U16s – Expect The Unexpected

Expect The Unexpected @ ConfusedPlayers.com!

It’s not hard to confuse teenage boys simply ask them to pick up their clothes from the floor or put their plates in the dishwasher (we’re posh in St. Albans!) and a glazed, uncomprehending look comes over them as though the parents are speaking Klingon. Therefore when the coaches decide to throw their own version of the chaos theory into a rugby game, no-one should be surprised if the boys lose the plot. But these things are good for a team. To be taken out of their comfort zone and having to learn to adapt to situations is a reality they have to get used to and a test of their on-field leadership and management.

So it was OAs took a combined A/B team to Amersham and Chiltern on the last Sunday of the half-term; always problematic with availabilities, holidays, etc and A&C were short of a few players. But the OAs’ rested players were chomping at the bit to play competitive rugby after a couple of weeks R&R and once more it was a chance for players to mix and match. Amersham has always been a tough opposition for OAs and memories of hard matches in fairly inclement weather swiftly came back into the minds of the supporters recounting the woes of broken noses and concussions. The weather in rugby playing memory has always been lousy at Amersham and when the wind blew, the temperature dropped and the rain began to spit, it was a case of here we go again!

The boys, clearly benefitting from the extra hour of sleep (not!), seemed singularly reluctant to take to the field and the traditional OAs’ warm-up made dead snails crawling up hills backwards seem more awake and active. Nevertheless once in their match gear the OAs’ team took shape and with messages such as fast start and keep it tight, the game began.

The first few minutes consisted of OAs falling foul to penalties and putting themselves under unnecessary pressure but the writing going through the stick of rock which is the OAs’ defence was ‘They Shall Not Pass’. With tackles coming in from the front row and the tenacity of the flankers to get stuck into the ruck, eventually OAs began to exert pressure and turn the ball over. Windy conditions always meant it would be difficult to play expansive rugby and coupled with the commandment of “Thou shalt not kick” from the coaches meant playing out from defence rather than clearing lines. Eventually from quick ball, the space opened up and Harry threw a dummy pass and cantered from 10 metres inside the OA half to score the first try 0-5.

Amersham to their credit never gave up for the whole game and their forwards in particular battled for every ball – not always legally kicking in the ruck and lifting players but no one would question their determination to make a match of it. Sometimes they were their own worst enemies and a back of the hand pass under pressure meant a simple interception try for Harry from half way for an under the posts’ conversion by Tom L. 0-12. A few more commandments from ‘those who must be obeyed’ including ‘Harry thou shall not score but must pass instead’ meant, having spun out of a tackle and heading towards the line, Harry had to wait for Charlie to catch up to take the pass for another easy score plus 2 more from Tom L 0-19.

The backs were beginning to run riot and when Jake used all his wily, jinking skills to outwit the opposition and score try number 4, there was every danger of this becoming a cricket score. 0-26 with Tom W adding a nice conversion (not sure if there is a coaches’ commandment that only boys called Tom can kick conversions!)

With changes to the forwards being made at regular intervals, OAs were completely in control and there was no discernible differences between A and B with the Olli and Oliver enjoying their moments alongside Hamish, Kieran, Eddie, Ryan and Jack. The scrums were very strong and Barry showed a real tenacity at scrum half, getting the ball out quickly to release a back line who always looked a street ahead of the opposition.

Just before half time, more chaos theory! Matt C get on the wing! Ok the boys adapted by completely ignoring him except for a few puzzled looks when it came to line outs and scrums. TBH (that’s me trying to get down with the boys Yo!) Amersham looked more bewildered than we did!

Half time and the coaches rang the changes and explained the ideas behind the switches as I said previously… Klingon! But the boys now began to work on the new game plan and if the first half belonged to the backs dominating play, the second belonged to the forwards.

Having gained vital yardage through the pace of Will, OAs took up residence on the Amersham 5 metre line and with patient play and carries, Barry finally found the gap to scoot through. 0-31.

Tommy then found himself at the base of a maul and not for the first time this year went over for a try to go alongside his sterling work in the tackle. 0-36.

Then Amersham finally had their ‘never say die’ attitude rewarded and went over close to the side line much to the delight of their vocal and enthusiastic (female) supporters who proudly announced, if a little delusionary, that a comeback was on! 5-36.

Hamish put that to bed with a powerful try which again matched his ferociousness in the ruck – well deserved! 5-43 with Tom L restored to kicking duties.

As far as OAs’ scoring was concerned, it ended with Will’s run from the OAs’ 10 metre line but the story lies in the defence and its determination to win every tackle. Even reducing the team to 14 with Charlie being ‘sinbinned’ by the coaches for excellent work, did not detract from the fact that OAs can hold out against even the most determined of teams. Will’s run against their pacey fullback (greatly underused) was something special. 5-48.

The last few minutes saw more changes and perhaps the tight play of the team exhibited throughout most of the match was replaced by some looseness in the pass. With the best will in the world, Big A is not 6’ 10” (Tom L take note!) and has yet to develop his skills on the wing (gulp!) though his runs and clearouts were excellent – more please! From the turnover, Amersham broke and despite desperate defence, scored with the last play of the game 10-48.

All in all a comprehensive victory against a plucky Amersham and Chiltern team. With tough matches in the league coming up for the B team over the next couple of weeks including early league leaders Wasps, this was a good work out. They adapted quite well to the idiosyncrasies of the coaches and supported each other throughout.

Our thanks to A and C for their hospitality and for providing OAs with the opportunities to try some new things whilst showing what they are undoubtedly capable of when they put it altogether – best wishes for the rest of the season.

Ps the sun came out just as we were finishing – typical!

Andrew Sheppard
U16 Club Reporter


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