11 months ago
By James Percy
Gravesend RFC Under 11's 'Gladiators' enter a team into the Aviva Premiership Under 11 Landrover Cup festival at Twickenham on Saturday 28th October.
The coaches & managers were a bit apprehensive as we only travelled with a squad of 10 and knew there were going to be some very strong teams with larger squads at the tournament. This was also GRFC's first experience at such a festival. The boys did not seem to worry about this and were excited about a trip to Twickenham and playing rugby in the footprint of the national stadium. Upon arrival at the Harlequins ground on bright but cold sunny day, it was clear that was going to be a well structured and organised tournament. The parents were happy with complimentary tea & coffee whilst our couch Lloydy went to register and find out who we were going to play. The draw showed we were to play London Welsh, Winchester & Warlingham 1.
During our warm up we were approached by the sponsors photographer for a team photo and Harry Lewis was asked to do a media interview for the local radio. It was very clear that this was no festival our teams and experienced before.
The tournament kicked off on the strike of 10am with Welsh playing Warlingham and this gave the opportunity for the Gravesend boys watch the teams they were to play later in the day. It was clear to all it was going to be a tough and physical day. Some very structured, physical and technical play by both sides saw a win to Warlingham. So the next game saw our Gravesend boys take on Winchester. Some very determined tackling and tactical kicking saw our boys match Winchester for some time. But the large pitch and bigger squad of Winchester played to their advantage. A couple of missed tackles was the only difference between the sides and despite losing 2-0 it was a great effort by all.
The second game against Welsh was very similar. By now our boys were getting tired with constant onslaught of Welsh attack but playing with passion this meant a score of 1-1 at half time. We picked up a few knocks in the 2nd half which created a few gaps in our defence which Welsh exploited to win the game 3-1.
Despite being a bit down our boys went into the final game against Warlingham determined not to give up. Some great fight and determination by our shattered & battered boys saw them narrowly missing out again 2-1.
All 3 teams we played against commented on how impressed they were with the passion, commitment and tackling of our side despite it being clear that we had a mixed ability team. The team name of Gladiators proved appropriate for this group of GRFC Warriors.
So despite a few minor things to work on in training the boys gave their all and all coaches, managers & parents were immensely proud of the kids. It was clear that Gravesend can hold their own at these national festivals and hopefully sets a precedent for future Under 11 & 12's team to attend this tournament.
And after all that hard work the boys were rewarded with meeting some Premiership, England & Lions rugby stars of Karl Sinclar & Dave Ward prior to going on to the Stoop to see Harlequins vs Worcester.
A fantastic day for all and hopefully a lifetime experience that the boys will never forget.
Updated 12:53 - 10 Nov 2017 by Mike CUBITT