Celts exceed all expectations as they hit Top 4!
By Neil Fisher
A fantastic day out at Hazlewood with a performance to savour.
A trip to Hazlewood is a great experience for any player and spectator but this one was made extra special with a Team performance like no other. Set for a full waterfall tournament format, the Celts went into the day with a few late replacements due to injuries etc.
First up as opposition in game #1 were Tadley Tigers; a well drilled team we have fallen to in the recent past. What an opportunity to put that right!? With no half time, the game was a straight 10 minutes and what a well fought game it was. Whilst Tadley hardly ventured into the Celts half, they defended for their lives and despite creating many chances, the Celts just couldn't seem to find a way through. Kai Williams and Jake Hoare were drawing the defence and turning rucks over right across the pitch and when the ball went wide we looked dangerous. Unfortunately, the ball did not go all the way through the hands and on a narrow pitch we missed opportunities. Owen Williams was winning the majority of the scrums which provided us with great attacking platforms. Aidan Bones and William May were working well at nine and ten with Elliott Giles and Charlie Fisher supporting out wide. Eventually, enough pressure was applied to the Tadley defence and William May succeeded with a lovely dummy pass and angled run to storm over from 20m to win the match. What a great start against very dangerous opposition despite quite a few dropped balls and missed chances. (W1-0)
Next up, in game #2 were Farnborough RFC who had some very talented players. Unfortunately for them, they came up against the Celts who were showing promising signs of being Team of the Day. Charlie gregory and George Popplewell were making some hard hitting tackles with Gus Corbett securing the rucks and making the turnover countless times. Harry Martin produced tackle of the day when he brought down a Farnborough winger at full tilt to keep the clean sheet. The ball was flying through the hands and despite missing more opportunities to score, the ball went wide from Aidan Bones, via William May, Charlie Fisher to find Harrison Bennett out wide and ready to stretch his legs. Not many defenders catch Harrison anyway but with the wind behind him he flew over from 30m to open the scoring. With the pressure building Aidan Bones scored his trademark “snipe” try from close range from the back of the ruck. Whenever Farnborough tried to relieve the pressure by kicking to clear, they just found Joshua Fernandes waiting at full back ready to counter. The Celts closed the game out 2-0 with another clean sheet! (W2-0)
On to game #3 v Eastleigh RFC and the Celts were firing on all cylinders. With the Team performance of the day, the Celts powered through as group winners with a 5-0 victory over Eastleigh. Still, there were missed chances but our ratio improved as Peter Headley was finding some lovely angled runs to put away 2 tries. Elliott Giles was acting as provider as he continuously looked a threat on the attack before offloading and setting up Owen Williams for his first of the day. Aidan Bones and William May executed a training ground move to gain plenty of yards. Joshua Fernandes scored the try of the day after collecting a high ball from deep, on the run, to finish a jinking run in the corner! The biggest cheer of the day came when Charlie gregory, on his debut for the Celts scored his first try and was instantly mobbed by his team mates to congratulate him. (W5-0)
WHAT. A. TEAM!
Winning the group (with three clean sheets) meant we were heading into the “Cup” rounds against other group winners with games to be played on the 3G pitches. Rumours of a strong academy side were confirmed when we were drawn against Worthing Academy Raiders – another unbeaten side made up of selected players from the Worthing and Chichester areas. With three players injured and out for the remaining matches, the Celts went out with no substitutes available. The worst possible start came about when we lost the ball immediately from the kick off and the Raiders scored with frightening pace and passing skills. The G&F coaches nervously watched on as the Celts battled hard against some incredibly talented individuals. However, we all know individuals don’t win matches and the “team” pressure that the Celts applied to the Raiders gave them a shot. The Raiders were shaken and their game plan was falling to pieces. As they were driven back William Breeze finished off a lovely run to the corner before collecting an interception from the restart to score another! The Celts were winning 2-1 with three or four minutes remaining. A couple of injuries disrupted play and at the next restart, the Raiders strongest attacker powered through to even things up. Unfortunately, that score seemed to knock the stuffing out of the Celts and the same players ran through to win the match with the final play (maybe individuals do sometimes win matches?). The Celts walked off to huge applause and compliments from opposition players and coaches who said we were by far the best side they had played all day and congratulated up on our performance – great sportsmanship! Of course, the biggest support was from our very own parents who could see the boys needed a pick up from that sucker punch defeat (L2-3). Out came the Haribo and on to our final match for 3rd/4th play off.
Bracknell RFC were up last and despite a resolute performance the Celts did not get the rub of the green and fell 0-3 to a very good side.
There’s no shame in losing one game in that way after such a magnificent performance. The team work was the best we have ever seen and the players should be very proud of their achievement – 4th place out of 20 teams and rattling the Raiders was more than we could have expected. WELL DONE!
Let’s build on this performance, use the last two training sessions to refine some techniques and enjoy a well-earned Christmas break.
Thanks to our sponsors SA Group and ASDA as well as all the parents who made the trip and survived the long day. You all supported the boys in the spirit of the game and it was great to see.