Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Friday, 6 May 2011

Why is it always Hertford?!

As you can probably tell from the title, it was not the triumphant end to the season which we were anticipating! In fact, Hertford rather put us to the sword in last Sunday’s County Cup Final - 40-5 the margin on a scorching Bank Holiday at Harpenden. A disappointing end to an otherwise positive season.
On match day, we were treated to Motts’ finest coach - usually reserved for Wycombe Wanders away trips. So we arrived in relative luxury on a fine and glorious day. The Herts Trophy game between Chess Valley and Verulamians was already underway - we were
starkly reminded how far we had come as a team as we played in the same competition only a few years ago. 
We knew it would be a tough game. Hertford had narrowly beaten Bournemouth in a play off to secure promotion to National 2 and were riding a wave of confidence like a Kelly Slater! They were showing no mercy either, playing as near to a full strength side as possible. 

The game was hard, fast and physical. Hertford pressed our try line and some excellent last ditch defence kept them out. However, a lapse in concentration left Centre Ellis with an easy run in for the first try. Further quick thinking Hertford lead to a try for Compton and a strong run from the impressive Johnson left the score at a daunting 19-0 half way through the first half.

The returning Hugh Slater proving he's still got the magic!
We managed to pull ourselves together and put together some excellent phases. We gradually grew in confidence and started to use our dynamic backs - Nathan Lamden, JP and Tommy Newton running some excellent lines. We kept the ball well and peppered their line for the rest of the half, keeping our composure and patience. However, their ferocious and resolute defence kept us out and our hope started to fade.

It was much the same in the second half. We knew we had to score first if we had any chanced of clawing our way back and we Jon gave us a license to play freely. We started well too, Newts creating gaps in the Hertford line. But the execution wasn’t quite there - it was the last pass or last panicked off-load which didn’t quite make it to hand.

As realisation started to kick in, Hertford exposed our soft centre, scoring from their first meaningful attack of the half. Before we had a chance to reflect, we were under the sticks again, Hooker MacNamee put through a gap and off loading to Winger Riddle to make the score 33-0.

Rosey sticks it to 'em!
We did eventually trouble the scorers, Adam Cartwright-Howell finishing a break from the irrepressible Newts and we continued to enjoy good possession. As we pushed a little too hard, a handling error gifted Fly-half Manion a try leaving the score a debilitating 40-5. 
The reasons for such a heavy loss? It is easy to blame our preparations which were far from ideal, not having a full strength team at our disposal, an over-zealous trio of referee and touch judges enjoying the novelty of microphones rather than concentrating on the game! But in truth, we played a strong side who deserved the win.

Hertford had an innate confidence and air of total command which comes from having such a fantastic season. They gave off an air of invincibility which we need to learn from if we want to push up the table next year. But moreover it was their clinical execution that was so impressive. In defence they were ruthless and in attack precise. The overall score line flattered them greatly and didn’t reflect the effort we put in but it shows how costly momentary lapses are against good teams.

We were proud of the way we played though. A 50m sprint and superb try-saving tackle from Richie Roberts in the last minutes of the game seemed to sum up the uncompromising passion and determination of the team.

In the post match presentation, much was made by the Hertfordshire top brass of how Hertford deserved the win because they had played the previous rounds of the tournament. I hardly think we deserved such a slight. Indeed, the same top brass needs to make sure the tournament has the same pull and attraction as its counterparts to make sure teams don’t pull out. As I mentioned in a previous post, the Lancashire Cup draws a huge crowd and a full compliment of teams taking part. The Oxfordshire County Cup final was played at the iconic Iffley Road stadium in front of a bumper crowd. 

So the season has now finished and we have our Players’ Dinner this evening…which should be quite an evening!

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