U14s return from Frankfurt Festival as Champions (with video)
Team concedes just one try in the whole Festival
The U14s travelled to to Frankfurt SC 1880’s end of season tournament for the second year in a row. Last year we played in this age group as the youngsters testing our skills – this year we came with a purpose.
Lis Tribe reports
Day one on Saturday was the pool round; 10 minutes each way, no conversions or kicked penalties. One French and two German teams lay ahead of us, and word had it that the French team, Ember Belfort, was the one to beat. We started strong, withstood some initial pressure, and by half time were 10:0 up. Head coach Luke wasn’t happy – not enough tackling, not enough tries. So out we came again in the second half, and scored some more, final result 30:0. Slightly better said Luke, but still not enough tackles…
Then we stayed to watch our other two pool competitors play each other. Not too much to concern our boys except – what was this – girls! In Germany they play mixed teams right through to this age group, and the team from Heidelberg had taken this seriously. ALL their better players were female. Much chat amongst the team about how to make those all important tackles. Still Hanover came first, and presented us with not too many problems, just some glorious try scoring opportunities, the best a kick ahead from Ethan, caught beautifully on the full by Finnan and run over the line. 45:0 the end result. Then came the girls… But our boys were man enough, and again withstood some initial pressure, responding in the best possible way with an interception try from Finnan – the first of three in the match. It was one way traffic after that first try, final score 25:0.
Day 2 – things were going to get serious and the competition much tougher. Still 10 minutes each way, this time with conversions. We hadn’t been tested fully yet – but we were about to be. First off, a quarter final against a Bank of England team. We’d met them on the flight out; they were a pretty confident bunch, and from what we’d seen the day before, with every right to be. So we needed to be prepared and ready, right from the start. After strong and positive team talks by captain Sam and vice captain Nashy, we were off. The pressure was intense, there were some near misses, but then – we scored! Right in the corner by Toli, and the cheer was so loud people assumed the home side Frankfurt had scored the try. So 7:0 at half time – good, but not enough, we knew. Still more pressure from a well-schooled Bank of England team – but they couldn’t make an impression against a London Irish team on fire. A beautifully timed pass from Oscar out to Ollie P – and the second try was ours. We were pressing the BoE line for a third try right at the end, but two was plenty, and we were through, 12:0. Not only the best rugby this season, but the best rugby this team has played, ever.
The semi-final against Belgian side Gooi passed without too much to trouble us except, in the second half – the first try against us. Scored by an outstanding outside centre, universally praised by boys and coaches alike. It sharpened our focus and brought back the necessary intensity, and the final result was never in doubt, the score 33:7. We were in the final!
A nervous wait followed, though pretty soon we knew we were facing the home team Frankfurt SC 1880. Some of our boys had never been in a tournament final – how would they fare? We were soon to find out. Playing in the right part of the pitch with a great start and pressing the Frankfurt line, we were sure Toli had scored – only to be denied by the touch judge. But the psychology worked, we had the upper hand, some strong pack work brought us right back to the line – and over! First try to us, 5:0 at half time. Our boys were the confident ones now, and there was to be no denying them in the second half – two further beautifully worked tries brought the final score to 15:0. LONDON IRISH WERE THE CHAMPIONS!
We could not have seen a finer display from each and every player over two days of glorious rugby, the team superbly led by Sam, and coached to perfection by Luke, Kieran, Paul, Gary, Mike and Mike. If you asked the players what made the difference this weekend the answer would be – team spirit. Let’s capture it for next season boys, but meanwhile, congratulations on being fantastic champions!
Video: Mike Bailey and Matt Carmody