Last weekend, Thanet Wanderers Under 13s competed in a rugby tournament in Poole. Here is their review of the tour.

As the matches were scheduled to start at the unsociably early time of 9.00am on both the Saturday and Sunday, our players arrived bleary-eyed on the Saturday morning to be met with damp and drizzly conditions overhead and boggy conditions under foot.

With it being well known that our Under 13 team are somewhat slow-starters, the coaches were grateful to see that we were not playing in the first game of the day. This meant that we some additional time to wake up our players and get them switched on for the matches to come.

Our first game of the day was against a rather enthusiastic Welsh team from Burry Port and surprisingly our boys started quickly and were 4-1 up at half time courtesy of tries from Max Rogers, Patrick Scott and a brace from full back Josh Perry. However, the half time changes in playing personnel unbalanced the team a little and allowed a fight-back from the Burry Port team to level the scores at five tries each come the end of the second half; our solitary try in the second half being scored by Max Rogers.

Following a very short fifteen minute break, our boys were back on the pitch to face the fairly local team from Gosport. Gosport took an early lead courtesy of a very quick player, who we later found out had recently posted the 55th quickest time in the country over 100 metres for his age group, and we went in at half time 3-0 down. Having learnt our lessons from the first half, we managed to limit Gosport to a single further try, while scoring a try of our own through Ollie Bates, which made the final score 4-1 to Gosport. However, many of our players were less than impressed at very cocky nature of the Gosport team and were quietly plotting their revenge for the return match on the Sunday.

The matches on the Saturday were coming thick and fast and after a further short break of just 15 minutes, our boys once again took to the field to face a very strong Ipswich A team who would go on to be unbeaten across both days. The two previous games appeared to have sapped some of the energy from our players and we conceded three unanswered tries in each half to lose the game 6-0.

The final game on the Saturday saw us playing against the Ipswich B team and our players managed to rally their spirits and find some additional energy to play some very entertaining rugby. Tries from Tom Saunders, Max Rogers and Josh Perry saw us take a half-time lead of 3-1. This time, the half-time substitutions worked better for us and both Max Rogers and Josh Perry were able to add to their try count in the second half, allowing our boys to finish the first day on a high with a 5-2 win.

Day 2 saw us once again at Poole Rugby Club at a very unsociable hour, especially given the festivities of the previous night, and many of boys were moaning of aches and stiffness following the intense nature of the games they had played on the Saturday.

The schedule of the matches was the same as for the Saturday, but this time, our players had a much better idea of what to expect from their opponents.

As on the Saturday, we started strongly against the Burry Port team and went in at half time with a 2-1 lead thanks to tries from Harrison Quittenden and Max Rogers. However, this time we did not lose our first half momentum and went on to score two further tries from our fleet-footed full back Josh Perry in the second half and finished the first game of the day as 4-2 winners.

The next game was considered by most of our players as a grudge match against the Gosport team. I have to report that I have never seen our boys play with such determination, commitment and controlled aggression as they displayed in the first half of that match. The rucking was simply superb, with our boys retaining possession on our ball and on many occasions turning over possession when Gosport had the ball. Our forwards were also dominating the scrums, which gave Owen Jordan at scrum half the time he needed to orchestrate the backs. Our defence put so much pressure on the Gosport flyer that he no longer wanted the ball and resorted to throwing loose passes and kicking the ball away, lest he get hit hard yet again.

The reward for this excellent display in the first half was a 3-1 half-time lead, with all three of our tries being scored by the ever-reliable wrecking machine that is Max Rogers. As all 13 players on the pitch for the first half had worked so hard together, it was decided not to make any substitutions at half time. The Gosport team came back hard at us in the second half and scored a further try through their flyer to get back into the game. However, our defence remained resolute and we held on for a well-deserved 3-2 victory.

It is not possible to put into words the reaction from the assembled parents and coaches as the boys came off the pitch following this second game against Gosport, but suffice it to say it was without doubt a game that was considered to be the best game of rugby any of our parents and coaches had seen our boys play.

However, the downside to the heroics that were seen on the pitch in game 2 is that many of our players were physically and emotionally spent come game 3 against the unbeaten Ipswich A team. Despite this, we were able to improve on our Day 1 result against Ipswich A by at least scoring a try against them, courtesy of second half try from Harrison Quittenden. Any pain from the eventual 6-1 loss to Ipswich A in Game 3 was nevertheless lost in the euphoria that had carried over from the win over Gosport.

As on the previous day, our boys rallied themselves for the last game of the tour against the weakened Ipswich B team. As a result of the decision to field two teams, the Ipswich squad was left with very few subs for each team and after 7 hard matches, Ipswich B only had 12 boys able to play. William Mahoney sportingly agreed to play for the Ipswich B team for the first half of the match to allow the game to proceed as a 13-a-side match and at the end of the first half, we were 2-0 up courtesy of a brace of tries from our own flying machine, Josh Perry. In the second half Ben Brazil volunteered to play for Ipswich B so that William Mahoney could return to our fold. All 26 players on the pitch for that second half looked like they were dead on their feet, but Oz Wallace managed to find a reserve of energy to add a further try to our tally, with Thanet Wanderers finishing as 3-0 winners.

Following the matches, there was a formal presentation ceremony, where each of our boys were presented with a medal from Louis Deacon (former England and Leicester Tigers lock) and then our own presentation ceremony, the details of which are as follows:

Players’ Player of the Tour: Winner – Max Rogers; Runner up – Owen Jordan

Parents’ Player of the Tour: Winner – Josh Perry; Runner-up – Patrick Scott

Coaches’ Player of the Tour: Winner – Owen Jordan; Runner-up – Beau Teall

Most/Best Tries: Winner – Harrison Quittenden for his “Ashton Splash” try that resulted in his injury

Runners-up – Max Rogers and Josh Perry for scoring 8 tries each

Most/Best Tackles: Winner – Patrick Scott for his tackle with his face which nearly broke his jaw

Runners-up – Max Rogers, Josh Perry and anyone else who nailed the Gosport flyer

Sportsmanship Award: Winners – William Mahoney and Ben Brazil for playing for Ipswich in last game

Silliest Moment – William Mahoney for almost scoring a try against us in last game

Honourable Mention – Sam Bridle for missing team photo as a result of revisiting his breakfast

Adult Fancy Dress: Winner – Ali Whitehead (Madonna); Runner-up – Jason “I was robbed” Deacon (Rambo)

Junior Fancy Dress: Winner – Luke Deacon