Another Tuesday another final for the RA tag rugby team. This time the Stratford North League final. This gives an indication how far RA has come as a club in a few short years. In the beginning our aspiration was to win the odd game. Now with the the consistency players have gained through experience and the development of the many players who have passed through the club, RA are now regularly competing in finals.
There was some consternation in the lead up to the match. While we could have sent out two men’s teams, we were struggling to reach the required quota of girls. The ever present Ann Maya was in the States and another stalwart Ellen ‘atomic boot’ Docherty was unable to make the final. Luckily our new female additions to Royal Arsenal Rugby Devi and Rachel stepped in to help fill the gap. It was a bitter cold night, although you wouldn’t know it to look at Devi who played the entire game in a vest.
The game kicked off with both teams getting a chance to probe each other’s defences, but it was RA who made the breakthrough with the first try. Always good to get that first try and no one realised at the time, but this was to prove highly significant at the end of the match. After this initial try there was a bit of a dip in performance on the part of the RA team and Taggin For It scored 5 points without reply, including two girl tries, to put some daylight between the two teams. Although the teams were evenly matched our opponents were having some success with the kick-through tactic and RA’s defence was struggling at this stage to neutralise it. They also had a distinct advantage with a very powerful girl kicker. Ellen’s absence meant RA had no response and they held an advantage on the kick off, with RA having to defend all the way back at the try line.
Part of the RA strategy on the night was to use the abundance of male players to substitute 3 players every 4 minutes and while this maintained fresh legs maybe there was a bit of disruption in terms of continuity for the players on the field.
With the realisation that the game might be running away from them, the team settled down and got back to what they do well, playing a patient ball to hand passing game and using the 6 tackles to progress the ball to the opposition try line. They managed to peg the deficit back to 1 point at half time, with the help a spectacular solo try from Alisa. Come the half time whistle we were right back in it. The team talk at half time concentrated on the fact that RA playing the better rugby in terms of breaking the line with passing and running, and if we could get on top of their kick-through tactic, the game was there for the taking.
The performance in the second half was steady with both teams pretty much cancelling each other out and scoring try for try. The pendulum did swing RA’s way, however and with 4 minutes to go we took the lead for the first time. Nothing is easy in a final, however, and our opponents stormed back with 2 tries to reclaim the lead. Things were looking extremely bleak with the opposition one up and in possession close to the RA try line with just a minute and a bit left on the clock. This team never gives up, however, and after regaining possession they managed to work their way down the field. Some slick running and a precision pass from Dan out to Luke on the wing saw the captain go over for the equalising try. With the score tied at 10 apiece it was heart in mouth time. With only seconds left, Taggin For It attempted another kick-through. it looked to be long and those of us on the sideline were blowing the ball to take it over the dead ball line. It did cross the dead ball line however, an opposition player managed to get hands on it but dropped it before it could be grounded. Immediately the final whistle with the score at 10 all.
There can’t be a tie in a final and someone has to win. In the event under official rules, the outcome was decided by the scorer of the first try. So that first try was all important in the RA team becoming the victors. Only one thing left and it was of to the pub for a night of celebrations. Tom White got the man of the match award while Ann Maya got player of the season but everyone was a hero who played their part on the night.
By Martin O’Donnell – Member/Player/Ref
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