I approached last weekend’s Beaconsfield 7s with mild trepidation. The weather looked questionable and the Old Berkhamstedians had been struggling for numbers all week. However, my fears were soon allayed as I arrived in beaming sunshine to a full squad of enthusiastic youngsters, not only keen to play but actively warming up!
There may have been some questions around the eligibility of our team. A few Exeter Uni ringers were drafted in at the last minute but the core of the squad had walked the hallowed cloisters during their formative years.
And it really did feel like being back at school as we were drawn against RGS Wycombe Old Boys in our first game. I have to admit, despite enough water passing under the bridge to swamp a nation, I still harbour a deep-seated resentment of RGS! I have been on the receiving end of far too many royal drubbings at their merciless hands – now the mere sight of those maroon and green shirts sends shockwaves or irrational hatred coursing through my veins!
My heart sank further when I saw one Nathan Lambden in their midst…a man I had previously revered and respected! For shame. For shame.
There was an all too familiar start to the game as well, the RGS centre rounded me with consummate ease and callously trampled over poor Henry Kirchner to score. However, we fought our way back into the game and even held the lead in the second half. Heart-breakingly and somewhat inevitably RGS scored with the last play of the game to snatch the victory by just two points.
|Back row: Jerry, Sam, Chris, Matt, Jimmy|
Front row: Me, Tom, Owen, Mike
The disappointment was palpable but we did not crack. In fact, the Tall Boys – a team from Weybridge Vandals RFC – felt the full force of our frustration. We played some genuine textbook 7s, holding depth, spreading the ball from wing to wing and patiently waited for the gaps. A 31-0 scoreline reflected our boost in confidence.
Next up were Marlow, who had also looked strong in their previous games. We started well and dominated the first half, continuing our good form from the last game. Our defence was tight and we kept the ball well when in possession. We took the lead through a break away from Chris Brooks. However, we didn’t capitalise on our possession and Marlow forced their way back into the game in the second period. Despite our best efforts and some crunching tackles, we spurned a gild-edged last minute chance and lost 12-7.
Again, there was a real sense of disappointment as we felt we had thrown it away. A well-disciplined 33-0 trashing of Beaconsfield Vets did raise our spirits slightly and our place was booked in the Plate semi-final.
The squad was starting to disintegrate as we approached the business end of the tournament. We had lost one to a knee injury, Mike Taylor to a hamstring strain and Jimmy Jackson’s had a back problem. However, even a scratch seven was enough to admonish the feisty Young Guns 31-0.
Old Boys stalwart Jerry Goss stepped into the breach for the final, defying doctor’s orders to replace the departing Henry who had a ‘prior engagement’. Our opponents were the Tall Boys again who had enjoyed success against Beaconsfield.
Both teams were feeling the effects of a full day’s play and the Final lacked the effervescence of previous rounds. However, we dominated throughout, wearily crossing the line 20-5 to win the Plate.
The tournament may not have been of the highest calibre - nor was the standard particularly awe-inspiring – but it was an enjoyable day and certainly good practise for more challenging tournaments to come.
It was good to see some fresh faces in the Old Boys set up and it was certainly an encouraging start to the 7s season for the team, with several tournaments planned for the summer. A special mention must go to Sam Dines for rounding up the troops.