Alton U13's Win 2018/19 Hampshire Cup
By Justin Schuil-Brewer
What a game
Well - for so long having been the bridesmaids at the Hampshire Cup, we finally get to walk down the aisle of victory!
Before waxing lyrical about the boys achievements, I wanted to say a few big thank-you’s:
Firstly, to those members of the U13 squad who were non-players but nevertheless came to support their squad, their team, their friends. This goes to the heart of what we try to do in the U13’s, namely to promote a sense of togetherness and friendship within a tight nit, inclusive group.
Secondly, to all those Mum’s Dad’s, Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Siblings, Cousins, Cousins three times removed, Alton club members from different age groups etc etc who came to support the team….thank you. Your support was vocal and invaluable and lifted the boys on several occasions when their collective back was against the wall.
Thirdly, thank you to all the coaches so far this season….the boys may have all the talent, pace, fitness and strength but it takes old, decrepit men to mould them into a force to be reckoned with!
Fourthly, thanks to Winchester for a game played in a brilliant spirit.
Finally, to the ref who was ridiculously young and ridiculously good and consistent. Easily the best ref I’ve ever seen officiating an Alton game.
It was an amazing game which started as so many of our games do……….. with an opposition try inside the first minute! Noooooooooooooooooooooooo not again! However, I think this may have spurred us on and potentially engendered a Winchester attitude of “here we go again, it’s our title to lose, not theirs to win”. This couldn’t have been more wrong, as from the kick off we went straight at them, over them, through them and around them, to score within two minutes of the re-start. From then on in - Winchester where under the Alton cosh!
Having been a “back” it is difficult to admit…but here goes..... without a good forwards platform you are not going to win! Our forwards were magnificent throughout the game. We are possibly the smallest team in Hampshire and cannot get involved in mauls and battles of strength and size. We play a quick rucking game that plays to our strengths - fitness and speed. However, this game requires firstly, bravery and putting your head and/or body, in places where it really shouldn’t go and secondly, a belief in your fellow team mates - that they will be backing you all the way. This is what our forwards showed/did, so comprehensively in this game. We dominated the ruck with our smaller team and then unbelievably, we began to dominate the scrum itself as our established front row of Jannas, Tate and Big Mac (ably backed by Derek and Ferg and Rhubarb/O at no8) brought their technicality and belligerence to town! The result was a wilting Winchester scrum that started to go backwards. Even an injury to Derek didn’t stop the momentum, as we brought on the super sub – Big Willy Hewett - to make those space gobbling, gangling runs of his. Big Mac came off in the second half having roughed up the Winchester front row in the scrum, at the ruck, in the tackle and just about everywhere else where his “Big Mac with bacon” loaded body, could take him. Rhys carried on where his more experienced team mate had left off – a capable substitute, still only in the first year of his rugby career. Tate, having handed out Courtney Lawes-esque tackles to all and sundry and , playing by far his best game of the season, made way for Ad who continued to not give Winchester a sniff of the ball in the scrum and acted as a great link between forwards and backs. Jannas a colossus in the scrum and at the ruck, acted as first supporting man to the ruck on so many occasions, that I lost count. No one is ever isolated when Jannas is in this sort of form and it allowed our big ball carriers of Derek, Ferg and ‘Barb to go into contact, if required, and know that they had their wingman Jannas at their back’s. As ball carriers, the three amigos had Winchester going backwards time and time again, resulting in a dispiriting loss of yards and yards and yards of territory that was difficult for the Winchester forwards to deal with.
As a unit, the forwards were amazing and provided a platform for the posers….”the backs” .......by another name…..to do their stuff.
When you can take a fly-half as good as CJ off, shuffle the backs a little and bring on someone as good as Alex “Mad Dog” Overton then you know we are going to be a match for anyone. This was the case, as our backs started to dominate Winchester on their ball, by maintaining incredible line speed and then on our own ball, by making break after break through a combination of skill, speed and blinding interplay. Funtime - magisterial at scrum half, CJ - distributor extraordinaire, Ollie - the conductor - reading the game seconds before others and invariably making breaks or giving the ball at just the right time, Deej showing unbelievable strength in the tackle, great awareness and timing of the pass, Mad dog making break after break and proving impossible to pin down, Dom showing the fastest clean pair of heels on the pitch (and probably in Hampshire) and then running down his winger so many times that the poor lad looked like he just wanted to go home. Hainesy, our own Billy Whizz - now you see him, now you don’t - was outstanding in his ability to always beat the first man and then the next three! Hazza – all 4 stone-wet-through of him, made one of the try saving tackles of the season, on someone twice his size whilst dominating the back of the pitch like every good full-back should. Dupe came on for a spell in the second half and deserves a special mention as a fantastic team player who couldn’t care less if he got on or not….because he is all about the team, and the team winning was more important to him than getting on. But at the same time he deserved to get on – he’s shown unbelievable progress this year and has recently added missile tackling to his overall repertoire of speed and agility! Last and certainly not least, Hest came on as replacement scrum-half and managed to maintain the platform that Funtime had instigated, despite “attention” from an increasingly desperate Winchester pack.
I knew we were going to win (I would say that now wouldn’t I) when it came to half time. The team had just weathered one of only two periods of dominance that Winchester had in the whole game, for a full 4 minutes before the half time whistle. Wave after wave of Winchester boys crashed on the Alton rocks, all to no avail. Our boys fronted up for each other and refused entry to Winchester – it was unbelievable...it was inspiring! That’s when I knew that maybe those previous losses in previous years, had led to this unbelievable collective resilience that took voice in the form of a bellowing, team “Yesssssssss”, as the referee pointed to a penalty in our favour that allowed us to clear our lines and signal the end of the half. This was a TEAM, forged in the disappointment of previous years, that came of age before half-time and a team that believed they were the best team in Hampshire. We came in 4 tries to 2 up, after blistering/bullocking tries by ‘Barb (2), Alex and Dom.
Team talk delivered by coaches more nervous than players and a call to arms by Ollie, preceded the start of the second half. Slightly frayed nerves were soothed by yet another early Alton try, only for Winchester to come back at us and score. However, the game was up - “too little, too late” as a Winchester coach said – Dom made a scintillating run, gassed his opposite number and went 40m down the line to score a deserved try..... only to be called back for a foot in touch. I couldn’t agree but it was immaterial – the whistle sounded the end of the game and friends and teammates.... a band of brothers no less..... ran into each others arms and celebrated.
Supporters wept tears of joy, coaches collapsed as nerve endings had frayed to nothingness because Winchester had met their Waterloo and the our boys had achieved their Agincourt.......for ALTON AND ST GEORGGGGGGGGGE......u13 Hampshire champions