Sevenoaks U9s were playing in three tournaments last weekend with our investment in tackling starting to pay dividends.
The first was at Blackheath on Saturday where Sevenoaks fielded two squads in their first contact festivals, playing eight games against familiar local squads. With one game missed due to a no show, a win, a draw and five losses gave an unfair representation of the success seen on the day by the two squads. As we would want, strength in the tackle was evident and something we are aiming to develop ahead of anything else at the moment, but we ultimately lost ground and games on the attack. With every player executing tackles, the coaches were very pleased with the performance on the day.
Sunday saw a single squad heading to Bromley to face tough opponents, but again stepped up to the challenge of the tackle well. Being the first contact festival for most, pleasingly the performance of the tackling evolved with each game. The counter attack and running game can be focused upon going forward, but tackling and handling were excellent with some very committed players.
Two squads headed to Warlingham for Sundays second festival, with Sevenoaks fielding mainly players taking their second bite at contact festivals. Some excellent rugby played by Sevenoaks as well as opposing teams saw some tough games, with the concentration on defence paying dividends. Structured attacks and physical imbalances were met with committed tackling and strong defensive lines from Sevenoaks. Strong counters and good hands provided the SRFC U9s with a clean sweep of 12 wins for the 12 games played by the two squads.
Excellent performances from all the squads
Match 1 v Aylesford - Lost
Whilst Sevenoaks minis are notorious for getting off to sleepy starts at festivals this was not the case on Saturday. Despite Aylesford winning the toss and opting to start Sevenoaks made themselves known by putting some excellent tackles in from the outset of the match. Tackle after tackle was made albeit the first try was scored by Aylesford. Further into the game Sevenoaks continued to put in some very impressive tackles which forced errors and turnover ball but unfortunately, Oaks attacking play lacked the pace and continuity between the players required to score a sufficient number of tries to win, so a narrow loss was chalked up.
Match 2 v Old Alleynians - Won
This was very much a match of two halves. Mainly because the coaches did not have the right balance of players on the pitch resulting in Sevenoaks being 3 – 0 down at half time. With an inspiring team talk at half time and the rebalancing of the team the second half was a very physical encounter. Big hits were put in by both sides but the Sevenaoks players kept calm and ran in 4 tries clinching a win in the final seconds of the game.
Match 3 v Tonbridge Juddians – Lost
Essentially, this was the local derby being played at a neutral ground in South East London. The players continued to put in an excellent tackling performance but on the attack they had run out of gas, possibly due to their tackling efforts throughout the morning. With the ball in hand, several of the players were out of position, not really attacking the game line, which resulted in a narrow loss.
Match 4 – Cancelled as Kings College Pirates were a no show.
Summary – Won 1, Lost 2
The coaches were absolutely delighted to see all 11 players fully committed to the tackle. There was no hesitation as they applied their tackling skills that they have been developing since the beginning of September. Where we felt there is some room for improvement and work to be done is on their attacking play and pushing up on the gain line, but this can be easily improved. In a “nut shell”, a cracking effort for their first contact festival. Well played boys!!
Team: Ben Kerr, Edward Smith, Finley Vanblarcum, Francis Webb, Jan Lousberg, Joshua Clare, Louis Watson, Mackenzie Copp, Thomas Kerton, Will Beazleigh, William Blackmore.
Coaches : Jeremy and Spencer
Sevenoaks 2 vs Tonbridge Judds (4 - 7)
Sevenoaks 2 vs Blackheath (3 – 6)
Sevenoaks 2 vs Old Alleynians (4- 4)
Sevenoaks 2 vs Hampstead (5 – 7)
What went well/Things to work on
Coby Smith - Brilliant strong running every time you had your hands on the ball. Excellent determination to move the team towards the try line, resulting in numerous scores. Work to hold your depth as a support runner so that you can take the ball at pace. Run with the ball in two hands until you pass the last defender.
Ben Thompson - Great work as first receiver from restarts to gain ground and advance the team up the pitch. As the festival progressed, you worked really hard to be involved in each wave of attack. Try to be more proactive in defence and work to put yourself in the right position to make the tackle.
Ethan Anderson - A great effort in defence throughout the festival. Confident running with the ball and good support play. Remain focussed in attack once you have been tackled to ensure the pass/off-load goes to your team-mate. Don’t rush, you have more time than you think.
Georgia Houchin - Lovely passing off the floor in the scrum half position, and great support running in attack. Be confident in defence and put yourself in a good position to make a tackle.
Owen - Great effort in both attack and defence throughout the festival. Excellent evasive running to score both of your tries. Watch your height in defence, concentrate on good body position to make an effective tackle.
Leo Hoffman - Fantastic determination when tackling. You worked really hard to defend your try line and made a try saving tackle on more than one occasion. Lovely evasive running in attack as your outstanding number of tries demonstrates. Take the easiest route to score a try. It is not necessary to cut back through the defence. Trust your speed and take the shortest route. This will make it much easier for your team-mates to support you.
Toby - You became much more involved as the festival progressed and worked really hard to support your team-mates and be available to receive a pass. Be more vocal in attack to make sure your team-mates know you are ready to receive the ball. Be positive in defence and put yourself in position to make tackles.
Tom - A quiet first game but you soon showed how effective you can be in attack. You set up several tries by determined straight running, making it so difficult for the opposition to stop you. You will have to make an extra effort when tackling to ensure your body position is correct and that you make contact below the waist. Think about your position earlier, to make sure you have enough time to adjust.
Tristan - A really good effort in attack to keep up with play and ensure that the ball carrier has an option to pass out of the tackle. Confident running with the ball in hand. Keep going in attack. Continue to drive your legs to make it really difficult for the opposition to stop you.
Warlingham was the first full contact festival for many teams but that didn't detract from the commitment and enthusiasm shown all round.
Sevenoaks 1 fielded a competitive side, which on paper would've been expected to produce fast flowing running rugby. On this account the team didn't disappoint, but most pleasing today was the strong defensive formations and rock solid tackling. We won 6 out of 6 games, culminating in a final match of mixed sides, barbarian style exhibition rugby played at a standard we as coaches would only be expecting towards the end of the season. Rugby, friendships and all round smiles were the real winners today.
Game 1 Sevenoaks beat Reigate 8 - 1
The first match set the tone for the day with our faster runners burning the opposition round the outside for pace. We managed to turnover possession a number of times with a consistent "team wide" defensive wall. Special mention to Jan for some smother tackles that would've stopped Jonah Lomu in his heyday. Opposition coach remarked our boys were very sportsmanlike in tackle and attack and asked me to pass on their thanks and compliments.
Game 2 Sevenoaks beat Warlingham white 8 - 2
Warlingham had been coached on an attacking set piece with a runner coming onto the ball at pace. Many other sides would've struggled to contain their momentum but our boys made first time tackles consistently throughout the game and from broken play, our runners were just too strong, running in multiple pitch length tries from Harry, William, Andy et al.
Game 3 Sevenoaks Vs Warlingham Blue 7 - 2
The same Warlingham set piece move was once again smothered by our committed tackling, which pleasingly seemed to involve every single Sevenoaks player at some point. It had been a relatively close match in the first half and we were absorbing pressure. A telling turnover close to our line seemed to break Warlingham hearts and the flood gates opened after that. Max scoring a few blistering breaks while Isaac using route 1 very effectively with strong leg drives.
Game 4 Sevenoaks Vs Wimbledon 8 - 2
A match we expected to be one of our toughest was certainly a matchup of two sides filled with speed merchants. Pretty evenly matched attacking exchanges were eventually broken down when we turned them over in 2 consecutive attacks. From that point our team moved through the gears and ran out easy winners.
Game 5 Sevenoaks Vs Old Cats 9 - 0
Some larger boys in the opposition team made it look pretty intimidating at kick off but a message we've tried to drill into the team's psyche all season is that even the smallest boy can bring bigger opposition down with good tackling technique. It was very pleasing to see Elliot holding on very effectively and stopping an attempt from a rampaging Old Cat. On attack however, we just had too much pace and ran in tries at will.
Match 6 Sevenoaks Vs Old Alleynians (mixed team) 5 - 3
Our opposition had already sent half their team home. The remaining boys were all keen for a final match so a few of our runners were passed across for an open, running exhibition game. Oh Boy, were we to be treated! Even the neutral ref commenting that it was one of most enjoyable matches he's been involved in. Both sides were evenly matched and every single boy stepped up and played a blinder - specifically the boys who didnt always get the limelight in prior games were all visible in high quality rugby. The 2 try winning margin did not do justice to the quality on offer.
A great day all round, culminating in a trophy for the Sevenoaks cabinet.
For a few in this group this was the first tournament of the year with the introduction of tackling. The tournament was played in good conditions for mini rugby. Dry, sunny and mild temperatures for October.
We started the tournament playing in match 1 and were carded to play the last match of the tournament on our 6th game, so the team had a long morning/afternoon ahead of them (especially when the tournament overran significantly) and they all managed to stay concentrated and focused for their games.
Game 1 Win 6-4 vs Streatham 2
Game 2 Win 4-2 vs Reigate 2
Game 3 Win 6-2 vs Beccehamians 2
Game 4 Win 7-2 vs Old Alleynians 2
Game 5 Win 4-2 vs Warlingham 2
Game 6 Win 9/3 vs Chipstead 2
36 tries vs 15 against
All the individuals in this team evolved significantly as players during the tournament. It was very pleasing to observe real step by step improvements in the teams performance with every game.
From the start of the tournament, when from time to time our shaky tackling of the opposition players saw ‘individual tries’ scored against us, the squad improved and managed to win 4 turn overs by getting 7 tackles to count. This growing defensive ability allowed our side to force their opponents into errors (dropping the ball, passing forward or running into touch) which then gave us the ball and show some good running & passing rugby.
With the ball our team more often than not would score and it was impressive to see some good straight & effective running, strong ball carrying in both hands and also some good passing to supporting players and relatively few turnovers.
The players were rightly proud & pleased with wining all the matches, winning the cup and going home with a tournament medal each.
The enjoyment the players showed, their will to play as a team, their resilience to get up and play after a hard tackle or a bump on the ground (which is still quite hard) is very encouraging to see and is a promising start for this year group of players.
The parents & supporters of Sevenoaks Rugby can also be happy & proud of how all the players acquitted themselves.
Coaches: Robert Pearl, Didier Prongue
Sevenoaks played 5 matches at Bromley in what, for most, was their first taste of competitive contact rugby.
We lost all 5 matches against "mixed ability" teams from Cranbrook, Beckenham, Bromley, Westcombe Park and Old Elthamians.
Stein Russell-Jones scored the majority of our tries with Zach Owen and Ollie Maltarp also making the scoresheet.
Our tackling was tentative until the last two matches which were closer affairs as players gained confidence.
The whole team played well with decent handling and improving tackling and positioning as the day wore on. Whilst Stein's scoring was certainly notable, credit is due to Tait who as a new player this season, pulled off a couple of very big tackles and to Zach and Harry's tenacity.
Link to some pictures from the day: