Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Confessions of a Rugby Amateur

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Disappointing December sparks fresh hopes for New Year

As an eventful 2011 drew to a close, Tring were given tough lessons in reality at the hands of Dorking and Ampthill. Two disappointing losses took the sheen off our impressive start to the season and meant we slumped to 6th from our nose-bleed high 3rd league position. 

Dorking at home was always going to be a tough ask. They came to Cow lane sparking with confidence after putting Tonbridge Juddians to the sword the week before. However, we had trained well and felt we could get a result. We have always enjoyed games against the Surrey club and believed the Home advantage would play into our hands.

Hearts were in mouths straight from the whistle. A fumbled kick off landed straight into the visitors hands who quickly moved it wide but were miraculously held up over the line by Josh Smith and Papa Bear Lambden. We were able to clear our lines and gain our composure.

And sure enough, our self-belief was rewarded soon after. A well worked move and patient build up play lead to an easy run in for Papa, strolling over the line following some effective phase play from the forwards. 

Dorking hit back and dominated much of the first half. Our defence was too eager and pressed too hard in the wrong areas. We lost our shape on a couple of occasions and were punished by an intelligent running backline. Full-back Ryan Jeffrey crossed the line twice from similar moves, making the most of our defensive naivety. 

The Game see-sawed back in our favour and two penalties from Liam Chennells clawed us back to 11-15. However, we couldn't keep control. In all too familiar circumstances, their backs capitalised on defensive lapses, this time Wing Hunt extended the lead to 11-20.
Chennells touches down against Dorking
Just when all looked dead, the Game swung back to us and we pushed hard for another last minute result. A try and conversion from Chennells certainly had the alarm bells ringing at 18-20. But it proved to be one Houdini act too many as Dorking calmly slotted a penalty to secure the win. 18-23 the final score and a losing bonus point to console ourselves with.

The following week's debacle at Ampthill was the opposite end of the Rugby spectrum. We were not expecting a free flowing spectacle of running Rugby. In fact, the few games we have played against them have been bad tempered wars of attrition and the 17 December was no exception.

There is never a good time to play Ampthill - there are a brutish team of Lord of the Rings extras. But you definitely don't want to take on the Bedfordshire side on their own turf with an Arctic wind howling and the pitch rather fittingly resembling the Somme. The Rugby Gods were not shining down on us.

The game was savage and brutal as we predicted and we were under the cosh from the start. The home side took advantage of the slope to pound wave after wave of heavy running forwards, like heavy artillery. Our scrum twisted and buckled but our defence in the loose was resolute. And with mutant Second-row Lewis inevitably in the sin bin, we pulled the score level at 6-6. 

Unfortunately, despite some excellent opportunities, we failed to capitalise on the man advantage. Our driving line outs were hugely effective and our backs were far superior but we couldn't turn possession into points. And, sure enough, Ampthill's own solid set piece provided the platform for Back-row Burke to cross on the stroke of half time.

The second half was a depressing affair. Our relentless defence had taken its toll and we couldn't muster the clinical edge to best utilise the slope. As we pushed the Game, we made crucial errors and gifted the home side a number of tries in the dieing moments. The final score, a spirit-crushing 33-6.

I have never felt so battered after a Game and I was still feeling the effects a full week after. It was a very disappointing way to finish an otherwise excellent year and we have had the whole Christmas break to sweat and stew about it. 
Our fancy new scoreboard!
We have always done well in the second half of the season and have put together strong end-of-season runs. The boys are definitely looking forward to getting stuck into 2012...although it would be nice if the weather calmed down a little!

Santa has been to Cow Lane as well. A shiny new digital scoreboard will be officially unveiled on Saturday against league leaders Canterbury...hopefully it will make for good reading!

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