This pre-season friendly against a physical and well drilled Old mids 3rd XV proved to be a tough but useful lesson in what we as a team must strive for in our upcoming league fixtures. Within our starting XV, there featured a combination of youth, more seasoned players as well as those able to identify with both groups (most notably Henry Chapman). The lights of Simon Hepden and Bill Blythe featured up front, alongside Hayri Unat in the row and George Crick at no.8. This theme was continued out wide with Christien Hunt (c) often looking to combine with Kilian O’Malley and George Newins, along with a young David Edwards dictating play from scrum half.
Within the opening encounters of the match, it became clear to us that the opposition were looking to play an expansive game due to their speed out wide and the dry conditions under foot. Having conceded two initial tries to this style of play, we identified ball retention and work ethic as key components of our performance. This facilitated our best spell of play within the game whereby Dave Young and George Crick were beneficiaries of black and blue ball plays within which we used our physicality as a side to make hard yards on the opposition. Our ball retention within this spell of pressure was a key positive to take from the game, with our scrum serving as our most solid set play upon which our backs could utilise possession. Just before the half time break, the introduction of Ian Gayle and David Edwards added greatly to this style of play with our competitiveness up front and distribution greatly improving as a result. During the half time break, there was a generally deflated tone throughout the team as our long spell of pressure had not been rewarded with points on the board and our mistakes had been punished ruthlessly by the opposition.
We started the second half well, the loss of David Edwards at half time to a suspected broken thumb facilitated Andrew Foster’s transition in role to a TJ Perenara figure dictating tap and go penalties. These were our main source of joy throughout the second half and generated pressure which forced an interception on their 5-meter line from which Kilian O’Malley was able to deservedly stroll in under the posts and Christien Hunt was able to convert. Within the closing stages of the game our tiredness began to show which resulted us leaking soft points until the final whistle. Given that this was a pre-season friendly, our focus as a team was not upon the score line but instead upon the areas upon which we need to improve as a side. These areas included our defensive organization and line out play which would have greatly reduced the deficit in the score line.