U12s Finish with a Bang!!
By Richard Robinson
Fantastic finale to a great season.
The competitive U12 season drew to an end on Saturday as the Rockets U12s lined up against Durham Tigers at Gateshead Stadium in the North East Rugby Football League U12 final.
The coaches were able to select a strong squad again for the final and were confident that the team selected had the ability to beat the strong Durham Side. Over the league season we had played Durham twice with a win a piece indicating that this would be a good close game. In perfect rugby conditions the Rockets kicked off and were immediately under pressure, Durham moving the ball freely along the line to their fast and big wingers, and before we could blink the Tigers had crossed the whitewash with a flowing move down the wing for a converted try. 0-6 in the first 2 minutes was not exactly the game plan! In the past such an early score would have been a hammer blow from which the youngsters would have struggled to overcome, but not this galvanised team. From the kickoff, Durham again attacked quickly down the wings, but Michael Woods, Matthew Peggie and Leon Smith worked hard to cover the runs with Michael producing a thunderous tackle to flatten his opposite number driving the man back and the ball going forward giving the Rockets their first possession of the game. Running through a exit set, Alex Donaghy broke the line side stepped 2 covering tackles before sprinting half the pitch to score under the posts with the conversion by Adam Paterson drawing the score level to thunderous applause from the massed rocket supporters.
The next 10 minutes were tense rugby with both teams running through sets of 6 and putting each other under pressure but the Rockets fitness and power was beginning to show benefits as Durham began to tire towards the end of the half. With the forwards all taking turns to smash into the Durham Defence, with strong runs from Ollie Robinson, Craig Lamb, Max Bootle and Danny Glover constantly making good yardage coupled with Benjis jinking runs, Cramlington were taking control of the territory.
Our defence, while slower than against Peterlee the week previous, was still solid. With everyone making big hits, with both wingers both being worked hard by the Durham A great forward and back move with 4 offloads down the right wing had Durham on the heels and a surging run from Ewan Goodridge crossed for a deserved try which was converted from out wide by Alex Donaghy in the 20th minute for 12-6. The try hit Durham hard and with only minutes of the half left again the Rockets were able to capitalise on a tiring Durham side and Donaghy got his 2nd and the teams 3rd following good build up play by the team to go into half time with a decent 18-6 lead. The team had worked extremely hard and had worn the Durham side down which had resulted in 2 quick tries.
Into the 2nd half and the Rockets were on it from the start, working hard up the pitch and Alex Donaghy crossed again for his hat trick, the 2 extra points were added and the Rockets looked comfortable at 24-6. A few interchanges introduced Steven Levison, Logan Welford, John Joe Tams and Jack Bowman in order to keep the energy levels high in the team. At this point many teams would have allowed their heads to drop and the Rockets would have eased to victory, but Durham were made of strong stuff and attacked with energy, again exploiting the wings and only a last gasp tackle by Woods saved a try, but the Rockets were rattled and a bit of over eagerness resulted in players flopping into tackles and lying on a bit too long which gifted Durham cheap sets, they advanced towards the line and from a PTB close to the line were able to scoot over for a try. This fired up the Tigers and they again attacked strongly and were becoming more dominant in the game and with 10 minutes to go again used the width of the pitch to score near the touchline for 24-14. The next try was going to be crucial. Nerves were beginning to jangle in the crowd and coaches but the players stepped up, great pressure by Clemmit, Goodridge and Snowdon kept the pressure on the Durham team, whose 5th tackle kicks were being swept up by the Rockets and returned with interest by Korban Ruler and Matthew Law. The Rockets were all looking for the ball and wanting to attack, while some Durham players were beginning to look for others to take the game to Cramlington. With good territory on the left, the Rockets spread the ball to the right dragging Durham across the pitch before Leon Smith cut inside allowing Alex Donaghy to score a decisive try to a massive cheer from the crowd, while the conversion was just put wide the team had weathered the storm. From the kick off the Rockets again returned the ball with interest with Goodridge again smashing through the line to score before the extra 2 points were added off the boot of Leon Smith, albeit on the foot of Goodridge.
As the kick crossed the posts the ref blew the final whistle with the score 34-14 to start the celebrations from the crowd and players. A highly entertaining game for the neutral which showcased some young talent in both teams
However, the gloss was slightly taken off for the coaches as we had been unable to get one of the bench onto the pitch. Tom Henderson was about to come on when the final whistle blew. We wanted to try and give everyone some game time so we apologise to Tom that we were not able to get him on the pitch. The team realised that Tom had not got on and as a show of team spirit elected him Captain for the exhibition match the next day at Kingston Park.
Coach Richard Robinson after the game said “I am drained emotionally and physically, we always knew we had the ability to win the game but needed to apply everything we have worked on over the weeks. Durham really pushed us and at no point till the last 5 minutes did we feel we had complete control of the game. But the lads were fantastic, working extremely hard and I know I speak for the whole coaching staff and the Rockets Management when I say that we are immensely proud of the team and excited about what this group of players could achieve in the future, if they continue to work as hard as they have this year”