As regular readers of the blog will testify, I set myself some rather ambitious goals during pre-season. Five games into the new term, I wanted to stop and take stock of where we are as a team and where I am on the road to my ultimate goal, a spot in the Hertfordshire squad.
We’ve started the season in blistering fashion. The Tring Rangers Class of 2011/12 has scorched its way to 4 wins from 5 games and an unprecedented 3rd in the league.
The team has developed a pragmatic ruthlessness. With the cold, compassionless eyes we have put teams like Havant and Luton to the sword. A visceral physicality combined with the same dogged determination has lead to hard fought wins against Ampthill, CS Rugby and also put the frighteners on league leaders Canterbury for large parts of the game.
Don’t get me wrong; there are still many things to work on. The scrum is still a little shaky, we are giving away too many penalties at the breakdown and we need to make sure we’re concentrating for the full 80. But this is an impressive start from an exciting team – certainly the best since I’ve been involved at Cow Lane.
The stunning form of talismanic Tom Newton has been superb as always. However, we no longer rely as heavily on our Full-Back as in the past. Papa Bear Lamden has put in some monster performances already this year. The Points Machine Chennells has continued his form from last season. Sam Clapham is showing all his Mike Phillips-esque skills at 9. New recruits Tom Mills, Benny Criddle and the Mateai Express have slotted in well to give us one of the most potent backlines in the league.
But perhaps the most pleasing aspect of this season has been the emergence of the pack. It is fair to say that Tring has lightweight forwards and have been bullied on occasions at this level. I remember games against Ampthill at home last year, Staines away and the games against Shelford to name a few.
We have not changed much in the way of personnel. Shagged-haired Kiwi James Farmer has moved on to pastures north of the border. Perennial sick-note Mason has missed much of the season through injury and the ferocious Nick Radley has been sidelined with a broken foot and now cracked ribs.
It would appear that experience at this level suits us well and we have grown in confidence and stature. We are no longer here to make up the numbers. Shottsy and Captain Morgan have refreshed our lineouts and our driving maul is a genuine marvel if set properly.
The scrums are still pose a question. We have a small squad, especially in the tight 5. So if we do have an injury or absence then it is much more keenly felt. However, we’re not looking for an arm-wrestle – that’s not our style. We just need a secure platform for quick ball.
The pack has chopped and changed already this year but we have managed to keep going with minimal disruption. Tom Metcalfe and Harry Bloomfield have both returned to University after excellent starts to the season. But the triumphant returns of Huw ‘Corporate’ Slater and Briggy have added a welcome familiarity to the team. Rob Baldwin has been a revelation in the Back Row as well. And who would be foolish enough to mess with the Brown Brothers?!
|The Front Row Union|
From a personal perspective, I am enjoying my Rugby more than ever. This is an exciting team but also a great bunch of guys. Bus trips home are always a highlight – whether we win or lose.
Of course there is an obvious correlation between happiness and the winning streak. But there is a real buzz at training. The sessions are fast and furious – everyone is willing to try new things, push the boundaries and improve as a squad.
I’m still a little behind my pre-season targets. I haven’t crossed the whitewash yet and I need to get my body position lower. But generally, I have been happy with my performances. I have worked hard on my fitness and my new role in the team is to bring others into the game. I feel a big performance is on the cards.
Surprisingly, my tackling has vastly improved from last year. It still needs some way to go to get to where it should be but the technique training with John and Rob Edwards seems to be paying off.
This weekend will be an important opportunity for me. There will no doubt be County representatives there so I need to make sure I perform. To be honest, I’m not feeling pressured by this – I’m having too much fun to worry about that!
I just can’t wait to get out there!