So, after 8 seasons, dozens of matches won, lost and drawn, the Old Pats U16’s today played their last ever age-grade fixture, against Newbury. That we still have nearly fifty players on the books and could today field over thirty players from our group is testament to the tremendous team spirit that exists in the squad.
We have always played on a mixed ability basis and the continuing numbers within our group vindicates this approach. All our boys get game time and consequently get enjoyment and improvement to keep them playing week after week, season after season. Every available player got game time today.
Newbury are a massive club and were brilliant hosts when we went there earlier in the season. It was worth the drive because we had a superb match, winning narrowly. Consequently, they were eager to avenge themselves and turned up keen and meaning business.
On a firm, dry pitch, both teams played high speed attacking rugby. Newbury ran everything, even from under their own posts and an exciting and entertaining first half saw Pats score five tries to Newbury’s four. They converted all of theirs though for a half time lead 27-28.
Our off-loading game and variety of attack was working well though whilst the Blues’ game plan seemed to rely on giving the ball to their giant No8. Admittedly this was pretty successful for a while, but some robust defence gradually reduced his effectiveness.
The visiting Blues had enjoyed the slope in the first half but playing uphill against our constantly rotating substitutes (we had 17) meant that gradually, they began to tire and the gaps opened wider. A continuing series of scores resulted with, it seemed, the backs and forwards taking turns to cross the line.
Some powerful work close to the breakdown was effective but we moved the ball brilliantly at times too. That it was warm, dry and sunny helped the game move along at speed.
The final result was a convincing win for the Pats by 71-45. We shuffled our resources, giving game time to as many as possible but since we train with a cohesive cross-squad strategy, we never lost our shape. It was a delight to behold.
The post-match huddle was more emotional than normal with the boys recognising that something special was coming to an end. There was thanks from the coaches for the excellent attitude of all the players across the squad and reciprocal gratitude from the captain on behalf of his team for the many opportunities this group has been given by the club.
Next season is already an exciting prospect, with the transition to Colts rugby the next step. I have no doubt that this group of young men will go from strength to strength and continue to do themselves proud.
Allez les Pats!
Tom Perris – U16 Coach