Flashes of brilliance and steely determination in seesaw fixture.
Our boys started the morning with some warmup drills and training ahead of the 11:43 kick off on Pitch 5. The pleasant autumn air and fine conditions made for a great atmosphere at the RAG – our home ground. It was also nice to have Ben G on the sidelines today in support of the team as his feet recover for a few weeks.
London Scottish kicked off and London Welsh returned play with a strong start. Building on their improving field position, Welsh were able to capitalise on their opportunities and took the lead by the third minute with a try in the bottom right corner of the field.
Play resumed with George and Lucas both making good midfield tackles to challenge Welsh progress. A penalty placed the ball in the hands of our scrum half, Alec, on the far side of the pitch. Resuming play, Alec tapped and then passed over to Lucas, who took several quick steps before a long pass across to Axel. Playing at Number 8 again, he powered through two defenders at midfield, built a head of steam and evaded two more challengers near the 22 meter line before crossing the goal line to even the score at 1-1 in the 8th minute.
We saw some great back and forth action and team play for the following few minutes. With a quarter of the match behind us, the boys delivered some brilliant offence, including a phase starting with Lucas, as Fly Half, bolting from midfield and getting across the pitch where he offloaded to Sebastian. With winger speed Sebastian gained further ground before getting the ball over to Sam. Despite the great gains, we were not able to progress further.
Play resumed with a Welsh scrum near their own 22 and they made decent progress approaching midfield. The boys were able to push them well back towards their goal line and out to the far side. Suddenly, a Welsh player was breaking through our defence, but fortunately Alec made a great leg tackle on their 22 meter line to stop what would have been a clear break for our goal line.
Alfie, playing at Prop, provided further defensive cover by showing strength in the scrum and rucks, which he continued throughout the match.
With 14 minutes behind us, in the 25 minute half, Lucas blew past defenders from the halfway line and, with great speed and agility, moved Scottish ahead 2-1.
Ben M was back on the pitch, after a few weeks rest due to a head bump, and taking to the field with tremendous spirit. He received the ball straight away and embarked on a strong run. Throughout the match, we could see that Ben M was back and ready to play with both solid defensive and offensive impact.
In another series of plays, we saw Jackson gather the ball, get a pass to Axel, who passed to George to make good ground. Jackson soon had the ball again running from the half to the Welsh 22 meter line. Welsh coverage stymied the offload to Sebastian and Sam, who were both providing excellent support play. Welsh scrum.
With Welsh in possession we saw strong tackling in the midfield from both Woody and George. Owen continued to frustrate the Welsh with his defensive tactics. In this case, applying pressure on the ball carrier who was then called for not releasing and Scottish were awarded the penalty.
With the ball back in Scottish hands, Lucas made an exciting drive to the goal line. Unfortunately he was stopped at the line, and yet another opportunity for a try was foiled.
Welsh took their chances and had possession again. With a flurry of passes and some quick feet, they were past their 22 with the ball carrier breaking away at full speed, well ahead of our scrambling defence. With some speedy steps and longer gait, Jackson gave a great chase and with each step closed in on his mark. Approaching our own 22 meter line and just crisp Autumn air between the Welsh player and our goal line, Jackson reached out, grabbed the boys shirt and brought him down in a grab tackle fashion. The Scottish fans roared with approval.
Oli had a solid first half defending and helping to keep the Welsh at bay. Soon before the end of the half, he needed to come off due to a foot injury. Scottish subbed on and moved players around. Nonetheless, Welsh were able to score their second try of the match to even the score at 2-2 with just 2 minutes left in the half.
Woody was a real defensive force on the pitch and got in another great hold tackle and another strong tackle after that. Owen continued with a brilliant work rate, especially in the breakdown and in many plays was really digging for the ball. Josef was also working hard both offensively, with several solid runs, and defensively, including several strong tackles and a tackle in to touch late in the match.
12:09 and the half time whistle is blown with the score line holding at 2-2 after 25 gruelling and intense minutes.
After a 5 minute break, some water and a round of ‘1-2-3 squeeze’ to build some mental momentum, the lads took to the field once again.
Some changes to player positions saw Axel move to Inside Centre and Oli slotted into the Number 8 position and the forwards shuffled positions. We also saw Khattab, a new member to the club, join us on the pitch at left wing. Ben M was off for a rest after having been involved in some solid plays in the first half, showing a strong return later on.
[The second half was such an exciting piece of rugby, I was lucky to get the scoring down! You’ll appreciate the brevity.]
Welsh kicked off at 12:17 and Sebastian caught it and ran to make good ground. But before the second minute chimed, Welsh had the ball over the line to take the lead for the second time in the match.
Khattab‘s debut was filled with enthusiasm to get involved in the melee and it was great to see him get stuck in. Max was having a good day with solid tackles on the other wing and showed good awareness and leadership by calling out to the boys for space. Brodie too contributed well on the wing today and got involved in tackling and rucks which were helpful in stopping their gains and adding to ours.
Six minutes after Welsh retook the lead, Axel got possession of the ball at the Scottish 22, passed some lone defenders, ran the length of the field and brought the game back to a draw of 3-3.
My notes are thin from here as it was just too gripping and had to be watched. Five minutes of compelling rugby and then…..
12:28 Lucas makes it 4-3. Scottish back in the lead again!
12:31 Welsh 4-4
12:32 Welsh. Big blonde. 4-5
12:34 Welsh. Down bottom left. 4-6
12:35 Jackson scored with pass from Axel which all started with another great play from Woody. 5-6. So close with 7 minutes to go.
In the final minutes, Josh was seen adding to his strong day of defence and solid rucking. He blasted through a pack of defenders and made about 20 meters with brute strength and conviction. With some greater quickness in support, this could have been the break we needed.
Welsh somehow then broke through our defence and put the ball down over the goal line in the corner, inches from the in-touch line bringing the score to 5-7 just ahead of the 12:42 whistle.
Final score: Scottish 5 to Welsh 7 (or 25-35 when counting the 5 points for each try).
Coaches player of the Match: Jackson.
(Some really excellent candidates this week shining bright, but Jackson takes it for a number of good runs with ball in hand, the try, and some key and important tackling)
A hotly contested match. The lead switched from side to side several times. The boys played some excellent rugby and it was great to see them challenged throughout the match. They did very well and were brave and intelligent with their comments in the post match review. We know where we are strong and where we can improve. As Juliette said, lets work on building all of our skills at training (and at home and school) and we may see a different outcome when we meet London Welsh again on 8th December at their ground.