Topsham vs Kingsbridge
On Sunday U13s welcomed a very strong, determined and focussed KB team to the club.
Topsham – KB always has a bit of a derby atmosphere and this was the case again despite it being the only home fixture that day. KB arrived with a core squad and few substitutes; meanwhile Topsham had a squad of 23. After the usual warm-up drills the scene was set for a full match 25 minutes e/w.
One area of focus for the coaches is, as parents know, safety. Keeping players as calm as possible and under control is key and that’s especially important and challenging in the ‘big’ encounters. On Sunday we therefore deliberately did not seek to ‘fire up’ the squad before KO. With hindsight, that was perhaps a mistake and a learning experience for us all as KB proceeded to run in 4 tries – as many as we’ve conceded all season perhaps – in the first 5 minutes. On reflection that’s exactly what we’ve done to KB in the past with our ‘shock and awe’ tactics. Unfortunately this time we were on the receiving end!
However, encouragingly, the players did eventually wake up and competed well for the rest of the match; and in fact just edging KB 5-4 for that period (final score was 8-5 KB). So, the lesson for the day is that the players have to be ready from the get go. They have to be prepared to contest in all the usual contact situations. Hopefully the players will be better in future at motivating themselves to do this; meanwhile it looks like coaches will still need to do some of the firing up before KO.
Matches like this do test the resolve of our squad and it was evident that some found it more natural – when the going got tough – to step up their game, put their heads up and look at how they could work with their teammates to perform better. Some found this hard and put their heads down and were unable to contribute as much as they can when facing weaker opposition. Rugby is a game of commitment and teamwork and we will continue to reinforce that. Decision-making also gets tested in matches like this and there were times when the game plan – lots of slow ball before spinning out wide for fast ball – was forgotten. Salty – who for once we were able to let completely lose – had a massive game; perhaps sometimes too massive as many players looked to him alone to deal with the wall in front of them; something even Salty could do only so many times. I suspect he slept well on Sunday night!
So all in all a fantastic test for the squad; a timely reminder that you’re only as good as you are on the day – previous performances mean nothing. And that it’s all about focussed on teamwork and commitment. Oh, and you have to be ready at KO!