Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tring snatch 3rd despite rollercoaster November

November has proved to be something of a rollercoaster ride, a mix of rest weeks and indifferent performances. But we always knew it would be tough playing two unknown sides and we have come through to December with five points and climbed a place to third in the league.

After a week's break, the first game of the November was a disappointing away loss to London Irish Amateurs. Too many costly errors meant we wasted an excellent opportunity, especially playing at such a fantastic ground.

We were immediately struck by the Sunbury-on-Thames ground. The bowling green first team pitch was a true site to behold, basking the warm Autumnal glow. 

And we didn’t let the occasion get to us. We started the game very strongly. Our lineout and driving maul continued to be a particularly potent weapon, forcing an early penalty and a 3-0 lead. Our defence was robust and further pressure on their line forced a charged down kick and Papa Bear Lamden strolled over for the score. 8-0 and cruising.

We continued to dominate the early stages, the Mataei Express and Sam Clapham both coming close to scores in the respective corners but didn't make the most of our dominance.

…and then the wheels came off. Dramatically.

We had a mad 20 minutes, conceding 21 unanswered points. I was mortified to see my ambitious offload drop straight into the hands of their Blind-side Flanker. He gratefully scampered away with the Fly-half eventually touching down under the posts. Another weak missed tackle meant I needed a stern word with myself!

In the second half, we hardened our resolve and kept the ball tight. Our ball retention was impressive and our scrums were growing in stature. We looked dangerous when we pushed the ball wide and pulled scores back through Tommy Newton and Claps. 

But Irish were more streetwise around the breakdown, making the most of some fairly naive refereeing. Despite a further score from William Mataei after some patient build up play, the first half mistakes eventually proved too much of a mountain to climb.
Newest recruit Marlen Walker (left) packs down against Westcliff
Last weekend saw league newcomers Westcliff visit Fortress Cow Lane. We knew very little about the Essex side other than they had struggled in the league so far. However, we have learnt the hard way that there are no easy games in National 3 so preparations were as tough as ever.

The visiting side started well, pressuring us into needless penalties. The impressive boot of Fullback McKeith notched the first points of the game. 

However, our new gameplan and phase-play soon paid dividends. Patient build up play lead to Cap'n Morgan slithering over in the corner for the first try. And further scores from William Mataei and Chennells advanced our lead as Westcliff's struggled to contain our rampant backline. A slightly scrappy first half ended 19-6 in our favour.

The second half didn't go totally according to plan. Westcliff came out battling and kept possession well. They had a strong and hard hitting forward pack running off the Scrum -half. Our defence was impressively resolute and we forced several errors and turnovers but we simply couldn't capitalise on them. We couldn't keep the ball for any length of time.

The visitors tried to claw their way back into the game via the boot of McKeith and a try from hard-working Prop Binnerman but the game was never really in doubt. Papa Bear Lamden continued his rich vein of form with a score and there was even time for Wasps A's newest recruit David Shotton to touch down from a driven lineout. 

It had been a tough game and we hadn't been at our best by any means. But the 31-14 final result meant another five point home win. With other results in the league going our way, the win also meant we snatched third place from Dorking. 

We're officially in nosebleed territory!

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Refreshed and ready for action

It seems like only last week we were sprinting up hills in the barmy summer evenings. The relentless bleep test, like a metronome of misery, is still an all too fresh memory. And yet we find ourselves nine games into the season already…and worryingly I still haven’t scored!

With no game scheduled last week, we enjoyed some well-earned rest and re-cooperation time. It has been a tough and physically demanding start to the league so we appreciated the chance to shake off any knocks and niggles.

But any hopes of an easy week’s training were soon dashed. Brutal sprinting and fitness sessions meant no laurels were rested upon. Although, a team building curry at local Mela restaurant made it all worthwhile. The main lesson of the evening - Papa Bear Lamden can put away a lot of curry!

Papa Bear doing what he does best
The team has been sharp and focused this week. Everyone had a real spring in their step after the weekend off and were ready and raring to go. The team runs were clinical, slick and glistened with well-worked polish.

This week we play London Irish Amateur, who were promoted last year. They have enjoyed a strong start to the season and have established themselves in this league already.

There’s no doubting that it will be a difficult away trip. But we won’t make the same mistakes as we did against Tonbridge. We won’t be intimidated by the occasion, the venue or who the programme says is playing. We will concentrate on our new gameplan and show why we are fourth in the league.

These are exciting times for the Rangers!