Written by: Iain Whyte, Darren Bartlett and Chris Pinney
Isle of Wight U9’s End Of Season Tour Report
Over the weekend the U9’s went on tour with all the other London Scottish Minis for our annual end of season extravaganza of rugby to the beautiful Isle of Wight. The coach and ferry trip down were as exciting as ever for the children, with them all calling for what has now become a “tour travelling favourite” where Head Coach Chris Pinney led a spontaneous game of Trivial Pursuit. It was great to see the kids delighted to pack screens away and engage in some old fashioned fun, choosing categories and then answering questions on everything from football and rugby to Ancient Egypt and Capital Cities. Much fun was had by all with the kids taking over and setting questions for each other.
Just as last year, the weather was kind allowing games of touch rugby to run well into Saturday evening before players, parents and coaches headed to bed ready for an early start. We arrived at Vectis ground, erected our canopy next to the pitch and reviewed who our 5 opponents were to be for the day…. The children got into team huddles and talked strategy.
London Scottish U9’s fielded two teams of 8 players (7 playing with one rolling sub). Both teams were equally as strong as their names, with one being hailed “The Claymores” and the other “The Highlanders”. The Claymores were led by coaches Chris Pinney, Sandeep Singh and Iain Whyte, while The Highlanders were led by coaches Darren Bartlett and Ian Crichton. It was simply a delight to see the children display such high quality rugby. They had clearly actually been listening to our coaches and the 1st XV who had supported training and were now actually talking to each other about how to approach the games and what needs to improve for following matches.
Match Report from The Claymores:
The Claymores got off to a roaring start with their first game seeing a massive win against Bracknell Spartans. Bracknell clearly hadn’t had their porridge this morning as Taylor-The-Tank slipped through their defence as if his shirt had been coated in Teflon! He ably sidestepped 3 players before laying down the opening try. Next it was Will Pinney’s turn to show us the length and power of those legs. A lovely looping pass came from the wide right, bypassing half the opposing team to be collected solidly by “Fingers Vinay” (whose hands must have been coated in glue to catch that ball) which he offloaded skilfully immediately before being tackled to Will, who sprinted like a cheetah up the field to claim the second try of the match. The Spartans, now awaking from their slumber, made a rather swift and skilful break for the Scottish try line. The largest Spartan, who was somewhat of a giant, got the surprise of his life when he was felled like a tree by the Claymores’ secret weapon – Leo The Lion Heart. Not phased in least and huge roar from the crowd, Leo got to his feet ready to throw in another tackle when needed. The crowd didn’t have long to wait with such fast pace action for another Scottish try. This time Jacob coming in as scrum half, laying it out wide to Ethan the One Man Battering Ram, who smashed through the opposing defence before selflessly, and very strategically, offloading to the Powerhouse Taylor who deposited the ball over the line to secure try number three. The Spartans managed to take advantage of a premature Scottish celebration (there is a lesson there!) and slipped a try past our defence, but this only served to awaken the hunger to get a piece of this try scoring action within Jesse who shocked the life out of all of us by intercepting a loose pass from opposing side and then running the length of the field to score try number four!! With minutes now feeling like hours after such a physical start to the game, it was now all about defence. Willem The Wall was not going to let them through. Alongside his team mates the boys held their resolve and secured a solid first victory for the Claymores.
It was now the Reigate Bandits turn to try to out play our Claymores. They chose the wrong team. Our boys were having none of it, and if you thought the first game was physical, you hadn’t seen anything yet!! Playing a strategy the boys pulled together themselves, Ethan, Will, Vinay, Leo and Taylor provided the most solid wall of first defence with Jesse and Jacob ready to mop up any players who broke through. It worked a charm and hardly a line was made through to the Scottish side of the pitch in the first half. Willem came on for Jacob and they played the same game, pushing the Bandits back where they came from. On two occasions Ethan and Will each drove the ball forwards 15 yards then fired the ball out to Taylor who did his Steam Roller impression, flattening his way through the opposing side and laying the ball neatly over their try line. Try three was a thing of beauty. Leo in as scrum half this time, passing out fast and wide to Jesse who sprinted like a gazelle once again, dummying two players, passing to Jacob who pressed forward again to finally be finished by Will with as much skill as it was fast and creative. The opponents didn’t know what was going on and certainly looked pleased to hear the whistle go!
Matches three and four saw our team meet the largest players I think attended the whole festival. There may have to be a stewards inquiry on age classification, as I am sure three of the Gosport & Fulham boys had beards and four of the Altons Reds were at least 6ft tall! With the Claymores exhausted from two relentless matches, but still full of the glory of two back to back wins, they went into this difficult situation with bravery and their heads held high. Without exception, every single player put in a massive shift. Each and every player looked like a wrecking ball, smashing into these giants, taking them to the ground and securing 7 tackle turnovers. Under any normal circumstance this would have been no contest, but our team showed such resolve and determination that they not only held off a high score line, but managed to lay down a try in each match. Taylor scoring one try, Vinay scoring the other and Ethan coming so close that the crowd willed the ball over the line, but it wasn’t to be. Two tries scored against these giants was a terrific result!
I can only make one comment about match five and that is that our players, parents and coaches showed the utmost respect for the referee who it would appear had inadvertently found himself refereeing a rugby match when he had planned watching some cricket or something. This being his first day on a rugby pitch, he missed the significance of massive knock on, ball ripping, high tackles etc. The list could go on, but the point was that our players accepted the situation, didn’t argue with the referee and just got on with the game at hand. Once again every player, without exception put in huge effort. The team communicated fabulously and supported each other in a fashion we could only wish for. Utterly brilliant.
Two wins, two losses and one draw. Outstandingly well done.
Match Report from The Highlanders:
So….as the Claymores lived up to their name with some inspired rapier like performances so the Highlanders were true to their ferocious warrior spirit!
First up for our mighty warriors were Heathfield Hurricanes and with our big ball carrying trio of Max, Marvin and Eva terrorising the defence time and time again we made the hard yards look easy….our whippet Will at scrum-half ensured a steady supply of quick ball and with Monty, Fynn and Jack always making themselves available we were soon one up….more of the same was to follow and Marvin showing his talent with the oval ball as well as that other round-ball game and a magnificent break from Monty up the middle supported by Will we were back on the try-line but credit to our opponents they defended well and from what looked like a certain try for Fynn (as I write I am still waiting on the feedback from the TMO as to what was wrong…..) the Hurricanes lived up to their name and got a break-away try that took the wind out of our sails as we went in at half-time. The second half was a repeat of the first and with Tabs taking over at scrum-half and Eva using her height to always look for an off-load we were back in-front…..it was all Highlanders but another quick-healed try for the Hurricanes levelled it up….not to be deterred our Highlanders played the traditional Scottish speed game with lovely off-loads and brilliant attacking lines aligned with the most incredible tackles from Monty the Monster it looked set for a well-deserved draw but with the last move of the game the Hurricanes snatched it at the death. Whilst defeated our warriors were upbeat and even ran their own team talk at the end and decided what they would do differently next game….as coaches that is all we wanted!
Our next opponents clearly didn’t fancy the Three Degrees of Max, Marvin and Eva running into them and cried off so our heroes had a break, which in hindsight wasn’t what we needed and as a result we were slow out of the blocks against Alton Blacks and were soon two down…I still don’t know how as we had all of the ball and a couple of interceptions from inventive running lines and offloads undid some lovely work….but this time Jack at scrum-half was pulling the strings and we got back into it with tries from Max and Marvin. Tabs began to stretch the defence with her speed…Fynn inspired by Monty was soon flying into tackles and back on his feet ready to turn defence into attack at every opportunity yet again with the last play of the game the slightest gap in our mighty defensive wall was exploited and we went down 3-2….two defeats and you would think heads would drop but they didn’t, in fact the opposite, the team became closer and were supporting each other and encouraging each other at every opportunity.
With the strongest team in our pool up next the Beccs Boks the team played brilliantly, but this time it was the defensive cohesion that was tested the most….all season we have dropped off tackles today, but today was different and when a player was struggling a team mate was soon there to help….our dynamic tackling duos were usually Monty & Fynn….Tabs & Eva…..Jack & Will and then Max & Marvin, or was it Marvin & Max?? Our twin terrors even managed to confuse the ref when he called us back for not passing the ball from a tackle until Tabs stepped up and pointed out that Max had been tackled and Marvin passed the ball….some light-relief for all in what was a mighty battle….in the end the Boks ran out deserved winners and fair play to them for being the most sporting team we played on the day.
Finally we were up against Beckenham’s other team and similar to the Claymores last game we had a ref who clearly had one eye on the ferry sailing times as he let infringement after infringement go, especially worrying was his blind-eye to high tackles and with one-knock so blatant even the ref in the U7s game 6 pitches away saw it…..am I bitter….no, well maybe a little bit, our heroes deserved to go out on a win and in the end it was a draw…with our consolation being that we managed to quieten the most partisan parent support we experienced all day…
As our tired heroes gathered at the end the roar of who we played for left everyone’s ears ringing and in no doubt who do we play for….London Scottish!
End of season wrap up from the coaches;
So, a season ended and a word on each of our heroes….
Max – all season his power has been evident, but today we also saw subtle hands and some real pace to constantly knock players back and make space for scrum-half to get us moving….our own Mako Vunipola goes from strength to strength and his smile makes every Sunday morning a pleasure
Marvin – our other Vunipola, and definitely more of the Billy V about him with his powerful running, beautiful hand-offs and try-scoring prowess….he is still being seduced by the round-ball game but is clearly coming around to where he belongs and one tackle where he tracked back almost half the pitch shows what a find he could be
Tabs – speed, guile and bossy….a perfect scrum-half….her passing and all round game has come on leaps and bounds this season, she still has an eye for a gap that comes naturally to her but is now also looking to play others in as well
Will – a definite test-match animal as the Mighty Geech would say…he constantly puts in a shift when he is up against other teams, never takes a backward step and is always looking to stretch the game with his surging runs and with a lovely spin pass coming on this season he is able to keep the move going
Jack – his confidence this year has grown and grown and as such is another fine scrum-half in the making…from being unsure about tackles he is now putting himself in situations that even a 6ft and hefty prop as myself would wince at but he does it with a smile and best of all…he was going around giving feedback to every other player after every game….
Monty – is he a tackling terror? Is he a defensive rock? Is he a powerful ball carrier? Yes….all of them every time, every game, every training session…it’s been a pleasure Monty and look forward to seeing more of the same next year
Fynn – His commitment has never been in doubt, but his tendency to fall out of position and leave space left us exposed earlier in the season…but in the IoW it all came together and what a player we have on our hands…holding his wing position and stretching the defences in attack as well as being as immoveable as George North in defence when anyone came down his channel…
Eva – from breaking her foot in the first training session of the season and taking a real knock in confidence the last two tournaments saw her power and confidence soar at the Richmond festival and today in the IoW….she is never going to be a winger but when she stretches those legs it always commits 2 or 3 players to stop her and aligned with using her height to get the off-load away she will be a real handful next season
Jesse – In his scoring on tour, Jesse demonstrated that he knows how to pick a line when going forward. He’s often able to find space. If he remains committed next season he will grow into an excellent player as he concentrates on his game and develops his tackling.
Ethan – Ethan really showed what a good player he is on tour. A jinxy runner who can open up defences, he’s also someone the team relies on in our own defence; his tackling has been immense all season. He’s developing into a really good rugby player and if he can add a true passing game he’ll be one to watch.
Taylor – One of the core members of our squad, Taylor’s tireless work in defence is something to behold. Strong running, whether taking the ball wide or through the middle, means that he contributes in all aspects of the game. He was one of the go to players as the team tired on tour. As his passing develops, so will his game.
William – William has really improved this season. He has always been a good runner – as demonstrated on tour by his two tries from distance – but he now adds tackling to his armoury. He’s often the first to the breakdown but now needs to combine that energy with the right positioning to ensure that he can use his speed to the team’s advantage.
Jacob – Jacob is another core member of the squad. His commitment can be seen week in, week out as someone who can be relied on to be there whatever the weather or conditions. He showed in the Isle of Wight what a good ball carrier he can be, as he took the ball straight up the middle on a number of occasions. That will allow him to really concentrate on his defensive work next season.
Vinay – Vinay has been strong all season. He’s a very consistent player who can be relied on to find the space out wide to give us options. He’s a good straight runner when going forward, someone who can be relied on to make the yards for the team. His tackling has also improved through the season, meaning he’s another one to watch as an U10.
Leo – Leo is another of our stalwarts in defence. He has a lovely technique and style in felling any player with no fuss. An expert at using the opposition’s body weight against them in the most graceful tackles. He’s a good runner too, and can work on finding the space next season and his positioning generally.
Willem – It’s been great to have Willem join us this season, and to see him develop as a player and friend. On the Isle of Wight he showed what he can do when he gets the ball in hand, and so one of the priorities next season will be to develop his positing and reading of the game.