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U15s - Match centre

Oxford Harlequins RFC
Sun 29 Apr 11:00 - Cup Full time

Oxfordshire U15s Cup Final at Chinnor RFC

...clash of old rivals on a knife edge for 60 minutes ....

Apart from some light sparring in a couple of informal 10s competitions (that only served to underline how evenly matched the two squads were) Oxford Harlequins and Chinnor had not met "in anger" since the U14s cup final over 12 months ago. So when the two teams jogged out of the changing rooms through a tunnel of cheering supporters for the U15s Oxfordshire Cup final there was huge anticipation that this was going to be big and brutal....

From the whistle both packs came out of the gate like raging bulls, driving hard at each other, generating quick ball, shifting the point of attack, driving forward again phase after phase. But neither defence gave an inch, tackling was ferocious and collisions could be heard from the was hard to believe these boys were just 15 years old! Following the first 15 minutes of frenetic exchanges, of the two teams it was Chinnor who settled better, retaining the ball well and started to build momentum. Uncharacteristic handling errors and cheap penalties cost the Quins boys vital possession and territory, and it was Chinnor who deservedly drew first blood with a well worked try from an attacking line-out (5:0). But our boys hit straight back, and when a high tackle stopped a Quins attack 20m out in front of the Chinnor posts, they decided (with the half time whistle rapidly approaching) that 3 points from the boot of James was the safest way to finish the half (5:3). Unfortunately, the half was not finished, a quick restart to the right caught Quins off-guard and a very impressive searing run down the wing resulted in a second Chinnor try on the stroke of half time which left the scoreboard reading Chinnor 10: Quins 3.

Following a reasonably "forthright" half time analysis by Jim and Fyn during the break (I blame the parents...), the boys started the second half really well, dominating possession and within 5 minutes had pounded their way in to the Chinnor 5m zone. The pack switched to "Hammer" (latch, pick and drive) which was executed calmly and patiently, and finished off by Jim driving over for the score ( James kicking the extra 2 points, 10:10). Parity restored Quins now looked in control of the game and with the first hint of fatigue appearing in the Chinnor defence, Josiah and his backs were starting to look dangerous every time they had the ball. But still Chinnor remained strong and with just 10 minutes of the game remaining James, threaded a perfectly weighted grubber kick through the advancing defence to set up a straight foot race between himself and the rest of our speedy backs, each hungry for the glory of touching the ball down. As it turned out, our hooker Dan was more speedy and more hungry than any of them and it was he who skilfully collected the ball and dabbed it down for our second try. Perhaps in protest at the affront, James' boot refused to kick the conversion and with 8 minutes to go we had nudged in to a lead of 10:15. Momentum then swung once again and Quins spent the rest of the game under siege in their own 22. Chinnor knew a converted try was all that stood between them and a cup win on home soil. They drove hard and straight at our line - moved the ball left - drove again - moved the ball right and drove again and again. We were under intense and sustained pressure, tackling like men possessed, but knowing we could not concede a penalty that would have resulted in the inevitable kick, line-out, maul and score. The Chinnor boys smelled blood, the Chinnor supporters smelled blood and it seemed to all watching that it was only a matter of time before the Quins defence would be breached. With just 1 minute on the clock the Chinnor pack (perhaps thinking of the conversion) threw everything they had into one final driving attack 5m out, right beneath the Quins posts...and...knocked the ball on! Quins scrum with 40 seconds on the clock, and as the match ball sailed off Ben's boot high in to touch and over the Chinnor clubhouse the final score was Chinnor 10, Oxford Harlequins 15.

Two excellent teams produced an absolutely thrilling match that right up to the final seconds could have gone either way. The talent, character and maturity on display from both sets of boys (not least the replacements of both teams) cannot be praised highly enough. They are a credit to their clubs and parents.

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