End of an era marked with victory for class of 02/03
Sunday 5th September marked the final match for Chobham’s class of 2002/03, with an Under 19 fixture against Tetbury, who generously agreed to pull together a fixture at short notice in mid-August. The match was played in the grounds of the Royal Agricultural College, but despite having not played as a team for 18 months there was nothing agricultural about the game. Played under a blazing sun, the warm-up was an opportunity to sweat out the previous night’s entertainment for lad and dad alike before getting down to the main attraction.
Chobham kicked off, with the early minutes spent sizing each other up and getting used to actually playing rugby again. Neither side could string any real momentum together with small errors breaking up the flow of the game. Chobham were the first to threaten though as Tetbury kicked deep, but a raking return kick took a couple of very friendly bounces leading to a line out just 15 yards from the Tetbury line.
A knock-on at the line led to the first scrum, played uncontested due to the long break and some inexperience in the front row. Chobham kept up the pressure with a series of charges from Cooper at no. 8 and then Olly and Billy from quick rucks. A third phase created space to the right and Danny was able to stretch over with a dart from fly-half to open the scoring at 5-0.
Tetbury came right back at Chobham and had a spell of territory at the Chobham end, aided by a handful of penalties. From one quick penalty Tetbury tried to spread play wide to the right, but Matt was in like a line-backer to stop his opposite centre in his tracks. Chob’ slowly ground out some possession with Saxon hauling play well into the Tetbury half and Max being on hand with a big hit which resulted in a turnover, but the visitors couldn’t develop a scoring chance. Late in the period Chob’ were in range again, the lineout operating well with Tom quickly moving the ball ‘off the top’ but the Tetbury wing gathered a chip and neatly stepped around a couple of tacklers to create the foundation for a counter attack. There was just time for Danny to be defrocked in a tackle, losing the ‘try scorers tutu’ before the ref blew for quarter time and the players gratefully had a breather in the heat.
The second period also began with a period of midfield action as both sides continued to play a little rustily. Chobham just about edged the territory with Ben stepping up to scrum-half and keeping his pack moving forwards with a couple of good kicks. Charlie found Dan on the blind side of a ruck to trundle into the home 25. Good forward play managed to gain a few more metres to close on the Tetbury line. The home side seemed to have stemmed the tide but @theofficialharryjones had other ideas and burst through the defensive line to add a second Chobham try, Aran slotting the extras to make the lead 12-0.
Tetbury now went up a gear and Chob’ were forced into a rear guard action. Whilst the attacking play had looked a little short of practice there was no such problem defending their line as a series of attacks were held up in the red zone before a spill relieved the pressure with a hacked clearance to midfield. This led to a scrum and Chob’ were now more ruthless. Moving play wide to the wing play was back into the Tetbury 25. Strong rucking carried play close to the Tetbury line and it was Charlie who finished off with the third try extending the lead to 17-0.
Tetbury reacted well again, and a good kick chase forced a turnover and a penalty from the restart. A quick tap swept play into the corner close to the Chob’ line. Again the defence held out, but Tetbury recycled well and crossed over under the posts, making the half-time score 17-7 in favour of the visitors.
The coaches didn’t seem to be guiding the teams very well as the third period also started off with a bit of a stalemate once more. Lewis had gathered the restart under pressure from Tetbury, winning a penalty, but play was centred between the two 25 yard lines. Tetbury broke out first earning a scrum on Chob’s 25, but nothing was created before as a turnover freed Rhys to show his speed and carry Chob’ up field to the Tetbury 25. The hosts couldn’t clear their lines and a couple of minutes later Callum ran the ideal line at a ruck for Harry to register an assist with the pass and Chobham were three tries ahead again, Aran slotting a good conversion from wide on the left.
Into the final period and Chob’ were starting to remember what use to work so well a couple of years ago. The fifth try was definitely the try of the game to that point. From a scrum around 20 yards out on the right hand side, it was quick hands along the line from Harry to Danny, Matt ran a great dummy line with the ball going to Saxon at 13. Aran came into the line from fullback before finding Rhys with a bit of space. He was able to dance between a couple of defenders and score in the corner. Aran once more slotted a good conversion to make the score 31-7.
Clearly the forwards were less than impressed with this score as they got into the act with a few minutes left. Tetbury had been putting the squeeze on in the Chob’ half but were pinged for holding on. Teo, who had been a livewire all game, got his hands on the ball and set off up field from a quick pen. Almost reaching the Tetbury 25 he looked to have run out of space but @theofficialharryjones had been racing up in support to take a pop and keep the forward momentum. By now Charlie was on hand and carried further goalwards and as the defence got to him it was Callum on his shoulder to finish things off with his second of the game.
The final moments were played out by two weary teams with the heat and Saturday night taking over. With time up the ref blew the final whistle and that was it, this year group were no more. What had started for some way back in September 2007 came to a close fourteen years later.
For some the next step is Uni rugby, and hopefully for others it will be senior rugby at Chobham. Several of the squad have already made their debut towards the end of last season. From the first festival at Cobham in 2009 to mini tour caravan tours, and on to junior tours to all of the home nations there has been some great rugby played and no little success over the years.
All the players, coaches, first aiders and parents who have spent countless Sundays cheering on the touchlines can be justifiably proud of the environment that has been created and the fun that has been had by all, on and off the pitch. It’s been a blast folks.