Mini Tour to Blackheath
Plenty of fun despite the attrocious weather!
The tour started at the Upper Perse sports hall due to the snow and ice (great work by Chris to arrange this at the last minute!). Chris and the coaches worked the boys through some passing and tackling drills, ending with some games of touch. Even though we could not do a full contact practice the session got the boys focused on rugby and provided a much warmer and drier start to the tour!
The coach left about 12.45, and after a stop at the M11 services, we arrived at Greenwich at about 3pm. Having avoided the Cambridge half marathon we found ourselves in the midst of the inaugural 'Big Half' race in London. After a quick shower we headed out for some sightseeing and to wear the boys down before dinner. As we passed through Greenwich park the boys, and some parents, engaged in a snowball fight with some residual snow! During out wander we took a few squads photos, visited the national maritime museum (one to go back to with more time), walked under the Thames and around the Cutty Sark to the Trafalgar Tavern. A very pleasant meal was had by all. It was great to see the boys mixing and having fun. We split up for the return to our hotel; some took advantage of our coach, whilst the others walked back.
Unfortunately the tournament was cancelled as several teams from Kent were worried about getting to Blackheath, and there were concerns about the state of the pitches. Fortunately Blackheath Rugby Club were still up for some training and matches, and we took advantage of an all weather surface to meet up at 10am after a hearty breakfast. The Greenwich head coach organized a great mixed training session by splitting the kids into 6 groups. Chris got a few ideas to bring back to Cambridge. Apparently Blackheath do a lot of joint training.
Chris and William’s team (Blood)
Squad: Ebrima, Johnnie, Reuben, Ted, Hugh, Oliver, Nikolai, Jack
An uneventful first half ended at 0-0 as both teams seemed nervous of the 3G artificial surface and struggled to blow the cobwebs out.
The second half was much better with Cambridge running in 5 tries without conceding. Strong running was backed up with some excellent rucking which saw Cambridge retain possession for long periods.
Try scorers: Johnnie 1, Hugh 1, Reuben 2, Jack 1
Blackheath 0 - Cambridge 5
Down came the rain for the second match. Cambridge started well and set the tone with some strong tackling by all (Ebrima, Johnnie, Reuben, Ted, Hugh, Oliver, Nikolai and Jack). A great steal by Ebrima gave the ball to Reuben who beat three men to score in corner. Blackheath responded immediately with a lovely try of their own - a result of some good passing. Blackheath then enjoyed some possession and were only denied by a try saving tackle out wide by Hugh. This seemed to wake up Cambridge and Nikolai then jinked off his wing and picked a superb line before showing real speed to slice through the defence and score through the middle. The game was well poised and the teams were closely matched with both showing some tough tackling and strong rucking. Cambridge went into half time leading 2-1.
The second half started with a bang and a powerful run from Ebrima nearly ended in a try. Cambridge then camped on the Blackheath line with a number of scrums. But Blackheath defended well and broke out. Only another diving tackle by Hugh out wide stopped Blackheath from levelling the score. Again, Cambridge were stirred into action and Oliver burst up the blind side to power over for the try. Cambridge were now in their stride with all players (Ebrima, Johnnie, Reuben, Ted, Hugh, Oliver, Nikolai and Jack) making a contribution. Johnnie hit the next ruck hard to win possession. Jack then capitalised to dive over from close range to score the final try of the game.
Try scorers: Reuben 1, Nikolai 1, Oliver 1, Jack 1
Blackheath 1 - Cambridge 4
The third game started with a bang as Reuben executed a perfect in-out sidestep, baffling the entire defence to open the scoring. After the restart Hugh showed his bravery again with another diving tackle out wide. Some great rucking from Ebrima then won back possession. A great move from Cambridge then saw Ebrima score after Reuben and Jack combined before offloading to Ebrima. Hugh shook Blackheath in the next play with a couple more big hits in the middle. Ebrima then rumbled up the middle sucking in defence then offloaded to Hugh who lit the afterburners to sprint past the cover and score. Good ball retention by Cambridge followed. After patiently going through the phases, the ball was passed along the line for Jack to score in the corner.
The second half was the Jack show. First he scored early after a determined run up the touch line. Jack was back in the action straight away diving in the corner to score again. There was no stopping Jack as he ran through the middle to complete a second half hat-trick. Not just a one trick pony Jack was again at the centre of the action with a big tackle stopping the Blackheath attack in its tracks. The final blow was delivered by Oliver following some text-book work at the breakdown and fluid passing.
Try scorers: Reuben 1, Ebrima 1, Hugh 1, Jack 4, Oliver 1
Blackheath 0 - Cambridge 8
Manuel and Ryan’s team (Sand)
Squad: George, Mateo, Jonty, Bo, Elia, Lachlan, Jacob, Alex
Our first game saw a combination of strong defence / tackling and individual running. We lost some ball through a lack of aggressiveness and technique in our rucking, however this was more than compensated for by our strong tackling. The first try followed a number of aggressive tackles, and when the ball went lose, Bo went on a good strong run, then Lachlan had a good run before the ball got to Elia, who danced through the remaining Blackheath defence to open the scoring. Elia’s second try came from a Blackheath scrum, Jonty blitzed their attack, Lachlan picked up the loose ball, and after another run set Elia in to score. Our pressure on their ball was immense (everyone was tackling with some great work in the middle by Bo and Jonty, with Elia and George closing down runners and then Jacob, Lachlan, Mateo and Alex completing the dominance of our defence) and our attack powerful (some magical running by Elia, strength by Bo, Lachlan and Jacob; Mateo and George weaving, and Alex off his wing). Jonty went on a run and offloaded in a tackle on the right to Bo, who surged forward. Jacob continued the move to score in the corner. Jacob then ripped the ball from a tackle and passed to Elia to score. In the last play before half time Jonty won the ball in a tackle, and Elia scored after knocking on (so we decided not to count that). Blackheath were a bit stunned when half time came.
In the second half (which turned out to be quite short!) we put a lot of pressure on Blackheath. Jonty rucked Blackheath off the ball allowing Jacob to pass to George to score (weaving past a couple of defenders). A well worked, simple try!
Try scorers: Elia 3, Jacob 1, George 1
Blackheath 0 - Cambridge 5
Sand really hit their straps in the second game. Rucking was still a bit of an issue, although better at times as you will see below. Our line blitzed faster, and more as a line, rather than individuals, which caused Blackheath to go backwards a lot on their own ball. Our first try came from some great rucking by Bo, allowing Elia to weave through the Blackheath defence to score. Some great tackling by Jonty stopped Blackheath about 10m from their line, then George’s tackle drove them back 5m, some more good rucking saw the ball out to Mateo to weave through and score. More good rucking saw the ball passed to George who somehow managed to run through the Blackheath defence from halfway in a combination of fancy feet and power. More good pressure and tackling led to Jacob scoring our fourth try before half time.
After some early Cambridge pressure at the start of the second half, the ball went wide only for the ball to be dropped over the line. Fortunately, we made up for this mistake by unleashing Bo on the blind side from a scrum to score. Jonty then stripped the ball in the tackle, passed to Alex, who then put Bo in to score his second try. There was a lot of loose ball, which the boys struggled to pick up cleanly, partly as there were too many of them in a small space (they need to learn to spread out more). However, Jonty did manage to pick up a ball after some strong tackling, and following some good rucking and passing got the ball back again to score. More good tackling caused a turnover and saw Elia link up with Mateo to score. Our final try came off some great defence, and a typical strong Jacob run, allowing Alex to score in the corner. By the end of the game there was a lot of sideways and backwards running by Blackheath as they were cowed by our strong, aggressive defence.
Try scorers: Elia 1, Mateo 2, George 1, Jacob 1, Bo 2, Jonty 1, Alex 1
Blackheath 0 - Cambridge 9
Sand’s final game was closer, however still a comfortable win. Our opening try started with some good rucking and strong tackling to drive Blackheath towards their own line. So when Jonty stripped the ball it was possible to power through and score our opening try. The boys were really keen for everyone to score a try. Only Lachlan hadn’t scored. After 5 strong but unsuccessful forays down the blind side the ball was eventually spun open and an offload from Jonty saw Lachlan score! The next try summed up our dominance. Following some good rucking and a pass wide, Elia made another break on the left, supported by 4 other boys! On crossing the line Elia passed to Jonty, who then passed to Lachlan to score his second try.
The second half was more open. This was probably the nearest Blackheath got to scoring as the game opened up with the kids being tired, however we still had enough cover defenders (George, Bo, Jonty, Elia, Mateo and Alex) to snuff out their breaks at the touchline. Jacob and Lachlan continued to carry strongly and tackle well in the middle. During the morning we had stripped a few balls and Jonty had a 50:50 ratio of stripping and knocking on: to backwards/keeping it in hand. This time he stripped a big Blackheath player and sprinted ¾ length of the pitch to score. Another strong tackle by Jonty led to a loose pass that Elia gratefully intercepted and scored our final try.
Try scorers: Jonty 2, Lachlan 2, Elia 1
Blackheath 0 - Cambridge 5
Simon’s Team (Blue)
Squad: John, Kyle, Lenny, Elias, Charles, Declan, Jake
Blue’s first game got off to a rather scrappy start by both teams, but Blackheath showed their intent and following a turnover, they scored a well worked try. After the restart the Cambridge players were too bunched and Blackheath gained a turnover, but some excellent Cambridge pressure and top ripping from both sets of players led to a turnover for Cambridge, some great attacking play led to the first Cambridge try (scored by the Blackheath supporting player).
Just after the restart Jake took a stud to the head and went off to be examined, but like all good rugby players he shrugged it off and was back on the field! Some good work followed the interruption and John ran in for the second try. The Blackheath restart saw some serious pressure from their team, some great handling and missed tackles from Cambridge led to their second try – levelling things up with a few minutes left.
The restart led to more spilt ball by Cambridge, despite some good tackling by the boys, Blackheath ran in for their third try. The final minute of the game saw some great handling from both teams, some excellent running and tackling, but with Cambridge chasing the draw the ball was ripped again by Blackheath to score their fourth try and seal the victory.
Try scorers: John 1, loan player 1
Blackheath 4 - Cambridge 2
The start of the second game saw some heavy pressure from the Blackheath team coupled with some poor tackling by Cambridge and an early first try was scored by the home team. Straight from the restart Cambridge spilled the ball and Blackheath were on the attack again, despite some much better tackling from Cambridge, Blackheath were through for their second try. Following the Cambridge restart the team put some pressure on the opposition but the ball was again ripped by Blackheath – clearly something their whole squad has been working on, and they ran in for a third try just before halftime.
The second half started as the first had finished with a try from the kick off for Blackheath, marred by some poor tackling and being simply out-played, Cambridge let the home team in for a fifth try. As the half drew to a close, the Cambridge boys stepped their game up, tackling harder and working much better as a team, but despite this the Blackheath pressure proved too much and they ran in for a sixth try and the game came to an end.
Blackheath 6 - Cambridge 0
Despite a rousing team talk from Chris before the kick off Cambridge spilled the ball in the tackle and Blackheath ran in the first of many tries. Some good pressure and rucking from the Cambridge team gave hope of reward, but Blackheath defended well, gained turnover ball and scored their second try, more good ripping and poor defence saw tries three and four scored by Blackheath. It was clear that the Cambridge boys were tiring and Blackheath made an easy run in for try number five. With the ball spilled again from the kick off and despite some great tackling from all the Cambridge team, Blackheath scored try number six on the half time whistle.
The second half started brighter for Cambridge with some great tackling and good rucking, but they simply couldn’t break the Blackheath defence and Blackheath again scored a try. The Cambridge defence struggled against some very strong attacking play by the opposition and Blackheath ran in four more tries in quick succession. Despite all the tries against them, Cambridge worked well as a team, staying positive throughout and giving it their all until the final whistle, doing themselves and their club proud.
Blackheath 11 - Cambridge 0