Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Friday, 26 August 2011

A friendly in name only...

The day of reckoning is almost upon us. How far have we come in the last few years? How much have we learnt from our intensive pre-season? Has Tom Mowbray learnt to catch?! A few of the questions flying around the club at the moment on the eve of our biggest derby day in years.

Yes, the big one is tomorrow…Tring vs Chinnor. Although this is a pre-season game, it will be a friendly in name only. When the pre-season schedule was announced, this was the game that caused the reaction, the licking of lips, the rubbing of hands, the wry smiles and skipping of heartbeats. There will be fireworks.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, there is a certain level of antagonism between the two sides, and not much love lost. But apart from the politics and player poaching, Chinnor are the obvious local rivals by a process of elimination.

If we’re honest, either Hemel Hempstead or Aylesbury would be our natural rivals and have been in the past. But with both teams sliding down the leagues, the next team at our level in the region is Chinnor.

There are other teams close-by – Old Albanians, Bishops Stortford, Hertford, Harpenden – but there is something more intriguing in Chinnor. The Oxfordshire club is on the South West league boundary so plays in National 3 South West. As we know a lot of the players, there is constant conjecture that they are a better team – without being able to prove it as our paths never cross in competition.

And the stats don’t lie. Over the last few seasons, Chinnor have finished in the top 3 of the league consistently and certainly did not disgrace themselves in National 2. Tring on the other hand has so far scrapped for survival at this level.

However…last season was somewhat of a disappointment for Chinnor, finishing fourth in the league, well behind Old Pats  in 3rd, whereas a storming run in gave us our highest points total yet, including tries scored.

Our pre-season has been tough but hugely beneficial. A 41-12 demolition of Oxford Harlequins set the tone and surprised many…including us! Our new patterns appeared to be working, providing instant and clinical results.

Claps makes crosses the line against Oxford Harlequins
Our away trip to Exmouth was…eventful. The initial plan of a tournament was abandoned for 1sts and 2nds games, one after the other. However, we were only able to muster a 25 man squad which meant some troopers – special mention to Chris Rose – had to play two games back to back!

The 2nd team played some fantastic, fast-paced Rugby and eventually ran out 14-5 winners with some dogged defending towards the end. The 1st team struggled against one of the biggest packs I’ve ever seen at this level. We were bullied and disrupted at the breakdown and our new gameplan went to AWOL under pressure.

Despite a debilitating loss, there were plenty of positives. With ball in hand, we looked very dangerous - it was just match fitness which meant the support lines weren’t there to capitalise. It was a good opportunity to knock all the Summer complacency out of our system and get used to hard, physical graft again – plenty more of it to come this weekend, I’m sure!

The trip was also a chance to bond as well. A team excursion to The Imperial – the largest Wetherspoons in the UK, don’t you know – and then onto Timepiece evening establishment for liquid refreshment and frivolities. It was an excellent night and brought the team closer together – even if the five hour coach trip home the next day was like a battlefield morgue!

So we go into the game tomorrow knowing what to expect. We have worked hard on our set piece this week – thanks to a session on Tuesday with Aylesbury and the visionary James Buckland – and we are looking forward to a huge physical test. A couple of key figures return to the side as well, including Shottsy. And we’re looking forward to unleashing Nick Radley!

I have a few personal scores to settle and points to prove against Chinnor. I have a number of friends who will be playing in black and white – but games always get a bit spicy when you play against friends!

Should be a good one!

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