Sun 3 May 2015

Guildfordians RFC
Wetherby RFC

Dawn broke on a cold, wet Sunday morning in Guildford.  The warm-up bout of Mayweather and Pacquiao neared its end as the chorus for the main event began, with the birds starting to sing, quietly at first, then in unison: "Guildfordians, Guildfordians, Guildfordians!!"   This would be a day to remember!

Armed with essential kit of pillows, Forbes croissants & Pheasey Beastcake, the squad assembled in the damp gloom at Guildfordians club house on Stoke Park at 6am, boarding their chariot coach and commencing their long journey to the cold forbidding North.  DVDs of old Lions and England matches merged with the hum of the tarmac and eventually the team arrived at the AJ Bell Stadium in Salford at 11am.  The crowds of fans who had waited at the home of Sale Sharks & Salford Red Devils all night in the cold pushed past Danny Cipriani and Mark Cueto to get a fleeting glimpse of their heroes as they walked, hoodies down into the stadium and the sanctuary of the changing room. 

After their Official RFU Team Photo on the hallowed pitch, the waiting was over and the RFU National U17 Finals Bowl Competition at the AJ Bell Stadium, Salford ( The Home of Sale Sharks ) kicked off at 1.15pm on Sunday 3rd May 2015!

Wetherby kicked off, collected by winger Matt Kipping and after a chip and chase the first Wetherby lineout of the day took place quickly followed by the first of many Wetherby attacks.  Early tackles by second row Daniel Trinder-Hunt and outside centre George Mason gave Wetherby a taste of the task ahead. A not straight lineout by Wetherby on the Guildfordian 22m line gave Guildfordians their first scrum and first opportunity to unleash their backs: scrum half Konrad Lipinski to fly-half Tudor Forbes, fed quickly to full back Will Eves to winger Nathan Neoh, back to Konrad, an early move that showed the opportunities that lay ahead on this wide Salford pitch.

But Wetherby too relished the space and after a well worked move launched a probing dangerous attack, speeding the ball wide:  with a two on one opportunity to score what seemed an inevitable try in the Guildfordian corner, pressure from full-back Will caused the Wetherby centre to hesitate and then cut back in, rather than pass to his wingman, allowing inside centre Fraser Mills to demonstrate his blistering pace on the unwitting Wetherby centre with a crunching try-saving tackle that will echo around the Salford stadium for generations to come!

With possession back with Guildfordians in their 22, the Guildfordian scrum allowed captain and No 8 Charlie Bolton to pick and go, feeding Tudor who kicked for space.  The respite was short lived as Wetherby counter-attacked, kicking for the Guildfordian try-line:  as Will waited with the patience of Job for the ball to trickle towards the try line, the Wetherby forwards stampeded down on him, sensing victory.  But casually, and to the stress of the watching parent fan club, who had gone strangely quiet, their hearts in the mouths, Will touched the ball down as the breath of the Wetherby front row reached him! 

The Guildfordian 22 drop out was quickly gathered by Wetherby, who again unleashed the forwards against the Guildfordian defences. Another strong tackle by Fraser forced a Wetherby error, allowing hooker George Shannon to take a quick tap and go, the resulting pressure gifting a Guildfordian free kick, then lineout on the Wetherby 22m line:  second row Enrico Cadoux-Hudson, lifted to unbelievable heights by the combined strength of by Patrick Bird and prop Sam Colfer, was master of the lineout, collecting the ball like a leaping salmon catching flies, Enrico fed flanker Harry Smith, who drove towards the line, brought down by a high Wetherby tackle.  The Guildfordian penalty kick at goal by George S narrowly missed its mark, but the Wetherby 22 drop out allowed Charlie to charge and recycle the ball to the Guildfordian backs allowing Fraser to unleash full back Will for the first try of the match!

15 minutes - Guildfordians 7  v   Wetherby 0
The Wetherby restart was collected by flanker Joe Collyer, who gained ground before passing to Fraser who sensed the hospital pass and tapped the ball mid-air to George M who passed to winger Nathan : as the move took momentum and moved across to the other wing, an unlucky knock on prevented winger Matt Kipping from showing his pace down the wing. 

Identical twin Josh Neoh now entered the fray with a crunching tackle ending a Wetherby attack, the loose ball falling to Fraser who passed back to Josh Neoh who passed to his twin Nathan, who passed back to Josh as the twins charged up the right wing, literally making the Wetherby defence see double as the Guildfordian parents sensed another try.  Unfortunately a hard tackle and awkward fall left Nathan with a broken collar-bone: Nathan's playing game was over after a tremendous performance, but with arm in sling, he bravely cheered on his brother, Josh, and the rest of the team from the team dug out.

Wetherby saw their opportunity:  winning a scrum on their own 22, the Wetherby fly-half chipped over the Guildfordian defence and the centre caught the ball in the air at pace and was on the Guildfordian 22m line, when Will tackle forced a pass to the Wetherby prop who showed remarkable speed and strength, scoring a try in the Guildfordian corner.

25 minutes Guildfordians 7  v   Wetherby 5
Guildfordian pressure at the restart regained possession for the Guildfordian backs with the ubiquitous Fraser allowing Will to give space to George M on the left wing who turned on the gas and hand-offs to reach the Wetherby 5m line before being stopped, the quick recycle and kick across goal to the other right corner allowed Charlie to chase, narrowly missing a try.  Wetherby cleared as far as the Guildfordian 22m line, but Guildfordians were not to be denied:  full back Will gathered the loose ball, fed Matt Kipping who passed to George M, repeating his run down the wing back to the Wetherby 22m line.  A drive for the line by Charlie B was held up by Wetherby.  Pressure from Konrad on the Wetherby scrum half forced an error and allowed Tudor to dive on the ball for a Guildfordian try!!

32 minutes Guildfordians 14  v   Wetherby 5
The Wetherby restart fell to winger Alex Vassallo who caught and drove through the descending Wetherby forwards. Good forward work by Ben Standring, Patrick and Sam again allowed the Guildfordian backs to show their moves, with fluid passes from Konrad to Tudor  to George M, who soaked up the Wetherby defence before popping the ball to Josh, whose run down the wing narrowly went into touch.  Wetherby were determined to maintain possession as the clock ticked towards half-time:  from their lineout their forwards pushed forward, a chip and chase resulting in a Wetherby scrum on the Guildfordian 5m line.  The cheers from the Wetherby parents as they sensed a try scared the crows on nearby fields, but the Guildfordians were not phased: their defence held strong and as the clock reached zero for half time, the Guildfordians launched an attack from in deep their 22, Konrad passing to George M for a 30m run before off loading to Matt, who passed to Charlie, only a high tackle from Wetherby preventing what seemed like an inevitable Guildfordian try.  The referee blew for half time and Guildfordian parents started to breath again!

35 minutes : Half time -  Guildfordians 14  v   Wetherby 5
Wetherby returned from their half time talk, refreshed and determined to take the game to Guildfordians.  From the restart they attacked, forcing an early linout.  But from a Fraser  tackle, flanker Harry turned over the ball, regained possession and passed quickly to Dan  who popped the ball to Konrad  now on the wing, who snaked his way through the Wetherby defence for an unbelievable try.

40 minutes Guildfordians 21  v   Wetherby 5
Wetherby parents went quiet, but Wetherby themselves played with everything they had - their heads not going down, as history showed this great Yorkshire team coming back from greater deficits in the recent past.  But Guildfordians were starting to believe in themselves and enjoying the runs of play!  From the restart, a Guildfordian scrum on its 22m line allowed scrum half Matt to weave 10 or so metres through the Wetherby defence, then unleashing Dan who charged like a raging bull at the Wetherby fullback, who like a rabbit in the headlights froze, allowing Dan to execute a perfect 2 on 1 passing to George M who outpaced the Wetherby winger to score with a dive in the corner - TRY!!

45 minutes Guildfordians 26  v   Wetherby 5
Wetherby restarted & regained possession, but Enrico quickly ripped the ball from the unsuspecting Wetherby forwards, broke the Wetherby line and was off towards the Wetherby try line, popping the ball after 20m to Harry who effortlessly swerved round the remaining Wetherby defence for a try!!  Great team effort from the 2 forwards!

48 minutes Guildfordians 33  v   Wetherby 5
Wetherby restarted, again showing great character and determination taking the game to Guildfordians and forcing a scrum followed by a lineout on the Guildfordian 22m line. A quick chip and chase by Wetherby was swept up by Tudor  who passed to Fraser who passed back to Tudor.  Wetherby regained possession and kicked to Matt who swerved through the Wetherby attackers on the Guildfordian 22m line before unleashing Tom Wong who in a great forward move, passed to prop Sam who passed back to Matt who cleared for a Wetherby lineout on the Wetherby 22m line.  Wetherby's attempt to clear fell to Konrad who cut a 30m swathe through the Wetherby defence before allowing George M to do his favourite Dalek impression, handing off anyone within a 3m radius of his charging run!  Eventually brought down, George popped the ball to Tudor who passed to Dan who soaked up the Wetherby defence before releasing Charlie for a great captain's try in the corner! 

58 minutes Guildfordians 40  v   Wetherby 5
Wetherby restarted allowing Guildfordians to gather and attack.  Off a ruck, Joe Collyer took a crash ball and charged into the Wetherby forwards, off-loading to George M who handed off the Wetherby full back before cutting to the outside and switching the ball with Luke Robinson, leaving three Wetherby defenders in their wake.  Luke then passed to Tudor who executed a near perfect draw and pass to Konrad, giving Konrad space to wriggle untouched  through 3 missed tackles and score near the posts - TRY!

60 minutes Guildfordians 47  v   Wetherby 5 
Wetherby though refused to give up and from the restart attacked the Guildfordian try line with wave after wave of attack, that crashed against the formidable Guildfordian defence.  Tackles by George S, Joe and Alex forced a free kick allowing a Guildfordian lineout on our 22m line:  Enrico once again dominating the skies, and allowing the increasingly dominant Guildfordian backs to rule the pitch! Great team plays worthy of the French backs of the Eighties, drained the ink from this writers pen as he struggled to note the players who passed the ball as Guildfordians quickly moved away from their try line towards Wetherby's:  a play involving Matt to Tudor to Fraser to Will to Alex to Dan to Luke looked almost certain to result in a try, but valiant Wetherby defence delayed the inevitable with a clearance kick that allowed Guildfordians to regroup and attack again: Tudor to Fraser to Will to Josh, cutting back inside to pass to Will to Tudor for a try (that of course he would have to convert with the last play of the game!!)!

70 minutes : Final Score - Guildfordians 54  v   Wetherby 5 
A perfect end to a great season!  The Guildfordian boys gave it all and deserved the win.  The score-line not fairly reflecting the quality of the Wetherby team but demonstrating the passion and flair of the Guildfordian team that worked so well for all 70 minutes, selflessly sharing the ball with each other, supporting each other and having fun together! 7 Trys were converted by Tudor Forbes.
A great team effort, not just from those boys on the pitch, but also from those team mates injured or otherwise unavailable who had helped carry this team to this memorable win:  Jack Bolton, Tom Pheasey, Callum Roker and Joe Flannagan

An exhausted but elated Guildfordian team were crowned RFU National U17s Finals Bowl champions!  The only surrey team in any of the national cup competitions since the quarter finals!

A great day – thanks to the RFU and Sale Sharks for making the day such a day to remember – it was just like being at the premiership final.

A proud day for the boys, their parents, their friends, the club and Surrey rugby!

Match report by :
Alex Mason

Don't think that this was an easy game - it was nothing of the sort this was probably the hardest game of the of competition with Wetherby looking extremely dangerous for the 70 minutes. You can see that at half time it was very close - we moved the ball a lot constantly attacking which gradually found holes in their defence causing Wetherby to work hard which allowed us to take advantage in the 2nd half.

This was the end to a brilliant season having been promoted to league 1 last season and every club before us being relegated the following year we came a very respectable 3rd in Surrey League 1. We are all extremely proud of what the team have achieved this season and are looking forward to next season. 

A couple of photos from the day are on : https://guildfordiansrfc.rfu.club/galleries/may-2015-u17s-national-bowl-final-v-wetherby

Simon Davies

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