Under 18s Kent County 7s Champions
By Ian Fell
Fantastic Day; Fantastic Weather; Fantastic 7s Rugby
Folkestone under 18’s have, to say the least, had a strange season. Formed as the Club’s third team ‘development squad’ as a feeder team for the senior teams they were, to a certain extent, victims of their own success. By Christmas eight of the boys had pulled on shirts for the first team, most of the rest had been used in the seconds.
To ‘celebrate’ their last season before venturing off into the big outside world the lads thought it would be good to play one last game together and to enter the Kent Under 18s 7-a-side tournament at Sheppey on Sunday. Squad selection resolved it’s self with injuries and unavailability forcing the team to take those available.
The players arrived at Sheppey in dribs and drabs and worryingly most were limping or holding shoulders. Seven had played the previous day for Folkestone First XV at Tunbridge Wells, the other four for the Seconds in London. The other teams were warming up and running through drills whilst the Folkestone boys were complaining about the itchy shirts and injuries and all volunteered not to start in the first game! Having registered the team with Sheppey chairman, Mr Golding, (and apologised to him for not holding Tunbridge Wells to less than 4 tries – which cost Sheppey First XV promotion!) the lads commenced their warm up by eating flying saucers and comparing leg wounds. The warm up coach, James Perry, was unable to assist in the task as he was still on the M2; late as usual.
The first pool game was against Beccehamians; twelve thin, fast looking chaps who looked like they were Olympic sprinters. Tom Snare lead the boys on to the pitch which raised a comment from the crowd “Look at that bloke, he’s a man, he’s got a beer belly” The opposition were assured that we weren’t cheating and that these ‘kids’ were under 18. The game kicked off with Folkestone looking extremely slow and lethargic resulting in Beccehamians scoring in the first minute. Snare called the boys around and informed them in no uncertain terms that he hadn’t driven to Sheppey to look stupid. The boys agreed with him and said that he could look stupid anywhere. The wakeup call heeded and ‘Billy Whiz’, aka Damian Dixon, outpaced all of the opposition to open Folkestone’s scoring; the crowd yelling at him to touch down under the posts. A second try soon followed through Elliot Jones, who’s ability to bounce the opposition was entertaining to watch. Lewis Howland then made a good break up the wing but was dumped off the pitch by two of the opposition. Unfortunately, he landed on his shoulder damaging the ligaments which ended his day. He was replaced by James “Meady” Mead who stepped up to the mark admirably. By now Folkestone had slowed the opposition down with a series of big hits leaving bodies all over the pitch. Folkestone’s squad consisted of six large forwards who proved hard to contain. This included Tim Wood who has had a fantastic season for the Firsts, was dominant in the line and was all over the pitch. It wasn’t an ideal 7’s team but the opposition couldn’t find the answer to the constant pummelling and Stones were creating the all important overlaps. At half time Stones brought on secret weapons Tom Carvill and Frazer Hendy. With three Beccehamians hanging off of Carvill, Forest Gump AKA Dixon romped in for his second try. With a fourth added by Bradley ‘Dances with Fairies’ Pearson the game was sown up. The boys relaxed for the rest of the game allowing Beccehamians a second try. Final score 26-14 to Stones.
The second game against Beckenham saw some fantastic 7’s play and by this time Stones had most of the crowd on their side with comments and cheers when the big boys sat the opposition on their backsides. The lads were hitting the spaces at pace and cutting great angles. With Snare, Tim Wood and Carvill in the scrum it was only ever going one way at pace leaving Meady to mop up behind. Tries from Jones, Pearson, Dixon and Mead and three from Ryan Farrow saw Stones run out 43-14 winners. Farrow is so strong in contact you can feel the shudder form the touch line. His tries all resulting from simple straight running and demolishing the defenders.
Next up were Old Gravesendians, a team that Stones had never played at age group before. It really was one way traffic. Mead scored having received a seven foot high pass from Bradley Pearson, leaping like a Springbok, collecting the ball in one hand and scoring under the posts. An opposition player attempted to prevent Mead’s touch down to his cost and was floored in the process. The playing of big strong forwards appeared to be working with Hendy hitting one tackle so hard that it took two further players out behind. Further tries from Mead, Pearson and Farrow eased Stones far ahead. Two further tries were added by David Jarvis who had a fine game supporting the runners and being in the right place to make several killer runs. Another win for Stones 36-7
As it turned out the final of the Cup was a replay of the first game against Beccehamians. They looked sharper as the competition progressed and were deep in a warm up session as Stones wandered onto the pitch. From the kick off it was apparent that Beccehamians would be no push over and wanted to leave the ‘island’ with the winner’s trophy. An early try and conversion by Pearson gave Stones the lead. This was soon extended by Dixon who scored under the posts but for some strange reason he tried to convert his own try and missed by a mile. Beccehamians then replied with two quick but unconverted tries bringing the score to 12-10. Elliot Jones then gave Stones breathing space by scoring and Pearson adding the conversion. The opposition came straight back with a score, it was now 19-15 to Folkestone. Would Dixons fluffed conversion come back to haunt him? Beccehamians kicked the restart and Stones set off for another attack needing only to retain possession for one more minute. It was to say the very least nerve racking and there was a lot of clock watching from the Folkestone supporters. However, there was no need to worry; the ball was shipped out to Dixon who sprinted down the wing closely pursued by two Beccehamians. As the try line approached the defence tap tackled Dixon who went down like the proverbial sack of spuds. Fortunately he had been travelling so fast that he skidded for several meters on his face with his ankles round his ears and crossed the try line. Job done 28-15.
Folkestone collected the cup from Sheppey chairman Neil Golding, to a fantastic round of applause. One lad from Old Gravesendians approached the lads and asked what league they played in this season. The boys explained that they hadn’t competed in the U18 league this season but had played senior rugby. The lad exclaimed that was very lucky for him as he wouldn’t want to play them in a full Under 18s game.
That just about sums it all up one last trophy for a great team. The Under 18’s have been a credit to themselves and the club for the last 12 seasons. Unfortunately, they were missing several good players today through injury - Joe Johnson, Jacob Cooke and George Flatman. Some players were unavailable Peter O’Shea, Derek Ashton, Jack Dodson and Ben Gunn. Lastly, Ollie Swain, a tough player with a positive attitude whose true commitment has resulted in an injury that has halted his playing career.
The club wishes you all the very best for the future where ever you go or whatever you do. Those who are going away to ‘Uni’ don’t forget to come back to Folkestone!