It was a mixed day for Horsham U10s at the West Sussex festival. Despite having home advantage the Lions team lost in the semi-finals on a toin toss while the Pumas and Tigers ended up playing each other after finishing as runners-up in their groups.
A frustrating day - but still unbeaten.
The Lions entered the West Sussex tournament optimistic that they could repeat last year’s results and qualify for the finals.
This tournament is always structured strangely with pools containing a mixture of A, B and even C teams. This meant we did have the opportunity to get our team working correctly before coming across the big guns of Hove A and Haywards Heath A.
Our first match was against Haywards Heath B and the coaches were feeling positive. We had a good amount of time to practice some good attacking plays in the warm up and we anticipated some good passing. The team reverted to their usual direct style with our defence being as strong as ever. Morgan and Harry were a constant threat with Finlay C also running some direct lines. A special mention for Samson in this match who was running with confidence. An easy win of 8 - 0 but frustrating as we did not see the passing game that was hoped.
Game 2 was against Midhurst C. The lions were lively and energetic and we started to see some good passing and good rucking. For the first time in a while we saw the ball go down the line to Finlay C who timed his pass excellently to Sam G on the wing who showed a good turn of pace to run in from half way. A team try and the highlight of my day. Finlay R performed well in this game making some excellent runs. I must also mention Liam who worked excellently in the ruck situation, on one occasion on our own line he managed to get his body right under the opposing player, he then ripped the ball got up and passed. For once our tackling was not to its usual high standards with some players trying to tackle high and rip the ball. We got away with it against this opposition but there was still work to do. Won 7 - 0
Game 3 and semi final time against Hove, we needed to pass and attack like we did in game 2 and defend like we did in game 1 if we were going to beat this much stronger opposition. A slow start, the boys were a bit sleepy with the coaches trying everything to wake them up in the warm up - it didn't work! Our tackling was again very strong and it was very competitive at the breakdown, Sam G and Finlay R excelling again in this area. Gaining possession was not easy, but when we did we saw the odd mistake start to creep back into our game. Two needless knock on’s gifted the opposition possession. Hove were very effective in distributing the ball and attacked our wide areas very well. eventually they sucked in our wingers creating space on the left which they exploited to score the first try. The response from the Lions was impressive and some strong running from Liam, Harry, Morgan and Finlay C enabled us to make good progress up the pitch. Eventually Sam G was able to find a small gap in the defence to score and equalise. The 2nd half saw Hove dominate possession and continue to put pressure on us, it was only our strong defence that kept them out. Frustratingly we were not able to look after the ball well and continued to make mistakes when we had possession. Some of our key runners began to lack self belief and our usual front foot approach became static. We were lucky to hold Hove to a 1-1 draw.
With a try difference of + 15 from the pool games we were confident we would go through, having missed out on technicalities in previous festivals this year we were hoping for some good fortune. However, as seems to be the case this year, events worked against us. The rules for this festival indicated that a coin toss should be used to determine the winner in the event of a play off draw, and yes we came off worse again. In all honesty though the Hove team that eventually went on to win the competition against Heath in the final outplayed us and deservedly went through and represent our area in the county finals.
We had one unexpected last game against Midhurst A which for some was a test of character. Players obviously disappointed from not going through needed to motivate themselves to play again. Some very strong performance by Liam , Finlay R and Sam G ensured a victory and some silverware and maintained our unbeaten record.
The Pumas were drawn in Pool A, against Haywards Heath A and Hove B.
The first game was against Haywards Heath and it was a stonking first half though the Puma paid a heavy price. Though undoubtedly the stronger team, Haywards Heath were held to only a 1 - 0 lead at half time. Unfortunately, due to heroic tackling the Puma's lost their captain Will Weedon to a long term injury as well as Tom Sanders and Jolyon Crook.
The Pumas were unable to continue such a tenacious defence and conceded 5 tries in the 2nd half. However, this was a really strong Haywards Heath A team and the coaches were proud of the team's performance.
The next game was a must win against Hove B. This was the same team the Pumas put to the sword 6 - 2 at the recent Pulborough festival. This was an all together closer game and saw the Pumas snatch it 2 - 1 in a tight game with few opportunities. This meant the Puma's finished runners up and a Plate Semi-Final against Midhurst A.
In another keenly contested game, the Pumas came out second to a well drilled Midhurst team that won it in the ruck and maul.
This set up a huge runners up game against a Horsham Tigers team that had encountered similar opposition on their way through. This looks like a curtain raiser for potential clashes at the Sussex Raiders and Weymouth festivals for the Pumas and Tigers. And it was the Pumas that rather surprising pulled off an easy 4 - 1 win. A notable moment was Nathan's driving run taking 3 Tigers with him.
Notable players of the day - Seb's continued strong tackling, a resurgent Tom with some driving runs and tough tackling. Jude with some sturdy defence and a committed group of forwards in the middle. And a real shame to see Will Weedon out for 4 - 6 weeks.
For the Tiger’s won one, lost three. Not the best day at the Office for us.
In game 1 vs Hove A, a very lethargic start and we got penalised for this, going a try down early on. A couple of poor restarts with a dropped ball and a knock on did not help our cause. On the plus side we had some great play at one stage as we made our way up one side of the field with some terrific drives, rucks and recycling involving most of the team with notables from Ethan, Ross, Jack Marks and Ben to name a few. Sadly it came to nothing but it was impressive to watch and showed we can play rugby. Lost 3-0.
In game 2 vs Midhurst B ( won , 4-1 ) , Rhys came to life on the left wing ( scoring two tries and pretty much the third with a pass to Mason and then with some more driving and Harry going over the line). Great tackling by Ross and George kept Midhurst at bay with a typical gutsy performance from Ben. There was some good play all round with good runs from Jack and Harry. We had won and were holding our heads high.
Game 3 against Midhurst C, after getting to 2:1 ahead, we lost 3-2. George did a great run where he drew in the final defender and offloaded to Rhys, terrific bit of Rugby. Sadly it was not to last and in the second half we conceded two tries, one of their tries was very debatable and our confidence completely evaporated. We had a chance of a third try, Rhys took the ball from the base of the ruck and not passing it went straight for the line, he then got high tackled around the neck but did manage to ground it. Sadly the Ref went for the first offence ( not passing the ball from the ruck), ignored the very visible clothes line high tackle, disallowed the try and gave the penalty to Midhurst. Game over.
Game 4 - Horsham Derby vs the Pumas. Sadly for us this was all to one sided, a try by George with an assist for Rhys was the highlight. 4-1 the score to the Pumas ( and they were down one of their better players in Will Weeden). We just did not turn up.
The Tigers can play good rugby and win games. We just need to get them believing in themselves. There was some good tackling, rucking and passing. A lot of the boys were making tackles, rucking and passing. We just did not do,this all of the time and in enough numbers to count.
The downtime between matches did not help and we need to get them fired up before the matches.
Man of the match for us was Rhys. Not only some cracking runs but the boy tackled as well and when staying in position on the left wing proved effective and a menace to the opposition.