U11 Win Cargilfield Sevens
Today was another thrilling and impressive display of U11 sevens rugby, this time at the Cargilfield tournament but, boy oh boy! I am pleased it is over.
After emerging as overall champions at the Loretto sevens, we were the team to beat today and the pressure was on Belhaven Hill to perform. The lads did not let us down. Despite the torrential rain and gales in Dunbar, the weather remained dry in the capital which encouraged some running rugby; it was, however, very cold.
Our opening match was against Cargilfield and after winning the toss, it started perfectly for us as Rob looped around from the tap off and scored in the corner within the first thirty seconds. Cargilfield never fully recovered from that blow and five further tries ensured that we won a morale-boosting match first up. I was most pleased with our defensive line which was well structured and how well Freddie S., who was drafted in at the last minute, stepped up to A team rugby and scored two tries in doing so.
Loretto were also well beaten by the boys in blue and then it was on to our final group match which would decide who we played in the semis.
We hadn’t met Fettes yet either on the circuit or in tournaments; it was a rude introduction. They were a class unit with a couple of giants and some outstanding talent and the match proved to be a titanic battle (the first of three!). I must be honest and say that I cannot recall the order of the tries but it was a very close thing. They seemed to score through a mix of brute strength and some wonderful individual skills while we played well as a team and recycled the ball again and again. By the final play of the second half, they led by one try but we had possession deep in their half. A try scoring opportunity arose ten yards out with a three man overlap but the ball carrier was scythed down illegally and instead of playing advantage, time was called. It was bitterly disappointing but an opportunity for the boys (and coach) to be reminded of one of the important lessons of sport: sometimes one doesn’t get the decisions or breaks one would hope for but it is how one deals with these setbacks that is the real test of character.
So, it was Merchiston we faced in the semi final and they too were an excellent unit. Though they didn’t have the size of Fettes, they certainly had the skill. We took an early lead through some fantastic recycling – Joe, Archie and Campbell were particularly good in this department. Though it was Archie who got our first two tries, Rob had some brilliant runs and tackled powerfully before a nasty bash to the knee put him out of action for the rest of the tournament – this was a major blow as was the loss of William who had been one of our bravest tacklers and had had some fleet-footed dashes on the wing. Merchi managed to drag two tries back and level the score – one heartwrenching one through an interception – before we finally sealed the deal with a third and then held out for the final minute.
The delight of qualifying for the final was slightly tempered by the realization that they would have to face Fettes again but I would have had it no other way – we needed to beat them if we hoped to prove that we were the best team there. It was a looong, cold, nervous wait for the final.
A last pep talk saw the boys take to the field in decent spirits and they started like kings, tackling fearlessly and rucking like dervishes; this slightly took Fettes by surprise and soon enough were were one try up when a bullish Campbell surged over the line. A bit later on Freddie J. jinked his way past numerous Fettes lads like a Will ‘O the Wisp and got us two tries up for the half time break.
The second half continued to be a fierce contest with the Belhaven Hill lads doing their best to halt the power of the Fettes lads. Almost inevitably though there were one or two missed tackles and Fettes scored one and then another try to level the scores which is how it was at full time.
This meant we went into a ‘Golden Try’ scenario with the first team to score the winner. As if it wasn’t nerve-wracking enough!
Fettes were certainly the more powerful team but our support play, handling and structure were better. As a final gamble, Freddie S. was subbed on to see if his tackling and pace could swing things in our favour. He certainly made some cracking tackles and had a few runs but the Fettes pacemen were able to drag him down. After an additional five minutes, there was still nothing to separate the teams so we plunged into a final five minute half.
A fair reflection of the quality of play on display and the excitement generated was when the crowd – perhaps a couple hundred strong – craned and then surged forward onto the pitch to try and see a particularly exciting passage of play along the line and I found myself, along with many others, nearly fifteen meters onto the field just in order to see. When Belhaven turned the ball over and raced back up the line, the crowd had to scramble to get out of the way!
Fettes came terrifyingly close on a few occasions only to be denied by a whisker and then… after working our way down the field through some wonderful running, passing and support play and recycling through phase after phase, the ball popped up into Joe’s hands. He dummied once and made a couple of yards. Then he sidestepped and made another yard. In a final gasp he staggered forward and over the line to end and the game and the torment (that’s not a typo). We could breathe again.
It was a wonderful team performance and as good a display of U11 rugby as one could wish for. The Belhaven boys showed remarkable grit, determination and team spirit. I am very proud of the boys who demonstrated exactly what it means to Be Belhaven.
Groups Belhaven Hill 18 - 0 Cargilfield
Belhaven Hill 18 - 0 Loretto
Belhaven Hill 6 - 9 Fettes
Semi Final Belhaven Hill 9 - 6 Merchiston
Final Belhaven Hill 9 - 6 Fettes
(‘Golden Try’ in extra time.)
Tries (as far as I can recall): Fred J. (4), Rob (3), Joe (3), Jonty (2), Campbell (2), Archie (2), Freddie S. (2), William (1) - I think this spread is a very clear indication of just how much of a team performance it was.