The London Scottish Under 11s recently went on tour to Holt…
We left a rainy London for the sunny shores of Norfolk, via the Angel Larking pub in Thetford; a stop to burn off excess energy and an opportunity to rehydrate and sample an English Whisky. We rested overnight in Norwich in much splendour at the Premier Inn and after a few pre-match chips the playing contingent retired to bed, leaving the more mature to enjoy a nightcap or few.
It was an early rise the next morning to take advantage of the extensive breakfast and then back onto the coach to Holt for the tournament. The first sunny day of the year greeted us, the recent rain had softened the pitches and, apart from the stiff breeze which threatened to dislodge the tent, playing conditions were good. We had five matches ahead of us.
A pattern began to emerge in the games: we were slow to warm-up, leaked early tries and with little ball possession, in the early stages, it was difficult to create opportunities. Our defence and the tackle count was high and slowly through the day more passion and greater dedication returned to the team with some prodigious scrummaging, rucking and tackling. If we had been able to capitalise on our chances some of the scores could have been different.
Notoriously slow starters Scots were unlucky to draw the battle hardened host team Holt RFC for their opening match. The well drilled Holt team started at pace running hard and drawing brave tackles from Scots, none more so than from Ted who put in a brave tackle on their “big one “in the first couple of minutes, but in the process took a blow which knocked him out of the tournament. Somewhat unsettled by the incident Scots leaked three tries in the first half, as the hosts dominated possession. However, they pulled themselves together and put in a real battling display in the second half, during which Holt managed just the one unconverted try. With little ball to play with, staunch defence was the defining feature of the match with a notable crunching tackle by Thomas then ball rip by Mark on the line to save a try. A fine relieving kick by Joe, vigorously chased by Charlie, also took the pressure off and allowed Scots to spend time in the opponents half. The scrum went well, and there were glimpses of our running and off-loading game, but we lacked enough possession to turn this into points. (Holt 24 LS 0)
Our second match was against Maldon, who had an imposing front row against which Scots scrummaged well. Possession was short and the team was on the back foot for much of the time defending and tackling fearlessly – with special mention to Tom, Adam, Max, Joe and Eli. Maldon managed to take their opportunities well with two tries in the first half and one in the second. Still no try for our battling warriors. (Maldon 19, LS 0)
In our third match against Datchworth, the cross wind at the exposed Kelling Park had increased making kicking and handling more difficult. Good lineout throwing from Sean helped the situation, but Datchworth competed well at the ensuing rucks, so, whilst good scrimmaging skills continued with some good handling in the backs, Datchworth managed two tries in the first half. In the second half the Scots started strongly, putting in more effort at the rucks (Jonah and Rebecca) and contact area but it was not enough to see off another try. (Datchworth 17, LS 0)
Yet again, in the fourth match, the team leaked an early, soft try. But this was a game the team sensed they could win and with much more possession Joe crossed the line twice but was held up and repelled by strong defence, and Max could not ground the ball cleanly when he crossed the line. At one scrum, the Scots drove Wisbech back with real cohesion, however missed the ref calling for them to halt and spilled a penalty as a result. Well done anyway to the front row led by Fedor. The champagne moment came when Adam ran wide to the right, drawing the defenders to him like flies, only to pop the pass inside to Morven on the switch, a beautiful move that deserved more but sadly came to nought. There were also good runs by William and Charlie but both times came to nothing. In defence, tackling remained strong from Eli and Mark; however, this was a game the Scots could have won if chances had been taken. (Wisbech 7, LS 0)
After four defeats it would have been too easy to throw the towel in, in the final match against Ampthill. But the team rose the challenge and put in another passionate stint. The match started and Ampthill scored pretty early on, but Scots persevered, with some great tackles by Rebecca on the right wing to stop a potential try in the 1st half. As the previous game, LS rucking and scrimmaging was strong and we won a few turnover balls. Tom throughout the game made some excellent tackles. Oscar went for a run on the left, but ran into a wall of defenders. Throughout the game LS kept on pressing but could not turn the pressure into points, with Ampthill defending strongly. Arran made a couple of strong runs, as did Joe which eventually paid off with the last move of the match giving LS a deserved try. (Ampthill 21, LS 7)
Spirits were lifted after this game, which was just as well given that we had a 3 hour journey back to The Athletic Ground, made easier by stopping at another Thetford pub for food and a drink whilst the players ran around and thought of what could have been.
Thanks to all for a great tour, both players and parents alike made it a great weekend for all.