Bracknell U13b Stormers - Opportunity missed or opportunity denied
By John Halley
Match report by John Halley
On a day that saw Bracknell with two teams represented in the Berkshire U13 Cup Finals we found ourselves with the smallest squad of the year; just 26 players available. Bracknell U13a Hurricanes were playing in the main competition Trophy final and Bracknell U13b Stormers were playing in the development Plate final. None-the-less, the fighting spirit was high and the ambition for Bracknell Stormers to mark the season with a notable victory over local rivals Maidenhead was seen as a great opportunity. The season has been fairly tough for the Stormers, but we've had victories throughout the season not least of all twice in recent months against today's adversaries Maidenhead B-team.
Playing at Reading Abbey the match started well for both teams and from a closely matched first 5 minutes Sam Pemberton set off on an extraordinary run that saw him cover 3/4s of the pitch, evading all tacklers and touching down for the Stormers first try of the day. The game continued to be very tight with both teams making progress then being pushed back, but the Stormers found a gap and Conor McGee broke through the defence to provide the second try of the day; 10-0 to Stormers.
However, Maidenhead made sure we weren't having it all our way. This Maidenhead team came to play and early on they were showing they had some strengths that we hadn't seen in previous encounters. Maidenhead scored to bring the score to 10-5.
Bracknell Stormers raised their game. The forwards were playing really well and competed in all departments. A move through the backs found Sam Pemberton again running at speed and he crossed the line to make the score 15-5. Very quickly after the re-start Maidenhead were facing another attack with Sam Pemberton running hard and proving very difficult to tackle. He scored again bringing the score to 20-5; Bracknell Stormers confidence was beginning to build.
If there was one characteristic of Bracknell Stormers play it would normally be a slow start but not today. Having gained a good lead, we found that Maidenhead were beginning to find some gaps and make progress. Strong direct running resulted in a try, and then 2 more for Maidenhead before the referee blew the whistle for half-time with the score set at 20-20.
Clearly we were in a tight contest and the coaches brief to the boys at half-time was keep doing what you're doing, focus on the basics and we have a great opportunity for a win. The coaches knew that with our 13 players, playing against a Maidenhead team with plenty of depth the second half was going to be a tough battle.
And so it was to be. Maidenhead started well and scored a try, and then 5 minutes later another. They had the lead at 20-30. Over the next 15 minutes Bracknell Stormers were not letting this go and we matched the scores with 2 more Sam Pemberton tries. The score was tied at 30-30. With both captains checking the remaining match time available the intensity was huge. Nobody rested, nobody walked, everybody supported each other. It was heroic. As the clock was running down and when the game was stopped for an injury (minor) the referee confirmed to both head coaches that a tie would result in 10 minutes more rugby and a golden try. What a prospect!
The referee re-started the game, the contest continued, the tackles were hard, the rucks were physical. Maidenhead found a gap, they broke through and scored on what turned out to be the final play of the game. Maidenhead won 35-30.
It was a great performance by the Stormers. They did their team, their squad and their club proud and they held their heads high whilst congratulating the team from Maidenhead.
The match was refereed by a young match official from Windsor. He managed the game very well and was clear with his decisions and signals. A good future awaits this young man if today was anything to go by.