London Welsh vs Bracknell
By Gareth Vaughan Jones
Bees stung by soft-shoe shuffle from Ice Cool Dragons
Bracknell Bees are an ice hockey team based in Berkshire’s post-war “new town”, whose most highly regarded player ever is one James Crapper. Despite the similar sounding name, they should never be confused with Bracknell B’s who comprise the second string of u15 rugby players from Bracknell RFC.
Our first glance at the size of some of our guests as they warmed up had some of the home parents wondering if the Bees had decided to try their hands at rugby. But size isn’t everything, apparently, including in rugby.
At this point, these match reports typically name check a number of the well-known personalities, past and present, from our opposition’s home town. Unfortunately, no-one famous has ever lived (or died) in Bracknell, unless, of course, you consider to be “famous” a failed Glitterball 2012 finalist that made her name playing Tracy Beaker on screen and stage.
The weather conditions on Sunday morning were undoubtedly suitable for ice hockey and the lads seemed to have this sport on their minds as they took the field. Anyone with rudimentary lip-reading skills could easily discern the players exclaiming to one another “PUCK… it’s cold”.
Sir Neil Adams conducted the pre-match rituals under an azure blue sky as once again the u15 Dragons basked in the ODP sun drenched micro-climate.
The B’s kicked off and the lads were quickly in the ascendancy; Ben A with a strong run and pass to skipper for the day, James, in a tight spot; but a moment’s hesitation saw the early chance snuffed out. The B’s clearance kick was fumbled, and an early scrum followed to test the Welsh forwards. They withstood the test and soon earned themselves a penalty that their early domination warranted. The lads opted to maul it from the resulting line out but coughed up possession. The lads were playing with a relentless tenacity and remained firmly encamped in the B’s half. Xavi earned his first of many turnovers at the breakdown and quick hands put Bruno in space to display his effortless movement and fancy footwork that would have pleased his namesake judge Tonioli, to chalk up the opening try the lads’ early efforts richly deserved. The extras were missed from distance.
The squad had spent the previous weekend analysing the video of their last performance at ODP and knew they would be subject to further scrutiny as the camera was once again whirring away in the ODP press box.
The Welsh attacking shape was expertly choreographed and suddenly Hugh burst through the B’s stretched defence on a lovely straight line. The lads’ passing through the hands added to the spectator glee as Glyn was soon one on one in the 5m channel with the B’s defence stretched. The last defender offered him the outside and Glyn required little invitation to waltz to the try line and double the Welsh advantage. A perfect 10 to the Welsh.
As the game reached the quarter hour mark, Bracknell ventured into Welsh territory for the first time but yet another turnover soon had Bracknell in a spin. Defence was turned into attack as Jack chased the clearance kick at speed and put his opponent in touch. From the resulting line out, the boys shipped it quickly to the flank where Jack with a fine burst of pace scored the third try converting it himself to put the Dragons 17-0 ahead.
Bracknell were not out of the game though and worked their way deep into Welsh territory to set up a ruck on the 5m line. James seeing the ball out burst round to pressure the visiting scrum half who must have thought he was seeing double as Ben W appeared on the other side of the ruck to intercept and break upfield as far as the half way line. Bracknell turned over and made a strong break of their own as the game opened up. A Bracknell try seemed certain, only for Luke to perform a text book tap tackle to prevent it. Bracknell continued to press and despite tackling furiously time and again the visitors deservedly scored as half time beckoned. Half time 17-7.
The first injury casualty of the day was our referee, who hobbled towards the dug out at the interval with a forlorn look upon his face. John Paskin put away his World Rugby Laws book that he’d been studying and took to the field with a step ladder so that he could introduce himself, face to face, to the Bracknell skipper.
The early territory in the second half was once again all Welsh but the lads were unable to add to their first half tally until Bracknell, taking their cue from Huget and Stockdale’s weekend errors , misjudged a kick ahead on their own try line only for Xavi to be on hand to put Welsh in command at 22-7.
Bracknell started to find their game, going through phase after phase of one up rugby but the lads’ tackled and tackled again to hold their line and eventually earned a penalty. They shaped to kick to touch but then caught out the opposition by running it. After one phase another great line from Hugh saw him put the lads out of reach at 27-7.
Bracknell showed great heart as, playing for pride now, they forced Welsh backwards time and time again but for once the Welsh tackling was found wanting as Bracknell got over the line for a converted try with only a few minutes remaining.
Remarkably, the lads found time for two more scores as first Hugh danced in under the posts and then virtually straight from the restart the lads’ passing opened up a gap which Jan expertly pierced to add a finishing lip-gloss to the scoreline as the game ended 39-12.