London Scottish U18s assistant coach Alasdair Hinds talks about the challenges of maintaining consistency as he rounds up some of the highlights of the autumn so far.
The Under 18s have had a tricky start to the season, with the increased pressures of work and study hitting player availability and a fair number of injuries making it impossible to maintain consistency. The flip-side of these challenges has been a lot of game-time for those able to play and opportunities to develop new skills in different positions on the field. What has been maintained throughout is the good humour and sense of teamwork and camaraderie, illustrated in a few Autumn highlights:
30th September – A remarkable comeback
London Scottish U18s 20 – 19 Barnet Elizabethans Colts
Scottish started with a bare minimum of players and a scratch set of backs still getting some basic plans in place as kick-off approached. The first half proved difficult, with Barnet taking advantage of the organisational gaps to put themselves in control with a 19 point lead. Matters were getting more challenging as injuries took their toll – Scottish were reduced to just 13 fit players and the second-half was played 13-a-side.
What came next was a remarkable turnaround as Scottish pulled together as a team and tightened their game, putting into practice some of the close quarter skills from their hard work on training field. Adaptability proved key, with players slotting into new positions: Joe Nellis moving to scrum-half and Adam out to fly-half to launch a few garryowens that the Barnet wingers started to dread. TJ came out of the pack to slot in at centre and, revelling in the extra space, made a key break for a score that provided a confidence boost for the whole team.
Sticking with a straightforward game-plan in difficult conditions paid dividends with further tries from flyers Phillipp and Keith before TJ sealed the victory with a score to edge Scottish that vital single point ahead. Extra credit must go to the front row who stuck at their task for 80 minutes with no relief available from the bench!
20 October – Penny for the tour fund, mister?
A sunny Saturday afternoon greeted the fans arriving for the First XV match against Moseley, along with a cheery welcome from some of the U18 squad kicking off their tour collection. The combined endeavours of Ashley, Joe, Henry and Keith, with a cameo from Buzz, managed to collect over £280 towards a fund for an end of season tour.
A variety of skill levels were on show from the lads at a half-time kicking competition, with Ash turning out to be the best drop-goal kicker (we're not sure how). Many thanks to all those who contributed – almost every group coming in seemed to manage to find a few coins to add to the buckets.
28 October – Anything you can do…
London Scottish U18s 15 – 15 Richmond U18s
Taking on our co-tenants and local rivals always brings out a bit extra, although the Scottish lads took a while to turn their eagerness into points. Throughout the match the pack maintained a healthy advantage in the forwards exchanges, getting the upper hand in the scrum in particular. But Scottish struggled to convert their half-breaks into anything more substantial and remained under pressure in the opening stages.
In contrast Richmond made better use of their possession in the first-half to create two tries and a 12-point lead. Scottish hit back with a scorching break by Ash, leaving Richmond tacklers grasping thin-air, but with that try still faced a half-time deficit at 5-12.
Once again the break brought adaptations, some forced by injuries and some as part of the squad rotation. A slow build up of pressure by Scottish didn't immediately lead to points but had Richmond concerned and as our “visitors” struggled to match any of the breaks they had made in the first half they grabbed the opportunity of kicking a penalty to take a 10-point lead. But pressure almost always tells in the end and, showing a greater drive in the final 15 minutes, Scottish crafted two tries, just missing the conversions to leave the scores level.
The final minute of the match lasted just long enough for some heart-stopping action as Scottish flirted with running out of their own 22 – managing to concede a penalty which was fortunately missed to leave a fair 15-15 result. In the end Scottish finished the stronger side and can take heart from outscoring Richmond by three tries to two and having the fitness to out-last a much greater opposition squad.