With our early return after the summer holidays causing various fixture date changes, added to Storm Ali which postponed last week’s Fettes fixture, this first match of the season has been a long time in coming! It is going to be a very busy term of rugby for the 1stXV with 14 matches, two sevens tournaments and the tour to Yorkshire all to pack in before the end of term, and it is always good to get the first game under our belt to get the season up and running.
Well, after four weeks’ hard work out on the training field, the boys were champing at the bit, and I have been really impressed by the commitment, skill level and desire from everyone with a number of boys forcing their way in to the team through their level of performance in training. It has been good to see and having such a fierce competition for places bodes well for the rest of the season.
Dollar are always a tough side through large numbers and a long rugby tradition, so it was going to be a very difficult opening fixture; added to this were the new Age Grade Law Variations introduced by the SRU, something we had been getting to grips with since the start of term!
Right from the off, on what was a mild Autumn afternoon, we set our stall out to play attacking free flowing rugby, looking to get the ball out wide whenever possible and use our fast runners through the outside channels. This we did try to do, especially from set piece when the Dollar backs were behind the off side line, but it was more difficult from the breakdown when they were up very fast indeed; however, we took really good options, with Max showing an impressive calmness at 10, and VJ and Ramsay linking well in the centres. Our off loading game worked well, with the forwards keeping the ball alive and pushing the Dollar boys back defensively; certainly the new tackle laws helped us in that with no targeting the ball now, the ball is kept in play for longer, and we kept hold of the ball for long periods, with around 70% possession.
Despite falling behind by two tries twice during the match, I still always thought we would win! We controlled the game, and three of their tries we gifted to them – a bit of first game inexperience – which made the score line much closer than it should have been; that said, their very fast winger could almost have scored every time he received the ball, and only two last ditch tackles from Fergus stopped him. If ever a tackle won a game, it was these two efforts from Fergus!
The forwards were outstanding. We looked after the ball, secured fast ruck ball and with a more rigorously policed off side line, our backs really will look dangerous with Ramsay exploiting the holes created by VJ and our fast wingers – there were moments of outstanding rugby for a game so early in the season and the sense of team spirit and not wanting to give up was there for all to see…..much of this came from Todd, the skipper, and he marshalled his troops superbly today, leading form the front and showing that never say die spirit. We wanted it more than they did in the end, and scored the winning try a couple of minutes from the full time whistle, but it was well deserved and the reaction of the boys at the end said it all.
It was a fantastic game of U13 rugby and wins against Dollar are rare indeed. I have not witnessed many better in my 20 years running a prep school 1stXV, and the boys can take real credit for their performance and they way that they all worked so hard for each other. I am excited about the challenges which lie ahead, and with the Belhaven and Fettes matches next week, we shall be tested again!
Well played, boys! A terrific start to the season.