U11's at Esher A Festival - 2 March

On Sunday 2nd March the U11s took to the field for the Esher A festival. The conditions were windy, cold, dry and soggy under foot, taking a long stud.

After the usual parking excitement, all members found our wonderfully unwindproofed gazebo where we set up camp, along side the somewhat narrow field of play. The clash with the rearranged National Schools festival meant we were able blood some players new to the rigours of A team rugby. To a boy, they all stood tall and delivered a level of commitment that the coaching team suggested that even Stuart Lancaster would be proud of.

So with Wimbledon U11s squad as follows, our boys prepared for the group matches:
Alex Hulton, Charlie Hancock, Daniel Burke, Dan Hillier, Felix,
Freddie Gathercole, Gabriel, Harvey, Hector, Isaac, Jude,
Magnus, Sam Vaughan, Sebastian, Titus and William Craigie

The first opponents were Old Ruts. . . . .
The forwards dominated the set pieces from the kick off, recycling at speed to deliver quick ball to the backs who ran in two text book, training ground tries. Isaac scored first after several passages of play where no less than ten players had their hands on the ball. On the stroke of half time Will ran in a solo effort from within our own half, scoring with aplomb in the corner.
There were no further scores in the 2nd half, though Dan converted both tries. A superb team performance with a new team who tackled hard and fair, dominating possession throughout. A great start. Final score 12 – 0 win to Wimbledon.

Up next into battle v Old Reigatians. . . . .
A talented and well organised team who proved worthy appointments of our boys, who matched them tackle for tackle. We spun the ball down the line on numerous occasions, though the narrowness of the pitch resulted in a 0-0 stalemate, which was a fair result.

Our third opponents were our Hosts, Esher.
One might have assumed that the physicality of the earlier matches might have sucked the life blood from our team or hardy warriors. How wrong we were! What followed was 20 minutes of total domination of a good Esher team. For the forwards it was something of a Nivarna moment, not least when Felix ripped the ball off his opposite man and handed it to Magnus who barged his way over the line with 3 Esher boys desperately trying to pull him down. Next try was scored by Freddie, who on Sunday found his rugby vocation! The boys turned around at half-time leading 14-0.
During the 2nd half, there was no stopping the boys in purple. The next try came straight from the kick off. The forwards mauled their way to the 5 metre line when Gabriel stormed over for the score. 1 minute later we were awarded a penalty 20 metres out. Dan popped the ball to Hector who once at full pelt wasn’t going to be stopped. Then came the move of the day, a superb back miss move, with Titus side stepping like the glory days of Phil Bennett to score under the posts. 35-0. Some result! Dan and Will shared the kicking duties and had a 100% record.

Now we come to the hardest bit!!

Our final game was against our old adversaries, Cobham. . . . .
Whilst there is some history between our two teams, we entered the match as underdogs, but you wouldn’t have known it as our boys stood tall, running on to the pitch with the energy levels of a Duracell bunnies with a lucozade overdose. Whilst we were all concerned that the whistle for this game was a Cobham man, this was a good learning experience for all. This was however, the most extraordinarily committed game of U11 rugby I have ever had the privilege to witness. There was a touch of the England V Ireland in the level of commitment to the tackle by every Wimbledon boy.

Magnus scored a superb try after much grafting approach work from the forwards. The backs tackled everything that moved. Those of us lucky enough to be on the sidelines winced at the force and clash of bodies, as the fallen dragged themselves to their feet, took a deep breath and looked their opponents in the eye, with a satisfactory grin that
said ‘bring it on’!!

‘Last play’, said the ref. Our boys cleared the ball to the opposition dead ball line. ‘Game over’ our boys cried. ‘Scrum Cobham’, said the ref. Another 30 seconds later, a score was ‘given’ in the corner. 7 – 7. Were we robbed? Possibly. Did we deserve to win? Absolutely. Is the ref always right? YES!

It is rare that words fail me! What a fantastic day for our lads, who to a boy gave everything. Disappointed they may have been to end the day unbeaten, yet not finalists; you wouldn’t have known it 10 minutes after the game. These are a great group of boys who go from strength to strength with a attitude to the game that says ‘hey winning is
great – but you know what, Rugby is more than just winning’!

Huge thanks to the coaching team and to Esher for laying on another excellent day of rugby.