Forgive me for it has been 5 weeks since my last blog – the pitfalls of a temperamental laptop and no Internet connection! 10 Hail Marys? How about four wins from our opening 5 games instead?
Yes, September has been a bumper month of records for us…and it shows no sign of slowing down. Highest ever score, best ever start to the season, highest league position at this level, best looking team in the league, the records keep tumbling.
There is no doubt the key to this successful start has been our gruelling and merciless preseason schedule. A new focused game plan, punishing fitness sessions with Steve Bumstead, hill sprints on Saturday mornings, Pilates, the Bleep Test – all playing their part in fine-tuning the Ranger machine.
The games against the West Country monsters Exmouth and bitter local rivals Chinnor were enormous physical battles. Both teams have sizable packs and really smashed any Summer lethargy out of us. We may have been bruised and battered but we gained a huge amount of confidence as we approached the season, knowing we could mix it with bigger boys.
We have traditionally been a slow starting team, waiting until at least late October/November to start notching up some league points. However, this year, we rode our wave of confidence to Havant for our first game – and the poor blighters were like lambs to the slaughter!
We’ve come a long way in a few short years, thanks to the expert coaching set up and strong team bond. But few would have been so bold as to predict a powerful 64-10 away win to kick start the 2011/12 campaign. Even fewer would have dared believe Chris Rose would score a first-half from text book driven lineouts! Tring dominating an opposition pack….no that isn’t a flying pig!
It was a spectacular performance but we knew tougher tests would come…such as Ampthill at Cow Lane the following week. Last year’s fixture had proved to be something of a bad-tempered affair, with the Bedfordshire side snatching the victory in the dieing moments. The bitter sting of a bloodied mouth made worse by such a maddening loss.
But this year, Lady Luck favoured the Rangers. With minutes left of the clock and the referee wetting his lips for the final whistle, Tring sneaked a late score to win 22-21…the sweet and satisfying taste of revenge victory.
This year we seem to be more at home in this challenging league. We are no longer ‘plucky underdogs’, but experienced campaigners able to impose our will on a game rather than hanging on for dear life. There is a real belief that we are a top table team, so we were not phased by an away trip to Canterbury.
As we suspected, they were big and strong, but we were still riding on a wave of confidence. Against the odds, we dominated long periods of the game and even took a 10-5 lead into the half time break.
Canterbury came alive in the 2nd half and took advantage of the conditions more effectively. The final score was a creditable 38-10 – certainly no disgrace and there were plenty of positives to be taken out of the game.
Every week we seem to be growing in stature, confidence and self-belief. The arrival of Flying Samoan William Mateai merely added fuel to the flames. A scrappy but clinical performance against Luton gave us a 41-20 home win. A debut hat-trick for the Super South Sea Islander lifted us to an astonishing 3rd in the league.
|The Mateai Express on his debut against Luton|
The final game I need to update you on is last Saturday’s sweltering 37-26 win at Civil Service…or CS Rugby 1863 as they are called now. A lack of Civil Servants in the team perhaps prompting the name change?!
CS had enjoyed a successful start to the season and had recruited new faces over the Summer. However, our momentum was too strong. We took an early lead through some typically sparkling play by the backs. Papa Bear Lambden, Points Machine Chennells, and the Mateai Express gave us a healthy 22-12 lead at half time.
In the bizarrely Mediterranean conditions, CS fought back through the forwards and even briefly took the lead. But late scores from the mercurial Tommy Newton and a second from Chennels secured a well earned win against a strong side.
We hold on to 3rd place in the league and our confidence train steams on. This weekend’s game will be a real test – Bishop Stortford at Fortress Cow Lane. It will be perhaps the sternest test of our resolve so far this year.
No one expected us to get anything from Canterbury away. But after our stunning and epic win at Stortford last year and our current impressive run, the boys are going into games expecting to win rather than just ‘put up a good fight’.
Stortford will be gunning for revenge, no doubt about it. But can they derail the Ranger Train?!