Bank of England v London Welsh u14s
By Miranda Wicking
Rainbows and mustard
A wet night turned into a bright sunny morning at the ‘favourite’ away fixture of the year. A pleasant drive through Richmond Park and coffee at the best clubhouse outside of Old Deer Park.
Rich Barlow and Mark Croxon as always were on hand to get the boys to undertake an intensive warm up. The boys got stuck in, in contrast to their refusal to descend the bank from the clubhouse initially: baulking at the boggy areas below.
At the 20 player mark from the squad of about 28, we were short of a few of the influential backs and some forwards too. Another run of the super-computer by Mark was needed to sort the squad into three halves. The boys know a lot of the Bank players well, not only having played them since u7s but many are at the same school. In practice, this can swing both ways sometimes with a lack of intensity if preconceptions mean that the boys think the players are beatable, or heads down if the squad is seen as strong.
The first half started a little sheepishly, although the score was in favour of London Welsh. Ben Barlow running in a try and converted it himself, before Bank replied with a try, no conversion. An unlucky intercept lead to another try by Bank, unconverted. Conraj was great in defence including a clever clearance and scored a try which was converted by Ben. Finn Lowry, who had already carried a great run to offload for Conraj’s try, then went on to score one himself, which Ben converted. Bank were quick at the breakdown, although the forwards from Welsh worked hard to clear the ruck- we had some advantage in the pack intensity- this was sometimes at the expense of the players being off their feet and getting pinged as a result. Some talking back to the ref was not welcome and a quick talking to at the break ‘the ref is never wrong’ was required. As always, Noah was sublime in the scrum half position, digging the ball out and finding his ball carrier with ease. Overall, handling is still impressive in the squad for this age group, down to the involvement with the squad year groups for most of the players going back to at least u8s. First 20 mins: score 10: 21
The second session saw a resurgence by Bank. The wind had picked up. The pattern from the first half continued, with Bank great at the breakdown and the vigilance on penalties started to convert into points for Bank. Forwards arriving late at the breakdown and barrelling in can work if legal rucking: some of this was not. Charlie A came on at scrum half and worked hard to recover the ball and organise the scrums. A few mauls were tried as well, which was good to see from the line out and open play. Being in front of the kicker was penalised appropriately but happened more than once. 3 tries and one conversion by Bank was met by a single try and conversion by Ben for Welsh. There was some great defensive work, one notable cover tackle by Matvey on the far side. Having to fall back from the gain line at the breakdown was getting Bank valuable territory. 27:28 at the break, which is flattered by the lower conversion rate. Bank had scored 5 tries to our 4.
The squad had a back story of not often coming from behind when their heads went down. Not this time. Mark’s team talk must have had some added mustard. The final session demonstrated running rugby, some great on field decision making in clearance and positioning and defensive work (the forwards had woken up!). Owen at full back put himself in some lovely field positions to receive the ball and with the wind with play, this helped. Zac and Luke pushed hard all day, with high work rates and great play. Will Holden was influential in the strength of the team, often getting to the breakdown as cover and organising the response. Max continues to put in try saving tackles on the wing and worked with Scruff and Milo as a speed merchants to spread the ball. New (new!) Will who joined two weeks ago showed his athleticism and speed. Mauro’s quick feet saw him evade tackles and push the gain line on more than one occasion. Being short of forwards meant Charlie Salmon, Paddy, Finn, Thomas, Louis, Asa and Conraj had to put in big shifts. One notable moment was seeing Conraj spin across the field to receive a kick that would otherwise have gone to touch. Asa, a powerful runner and very difficult to tackle, ran in two tries, both converted by Ben. And finally, Thomas Wicking scored a try on the final play. Having been off injured most of last season, I think this is the first try he has had for about a year. Ben did not convert this final one but the difference in the score was really down to the impressive strike rate from Ben, 6 out of 7 converted.
Final score 27:47
The tunnel was followed by the famous sausage rolls with ketchup, not mustard, on the veranda. Bank as always are marvellous hosts: thanks again
Thanks to the coaches Mark and Rich. Photos courtesy of Olly B.