Year 11 rugby triumph
- Published on 03 May 2012
- Written by Mr D Towe
Dane Court 12 – 5 Norton Knatchbull
Dane Court under sixteens rugby side produced a performance of real heart, unrelenting effort and not a little skill to win the Kent Developing Schools Rugby Cup at St Peter's on Thursday last.
This was just another in a series of tough challenges that saw them to the final. Fine victories over Dover Grammar and Harvey Grammar amongst others led to this clash with another strong side, Norton Knatchbull School from Ashford. A side not just unbeaten but yet to concede a point in the competition and at first sight it was easy to see why, their whole pack were huge athletic specimens. Their strategy of powerful forward drives denying opponents the ball had been as effective as it was simple. Dane Court were going to be in for a hell of a battle and so it proved.
The Ashford boys began with a series of drives, going through the phases but with few passes, however, they were met with dogged defence. An early penalty for offside gave Court's fly half Stuart Harrison the opportunity to take a quick tap. He set off on a sixty metre run to the posts dummying and side stepping with rare panache and showing electric pace. He converted his own try to give a welcome lead and joy to the faithful supporters. The next ten minutes belonged to Knatchbull with more bruising drives and rolling mauls eking the play forwards. They worked their way into the right hand corner where, despite several good tackles, their lock forward plunged over the line for an unconverted try. Would Court wilt? No, back they came with some superb three quarter play to set up a position deep in their visitors twenty two, where a succession of half chances were spurned before Knatchbull snaffled the ball and cleared their lines. Soon afterwards from a turnover on halfway Harrison performed a textbook loop move with Courtney Horey and ran into the space developing as a result. He dummied the winger and drew the fullback who stood his ground and moved into the tackle only for the ball to be offloaded with an improvised basketball pass to the supporting left winger Mason Webb. He was caught near the line but retained possession and grounded the ball for a quality finish. The goal attempt failed but importantly the seven point gap had been reinstated. Although Knatchbull finished the half on the attack the Court defence would not be breached and the half time break gave time to reassert our belief and recharge dwindling energy resources.
Following the restart the Ashford pack went through a dozen phases of play without passing the ball more than five yards as they launched their big forwards at the yellow and black jerseys who stayed strong in the face of this onslaught. Having progressed slowly forty yards up field they ventured two passes away from the ruck where their centre was dumped, relieved of the ball and the attack reversed. All of the ground lost was reclaimed in an instant by a thrilling piece of back play which reinforced Dane Court's ambitions to keep the game more fluid. In a nutshell the strategies of both teams were encapsulated, a relentless, tight, nine man game against a determined defence and scintillating counter attack running.
Nobody was about to give up and as time moved on Court's resolve seemed to strengthen and Knatchbull made more and more simple errors, halting their momentum. All the while the Thanet backs remained a threat despite all the tackling and constant reorganising of the defensive line they still intermittently broke out with adventure. When they did so it pushed Knatchbull back deep in their half and they had to begin their slow grind all over again, it must have been soul destroying. Death by a thousand cuts, although it was tackles, tackles, tackles and turnovers that led to the bleeding of confidence and the gathering mist of an impending defeat seeping into tiring minds.So the game continued on a big, muddy, energy sapping Thanet Wanderers pitch, occasionally the Ashford boys kicked for position only to see every high ball caught and returned with interest via boot or slick handling and determined running. The forward pounding continued with Dane Court's own pack taking hit after hit, making tackle after tackle ensuring their opponents worked hard for every yard. A pedantic referee whistled regularly, penalising players of both sides to the ire of all supporters but this just ratcheted up the tension on and off the pitch. Several accidental blood injuries occurred and Jordan Box had to be substituted following a late tackle but the game was never dirty and remained within the code. Both sides took the big hits well showing no hint of the petty recriminatory behaviour that sometimes occurs with less disciplined players.
With five minutes remaining a slip suddenly caused a gap to open in Dane Court's defences and the powerful number 8 was shepherded through. A try seemed inevitable but a fantastic covering tackle by Grant Whiteman dislodged the ball and brought relief and more self belief to the team and deepened the encircling despair for Knatchbull. Although there was still time to claim the score to level things up this was as close as they were to get to achieving scoreboard parity.
As the emotions in the crowd heightened it was evident that Dane Court were carrying out their instructions perfectly; thinking clearly under pressure, making the correct decisions and not afraid to make a big tackle, every player doing their bit. A final misdemeanour and a penalty clearance to touch was followed by the welcome sound of the referee's closing blast and the game was won! The game was tight as the score reflected, 12-5 to Dane Court. This wasn't the World Cup or the Heineken Trophy final but it felt like it, moreover, it was played as if it were because it was as important to these boys now. A magnificent display of quality rugby from both sides played with true sportsmanship borne out of mutual respect. All experienced rugby players in the crowd were of the same opinion, they had witnessed a pulsating and skill-filled match between teams with contrasting styles of play. At times it was reminiscent of Rorke's Drift but those Welsh Guardsmen had little to retaliate or attack with whereas Dane Court's potency in attack was never diminished in spite of their heroic defensive effort. Skipper Courtney Horey deservedly accepted the trophy and whilst the team and coaches were euphoric they were also magnanimous in victory to their worthy final opponents. This was a triumph for teamwork, bravery but also terrific skill by the Dane Court team and substitutes, all of whom played a part in securing the final victory. The whole PE department wishes to express their enormous pride in the team and thank them for five years excellent service to the school.