Undies on top at Ardvreck
Belhaven Hill's U11As put in another assured performance to win big in Crieff.
The pitch was nice and stodgy and the ball was wet and slippery. It was clear that it was going to be a day for the forwards.
We therefore fielded a pack of beasts; Thomas Dewar and Tom Leckie either side of Arthur Meynell and Captain Campbell Mack locking down alongside rogue second row Jonty Fraser. Wilfred Tomlyn started his first A Team match at scrum half with Joe Townshend pulling the strings at 10. Archie de la Hey and William Gale formed a powerful and experienced centre combo with Max Thomson on the wing. Freddie Stuart and Tom Hovell were the subs.
The match passed back with Wilf and Joe feeding Tom Leckie on the crash ball. The big Form 3 surged upfield with a number of Lilliputian tacklers clinging to his hide before he was dragged snorting and bucking to the sodden turf. The Ardvreck forwards piled into the ruck and, unopposed by their spectating visitors, snaffled the ball away under the noses of the astounded Belhaven backs.
What was going on?
The visiting coach was too astonished to voice that question and was left, bearded jaw agape, as some slick Ardvreck back play posted their rapid winger through a big hole for the opening score.
Fortunately, the leaders in the group found their voice and the team pulled together before they conceded a second. This led to some brutal mud-churning forward drives up the soggy side of the pitch to suck in defenders before short popped passes moved the ball wide.
There were a number of uncharacteristic knock-ons from fancy play unsuited to the the conditions. When it's wet you do not try to play expansive rugby.
However, the boys adapted and changed their game play; paring it back to basic one-out passes and short balls off the back of the ruck. Wilf controlled this very well and Joe was entirely unselfish as he picked out runners with short and gentle passes suited to the conditions.
The forwards were rucking well and the turnovers were starting to come as they sucked in defenders and drove the home side off the ball. Captain Mack showed really silky hands and a big bosh to pop the ball into space or force it upfield. Thomas and Tom beasted the ball in the tight and Arthur linked forwards to backs well. Jonty was, as ever, an utter pest for the opposition to deal with.
Substitutions were not easy to perform as we had arrived at Ardvreck less one pair of boots (Size 3). Substitutions could only be made effectively for players with boots sized 3-5. This led to some pretty ridiculous coach/player conversations as ongoing enquiries were made as to the size of players' feet as the battle raged in the mire.
Max, Archie and William were working well as outside backs. However, the introduction of Freddie out wide made a huge difference. A few jinking runs showcased the swift feet of this mazy runner and Ardvreck had to mark him out to the touchline. This stretched their defence too far and, with defenders trapped in another damp ruck, there was plenty of space for Joe to surge through for two scores in quick succession.
With the Undies finally ahead they managed to dig themselves out from under the green crush defence. The forwards began to graft and pumped the home side off the ball. Thomas and Tom teamed up with Arthur to do the heavy work of shifting bodies away from the ball. This set the platform for the backs to play off.
Joe and William were superb and combined with Max to put Archie through for the blue hooped heroes' third try before half time.
Half-time score: Belhaven Hill U11A 3 - 1 Ardvreck U11A
Half-time offered plenty of opportunity for a stern talk from the coach.
The team started the second half much more energetically than the first and, with the wind in their sails, began to play some lovely expansive rugby. We stringed together phase after phase with excellent offloading out the back door and good passing into space. The short balls off the ruck tied in plenty of defenders and the wide attackers did not allow themselves to be drawn into the stramash.
This led to space out wide for the fats men to run into. Freddie scored two super tries wide and left to bookend scores from William and Jonty before the Wilfred Tomlyn delivered the final blow on his full debut - super stuff!
Final score: Belhaven Hill U11A 8 - 1 Ardvreck U11A
Man of the match: Thomas Dewar; Utterly rampant with ball in hand and added another dimension to the forward play with excellent offloading. Loved the rough stuff and churned up a lot of mud in a hard-fought battle.
Coach's notes: Pump your legs when driving in rucks. If you are not pumping you are a passenger along for the ride. The difference that this small change made to the match was very obvious.
It was excellent to see the team respond to a tough start with an excellent riposte. To score eight tries against Ardvreck is fantastic and to only concede one in return is outstanding.