Topsham U14s Champions of Devon!
By Katie James
This was a very special occasion with a real finals atmosphere generated by a large a good natured crowd of paying supporters
On Sunday Topsham RFU U14s hosted and played in the final of the Devon U14s Cup competition against Crediton RFU. This was a very special occasion with a real finals atmosphere generated by a large a good natured crowd of paying supporters. Devon RFU were also in attendance together with an excellent referee and 2 RAs complete with mics.
Charles Olney put in a huge amount of unseen effort in preparation for the day which allowed the rest of the coaches to focus on the rugby. There were some pre-match nerves (mainly from the coaches!) and some unusual happenings; namely all players were in the changing room on time at 1.30 for a no-nonsense and highly tactical briefing from Mr Guy. After being shown the ultimate reward of a mini-chocolate bar for the best team player, the boys were ready to be taken through the normal warm-up and stretching routing, handling skills, uncontested run-out before finishing with some tackle bag work to get them ready for what was bound to be a very physical encounter. After a final briefing and a squad-only team talk from Captain Olney Jnr, all were ready for the 3pm KO.
As expected Crediton came at Topsham quick and hard in all areas of the pitch. Their forwards were big and strong; their backs were focussed and very fast and there were no gaps and very few missed tackles. Consequently the game soon settled down into a pattern which consisted of the backs largely cancelling each other out (it’s been a long time since Topsham failed to make any clean line breaks or for they wingers to find space out wide) leaving the defining battle of the match up front. Here, the smaller, quicker – and perhaps just a little more determined – Topsham pack slowly squeezed Crediton as the match progressed. Initially much went Crediton’s way; penalties, Topsham handling errors, possession, territory. But as the match entered the business end, Topsham gradually took control and those factors that had given Crediton a foothold in the first half all reversed with Topsham very much in the ascendancy as the match progressed.
By half time each team had scored just one un-converted try. Both ironically coming from a sustained period of pressure from Topsham in Crediton’s red zone. The first from a Topsham line-out courtesy of a Crediton offside, resulting in a text-book driving maul over the line with Bertie emerging from a pile of players with a big smile on his face. The second coming from good pressure from Crediton forcing an error from Topsham’s backs – the resulting turn-over ball catching Topsham’s defence off-guard pretty much for the only time in the match. With Crediton having probably the two fastest players on the pitch it was inevitable that such an open field would result in a length of the pitch run in for one of their speedsters.
The second half started with a sustained period of stale-mate between the two sides with Crediton having the best chance after a clever kick through caused mayhem in Topsham’s backline ending with – I kid you not – a forward pass in our own deadball area. This could well have been the point in the match where the next score would determine the outcome and this perhaps triggered Topsham’s defensive mindset and there was simply no way through for Crediton despite a dominant 5 metre scrum. For much of the rest of the second half Topsham then dominated in all areas. It thus became simply a matter of time before Topsham would capitalise on the huge territorial and possession advantage the team enjoyed. Despite some handling errors including one over the try line, Topsham ran in 2 more well deserved tries first with Salty and a little later with Henry crossing the line. Final score 15-5. 3 tries to 1, no conversions.
Speaking for the coaches, this felt like a very well deserved and massive win that has been years in the making. Whilst there are undoubtedly areas to work on and things that we might have done better – the priority of working as a team and staying positive was stuck to by the whole squad, who I know appreciated non-selected players also providing support before, during and after the match.
And finally….. the special prize of the mini-chocolate bar for the best team performance went to….. Isaac.