This Sunday 21 Topsham U14s took on just a slightly depleted 15 from Taunton
By Katie James
This was a return of our opening fixture of the season which saw Topsham dominate throughout. This return match was however a much more rollercoaster experience.
The squad had a good warm up and were treated to a rucking drill courtesy of Julian; thank also to Charlie F for helping out. Coaches requirements to the boys was for more commitment to the rucks and counter-rucks; less slow ball (there being fewer forwards available as more in rucks), and more fast ball with the aim of getting 10 carries for each winger. We also once again emphasised the need for players to focus on their performance and remain disciplined.
As we all saw, the squad then gave us a complete smorgasbord of rugby outcomes. The more palatable included spells of great rucking and counter-rucking; occasional great passing and support play and the inevitable plateful of tries. However they also served us up some pretty unsavoury experiences. There was a wingers’ famine – they rarely got the ball; at times the rucking was non-existence and the handling and decision-making as often as not was poor. Above all the discipline and respect were, frankly, unacceptable from a large minority of the boys. It’s fair to say we have a range of characters to mould into rugby players and some are more pliable than others – and of course we’re amateurs (Julian aside) so we’re bound to get things wrong. However it seems clear to the coaches that our squad is showing signs of being mentally weak. There are hints of blaming teammates (we thought we’d eradicated that 5 years ago); the chat back to the referee is out of control and the individual is too often running ahead of the team.
So – we (led by the coaches) need to get the squad back to performing to their ability. That means sticking to our values. Quick reminder:
- Teamwork – above all else; we support and we get supported by our teammate
- Effort and focus – it’s not enough to try hard physically; we need full concentration to stick to the game plan. We start and finish by doing the simple things well
As we approach the end of the season with the fantastic opportunity of hosting and playing in the Cup final, we need the squad to work together to produce quality performances however tough the going gets. The boys need to show mental as well as physical resilience. When things go wrong they need to suck it up and move on. Blaming teammates, the ref or generally just putting their heads down plays into the hands of the opposition.
So please all expect coaches to be a lot stricter with players over the next few weeks.
Finally really well done to the boys who volunteered to play for Taunton when they lost a few to injury – that was very much appreciated by the Taunton coaches one of whom made a point of coming over to talk to the boys and congratulating them on their performance and wishing them the best of luck in the final. A nice gesture.