lovely tries in the second period, one move going the whole length of the pitch, with Welsh winger Max Bray just failing to prevent a try with one of his trademark flying tackles. But despite a number of changes in the pack, Welsh forward play maintained their level of intensity, with ruck, scrum and line out going well. Tom Wicking, Dewi Beer, Inji Pickering and number 8 Louis Giusti were conspicuous in the loose. Giusti - a tall promising forward - had a fine game, making valuable yards as a ball carrier and putting in some big tackles showing good technique honed in recent training sessions. Ben Barlow, increasingly confident at fly half, scored a beautifully worked try which he converted himself. Mauro Miller made a try saving tackle, Noah Davies whipped a succession of lovely balls from the base of the scrum and ruck and Welsh stayed very much on the front foot, with new boy Will going over for a try, converted by Barlow. You can always tell when this U14s side have their tails up: the forwards start asking to take conversions. Thankfully, the designated kickers held on to their responsibility.
Welsh led 49-12 at the end of the second period.
Going into the 3rd period, Welsh could have been excused for taking their foot off the gas. But the physicality, effort and resolve to cut loose whenever possible continued. Zac Diamond capped a strong outing at centre with a converted try. Perhaps tiredness crept in a bit in this period: Royals snaffled some possession as Welsh began to force passes and offloads that were not on. Milo bravely went into a ruck, protecting the ball and got him hand stamped on in the process. Injury forced him off the pitch...For once, the London Welsh line out mis-fired, allowing Regents Park to exit their 22 and take play right into the Welsh half. Flanker Dewi Beer ran a great line, only to spray a miss-pass into touch with the line beckoning. However, just when it began to get scrappy, Welsh scored the try of the match. A quick ruck in the Welsh half gave the sharp and skillful Noah Davies a chance to move his back line. Some quick hands from the Welsh backline put Tom Howlett into space and he broke into Royals 22 towards the right wing. With the defence scrambling well and no obvious way to the line, Howlett weighted a beautiful cross kick to the left wing, finding full back Owen Croxon in a great position. Croxon collected the ball off a tricky bounce, and beat one last defender to score a magnificent try. Royals themselves scored a good try after a flowing move to provide some consolation in a fairly even third period. A great game to watch and credit is due to ref Steve Lowry for allowing it to flow.
61: 19 the final score.