A squad of 25 prospective Grey 1st XV players undertook a 13 day and a five match of the United Kingdom in late November and early December. Much is expected of this group of U17 and U16 players who will make up the Grey 1st XV next season, and they didn’t disappoint – winning all 5 of their matches on tour.
Grey vs Abingdon 61 – 5
The first match of the tour was against Abingdon School, situated close to famed and ancient university town Oxford. Our opponents seemed inspired in the opening exchanges, and it took some inspired defense to keep them from breaching our tryline. We turned around at the halftime break up by 19 points to nil. The second half was a different affair – as our dominance of all collisions and some brutally efficient work t the breakdown saw us begin to rack up the points. The match ended with a scoreline of 61 points to 5, an emphatic and pleasing start to the tour.
Grey vsMillfield won 37 – 35
Match two of the tour was against Millfield School in Somerset. A highly rated sports school, Millfield’s sporting facilities are the envy of the world – and their rugby team didn’t disappoint. The presence of their full strength U18 side made for a tough and uncompromising encounter, with the lead changing hands almost at will. We were disappointed to leak 3 soft tries through an increasingly porous defensive effort – but continued to be effective from the drive and dangerous on the counter attack when we spread the ball. A penalty by Curwin Bosch made the difference in an 11 try thriller – one for the neutral spectator, but definitely heart stopping for the diehard Old Greys present on the touchline!
Grey vs Plymouth College won 33 – 0
Our third stop on tour was in the naval city of Plymouth, where we met our hosts Plymouth College under lights as a curtain raiser for a Championship Club match between Plymouth Albion RFC and Rotherham. The setting was splendid and the boys were excited – which resulting in some sloppy execution on a night we couldn’t or wouldn’t respond to the requirements of the situation, trying to run out of trouble or crashing it up when there was an overlap. We scored 5 tries but left the ground disappointed, and aware that a superior effort would be required against the might of London Irish.
Grey vs London Irish U17 won 36 – 10
Our 4th stop was in Maidenhead to play the regional U17 team coordinated by London Irish. Irish, along with Saracens and Wasps, divide the southern part of England into various regions, and are able to call upon boys from schools in their region. This gives these club academy sides the relative strength of craven week teams in SA, and while we were playing a squad of similar age for the first time on tour, the boys were mentally prepared for our biggest match on tour by far.
To add spice to the occasion we were playing on a synthetic surface – a first for the entire squad and management.
We started well – very well – and had run in three tries in the first five minutes to lead by 19 points to nil. Our hosts began to wear us down, and scored two tries of their own to end the half 19 points to 10 in our favour. That was the sum total of their resistance though – as we scored a further two tries and a penalty goal to end victorious by 36 points to 10. The conditions had suited us – the firm surface allowing us to exploit Irish’s lack of width on defense and utilize our speedsters – Dylan Vermaak scoring a hat trick of tries.
Grey vs Monmouth won 21 – 15
Our last match of the tour was against perennial Welsh powerhouse Monmouth school. The ancient village of Monmouth is dominated by a 1000 year old church, and the school itself will turn 400 next year. The match was played in extremely cold and murky conditions, which together with increasingly sore bodies after 5 matches in under two weeks, made for a very tough day at the office. Captain Johann van Niekerk limped off after a minute or two before Monmouth opened the scoring after bashing away at our tryline for what seemed to be ages. The conversion sailed wide, and shortly afterwards Curwin Bosch chipped ahead and surged past the Monmouth fullback to score in the right hand corner. His conversion was successful and we led by 7 points to 5 at the half. We opened the scoring in the second half after an impressive maul from a lineout. The conversion was good and we led by 14 points to 5. Monmouth scored their second try and we led by 4 points. The last 20 minutes were tense, as Monmouth dominated possession while we were content to keep them pinned in their own 22 metre area with some fine tactical kicking. Our third try came after Bosch created a hole in the Monmouth defenses to send Junior Pokomela through to score under the poles – our lead seemingly unassailable at 21 points to 10. Our passionate hosts had other ideas – and began to bash their way up field before scoring another try from close range to trail by 21 points to 15. A tense final 5 minutes followed before the final whistle ended – the victory a fitting end to our tour – victory to send outgoing coach Rory Duncan to the Cheetahs on a high.