By Daniel Thomas
This year’s first game was a pre-season friendly against Cardiff Saracens. A midweek game was planned so both teams could run through their patterns and have a look at the players at their disposal for the upcoming year. I’m sure the coaches envisaged a free flowing affair having organised it in the midst of the summer season; if so, they were to be disappointed.The rain poured down on this miserable evening at Hailey Park which didn’t help the flow of the game. As it was the first game of the season, and the weather was atrocious, both teams stuck to the task remarkably well and produced a tough game for the hardened spectators.
The first 15 minutes of the game was a bit of an arm wrestle, both teams enjoyed small periods of possession and tried to impose themselves on the scoreboard. The North’s forwards were making good yards from their usual patterns but unfortunately lost control of the ball as the ball turned slippery and the Saracen’s defence battled well on the floor. I’m not going to single people out but at this point it must be noted that one of the debutants, Tom Ronicle, lost the ball on at least two occasions in the contact area… in the first 15 mins…
A number of lads turned out for their debuts this evening. They were John-Rhys Davies, Michael Williams and Tom’s second row partner Adam Beachey. All of the said players performed extremely well and imposed themselves on the game with strong runs. Tom and Adam were effective close to the rucks, often making yards after the initial contact (they just need to remember to hold on to the ball). JR made some incisive breaks through the middle of the park, holding on to some of Puppy’s questionable passes, to again make yards far beyond the gain line. Michael played most of the game on the wing as the North found it difficult to accommodate the available players on the pitch at the same time and was given a run in the more familiar pack for the last 20 minutes. When on the ball, whilst on the wing and on the flank, he showed a tenacious determination to beat the first defender on every occasion and looked an impressive Youth to Senior player throughout the game.
There was one other that I thought was playing his debut but apparently he has played for the North before. I have not seen him before, at least not this year. He said his name was Gareth Harrison and he did not have a bad game in the front row to be fair…
Both teams exchanged scores in an understandably nervous opening twenty minutes and the score stood at 7-7 whilst each side tried to weigh up the other. After the twenty minutes the North’s pack started to dominate proceedings. The scrum was solid and became the foundation from which the North kicked on. The final score was unknown but the well fought out game fell the North’s way 7 tries to 2. A cheeky snipe from Daffydd and a powerful run from club skipper Dominic Scoble were memorable tries but each player played their part in what turned out to be a strong North performance.
Of course not everything went to plan, it was a pre-season friendly after all. This is the time to iron out all of the little mistakes and make sure you are ready for the season, where you need to take your chances and be clinical. In the first half the North squandered what must have looked an almost certain try with perhaps the most basic skill for any rugby player, the two on one. Dominic Scoble ran clear of the defence as he took a short ball on the burst from a kick off return. The ever alert Danny Thomas anticipated that he would make such a bust and ran alongside him, clear of the covering defenders. Just the full back to beat. Scoble looks over his shoulder. He sees the pup calling for the ball. He looks at the fullback. Back to the pup. Turning his head back to the fullback he throws a pass at least 5 yards behind the oncoming support runner. There was a debate in the changing room whether it was a horrendous pass or whether the support runner held no depth. Scoble made a break, running as fast as he could; surely the pup couldn’t keep up? Either way, it was a shocking pass or the pup is faster than you – you decide which you’d prefer.
There was one other moment that I’m afraid has to go in the write up; it’s for our regular write up man Grant Hollingworth. A lovely bit of individual brilliance from Jordan Gibbs, something that we come to expect from him now, saw him chip the ball over a line of defenders chasing a kick. The ball bounced just outside the opposition’s 22 and as Jordan tried to regather the ball stretching his arms out towards the floor he lost his balance. There were only a small number of wailing defenders behind the first line of defence that had already been beaten, mainly consisting of the heavier forwards from the opposing team. It had become clear that if he carried on to gather the ball the defenders would smother him and the move would ultimately come to a stand still. It was at this very moment that Grant, coming from a deep position at fullback, called loudly for Jordan to flick the ball up to his left hand side as he come rushing to the same area of the field. Well, Jordan doesn’t need a second invitation to attempt a ridiculous miracle ball, even though we talked about going through the phases at half time. A glorious out the back flick landed the ball straight into the arms of Grant who would surely run it home to complete what would have been a pretty spectacular try. Nope, instead Grant decided to put his handbrake on, slowing down to ensure the opposing players caught him. Information gathered from many sources have led us to believe that it was in fact a front row player who tracked down the fullback before he got to the line. Grant no gas…
Final score was around 42-12 win for The North.
A big thank you to everybody who turned out for us today, it was a bit of a struggle to field a team but we got there in the end. Our appreciation also goes out to the usuals for match days: coaches, supporters, bar staff and groundsmen. We would like to take this opportunity to again thank Cardiff Saracens for coming to Hailey Park for this fixture and wish you all the very best for the upcoming season. Well done lads, big game against Llandaff… lets get to training!