After a hugely successful season, with a 100% league record and defence of their junior 5 nations title, this year’s tour was an opportunity for the London Scottish U13s to test themselves against strong opposition from further afield.
As reigning Dorset county champions, Hosts Dorchester promised to provide a stiff test. Other invited teams Wimborne and Oakmedians, second and third respectively in Dorset along with a strong Olney side from Buckinghamshire meant that the Scottish tourists were going to be amongst good company.
Four games over 2 days starting on Saturday afternoon with Oaks.
Under glorious blue skies Scottish started brightly with most of the first 15 mins played in the Oaks half. Good strong play going through the phases resulted in a penalty for Scottish on the Oaks 22. A couple of unfortunate handling errors relieved the pressure and before they knew it Scottish were 2 -0 down as the half time whistle blew.
Oaks came out for the start of the second half firing on all cylinders with some fantastic running rugby. Scottish had no response until the final 10mins where the boys dug deep and finished the stronger. A comfortable victory for Oaks. A below par performance overall for Scottish but periods that gave plenty of cause for optimism.
Next up Wimborne. Another tough game against another strong team. The first half was nip and tuck and fiercely competitive. Fantastic rucking from both teams and direct rugby resulting in a 3-2 lead to Wimborne at half time.
This time it was Scottish who came out flying after half time. Great ball handling and distribution brought the Scottish runners into the game. A few more tries for Scottish combined with a solid defence saw the Scots just edge the game. A great morale boosting result that gave the boys something to celebrate overnight.
The orders were clear regarding sleep on Saturday night. I.e they had to get some, which judging from Saturday’s first game some of the boys didn't on Friday night!
New day new challenge. And new weather. The sunshine had been replaced by rain, with the forecast for more as the day went on. Normally not welcome, but here served to soften up the pitches, promoting the tackling that is such a strong part of the Scottish game.
And they would need all their weapons against Dorchester.
Dorchester controlled the game from start to finish. A solid display of defence and rucking, quick recycling, running and distribution. Scottish did not give up and although the game was away from them the Scots had the final word.
Multiple phases of play involving every player ended with captain Jacob touching down with the final play of the game. Despite losing there were smiles on all their faces, knowing they had put in a good account. The body language was good and the rugby was back.
As the rain continued and the conditions changed Olney then showed Scottish how to do it and beat Dorchester. Good for them but bad for Scottish? Olney were up next.
The boys had obviously decided to save the best for last.
A superbly fought battle between two teams who were on their games. Olney were strong across the board with a big pack not giving much away. Olney bided their time and went through the phases, making a few meters each time. Quick recycling was key, so the attacks came before Scottish could regroup. Very effective and something to work on for next year.
Olney's pressure paid off and they took the lead. Scottish were not going to give up and some great distribution around the back released Melvyn to level the score.
A similar pattern followed for the rest of the game. Hugely competitive rugby from both sides with one spectator overheard saying 'bloody hell, I'd pay to watch this.'
Olney took the lead again and Scottish responded again. And again. And again.
Final score 4-4. The right result as neither team deserved to lose. A fitting way to end what has been a memorable season.
Thanks again to Dorchester, and John in particular for hosting. Thanks also to the players and coaches of Wimborne, Oakmedians and Olney for bringing some fantastic competition. All thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated.
Thanks also to all the parents for their support during the year.
But the biggest thanks goes to the boys, who’s dedication and hard work all season has seen the U13 squad grow into a force to be reckoned with, but as importantly they conduct themselves within the true the spirit of the game. The note from the Wimborne coach was testament to this.
Bring on next season.