Monday, 20 April 2009

No Broken Nails II

Another Girls game this week and an unfamiliar level of bonhomie. Sunday brought bright sunshine and an U18 youth game at Esher, I arrived wearing a London Welsh shirt, forgetting that a last minute try the day before had consigned the home side to the relegation zone of National One – Oh dear!
In adult male games, players may be vaguely familiar with each other but rarely do they acknowledge each other with anything other than a grunt or nod of the head. However, squeals of delight and giggling are not a something I generally see between teams pre-match, this did not continue as the match started.
This was another sharp and feisty contest with good skills from both sides; I was not surprised to see County representative shirts in the bar afterwards. Red started with a player down and, in fairness, Black dropped a player to the bench to even the match. Red put pressure on themselves early on with the back three unwilling to catch any balls on the full. They allowed the kick-off to bounce into in-goal, and from the resulting 22 drop out the home side score a try. The next kick off rolled into touch for a 5m defensive line-out. Both sides offered well organised defence, but Red could not compete with the physical size and power of the Black pack. That said, Black’s most potent player was the diminutive outside centre and captain. She was a speedy and agile counter runner who gave Black some of the best gain-line breaks. She was probably the best centre I’ve seen this season.
Scrummaging presented the biggest challenge early on, as with many youth game, a mis-match in size and skills saw a number of resets. Technique from Red was poor and they were underpowered compare to Black. Early in the second half the discussion was made for me when the Red hooker complained about neck pain and asked to take the scrum uncontested. This did cause me to adjust how I’d been playing advantage. Up until then, I was running scrum advantage differently for Red compare to Black. Clearly taking a scrum was a lesser advantage for Red than Black so they were more likely to play a couple more phases or receive a subsequent line-out.
In the second half the Red backs got a lot more ball from set piece and I noticed they too had a talented centre and some persistence scored an excellent try. The conversions was put over to the obvious surprise and delight of the kicker, she jumped and waved her arms as she ran back to the cheers of her team mates!
Ultimately the power of Black scored a final try and was the measure of the day. It was a good and fast game and I don’t remember seeing a group of players who were so obviously enjoying an afternoon of rugby.
Good points for me was positioning at rucks and mauls, I wasn’t in the way nearly as much as last time.
Bad points, scrum management; it is tricky to draw the line between coaching (good at this level) and getting players to do as they are told. Next, it was nearly chocking to death as I swallowed a fly. It’s difficult to stop the game when you can’t whistle!

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