Prologue Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t ! – After a successful 2014 campaign with two promotions and a cup final behind us, the 2015 U15’s coaching team took the decision to enter 4 competitions with a squad of 35 players, aiming to provide as much playing time to all squad members as possible.
Act I We have seen better days – Strong hopes were around as we started our East Midlands Cup journey away to Stockwood Park. After making the final the year before we intended to go one better and win the competition and A’s breezed through to the ¼ finals with a convincing win. In the ¼ finals we were drawn against Towcestrians – again a winnable game however despite best efforts, A’s went down to a strong side and the bid to make the final two years in a row was over really before it had even begun.
Act II Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown – Serial Bedfordshire Cup Winners, Bedford Junior Blues were our first opponents in the competition. Despite having gained a long awaited victory over them the year before, Bedford were still favourites to retain the trophy for another year. An excellent away win with, for once at Bedford, some decent refereeing, saw the team drawn against an improving Dunstablians side in the Semi Final. Dunstablians were flying high in the HML Division 3 however against a Division 1 side this should have been a routine win. In the end, A’s won by a single point as the D’s boys showed great heart and staged a late rally to bring a full time score of 20-19. The final was played at Dillingham Park against Leighton Buzzard and the squad turned in an excellent performance in front of a good size crowd on Pitch 3 to win 62-12. The style of the performance was illustrated when the coaching team were disappointed with the two tries conceded. Chairman Garwood took great pleasure in presenting the Beds Cup to the A’s captain for the day – Charlie Garwood and this A’s squad lifted the trophy for the first time in 5 years.
Act III Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them – Champions of East Midlands League 3 in 2014, our development squad moved up to League 2 and our expectations were to consolidate in this league and provide playing opportunities to all players throughout the season. An impressive first game win away to Bugbrooke set the tone for the season, and this was followed with a walk over against Huntingdon and a comprehensive win over Northampton BBOB. An away trip to St Ives proved to be the toughest game of this campaign with A’s winning by a single point after being dragged into a physical game rather than playing the open style of Rugby that the coaching team have been developing all season. It proved a good win in the end, and also a lesson to the boys on how not to react to indiscipline by the opposition or some rather weak officiating. The league championship was secured with further wins over Wellingborough and Buzzard and back to back championships for our development squad. All of the coaching staff were extremely pleased with the efforts of the boys and this was reflected in the number of boys then getting opportunities to play in the A squad in HML games.
Act IV Scene I -When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions – Our toughest tests of the season were to be found in the HML Division 1. We were promoted last season along with Twickenham and as fate would have it, this was to be our first game of the season at this level. Twickenham, having won Division 2 the season before started favourites but were soon on the back foot as A’s ran in try after try and showed that the 6 week pre-season fitness sessions run by Sarge had paid off. We then had to wait a long time for our next game due to weather postponements and some unhelpful fixture red tape by the East Midlands RFU which meant that our remaining HML games were tucked into the remaining few weeks of the season. We visited Ealing and their fantastic facilities and came away with tails between our legs and a were taught a lesson that missed tackles loses matches. A home game against Saracens was equally as frustrating, with our forwards matching the Saracens pack in each play but overall our tackling and lack of final execution cost us dear. A visit to the defending champions Hertford proved the lowlight of the season with the team returning on the back of a 70 point loss and then we faced a trip to Bedford. Despite dominating the first 25 minutes in which we could have scored 40 points, we came into halftime with a 12-7 lead. A poor referring decision led to a converted try by Bedford at the start of the 2nd half and the game finished with a 2 point loss.
Act IV Scene II – Out of the jaws of death… Suffering three defeats in as many weeks could dent a squads confidence and with OA’s coming up in the final match the coaching staff worked with all the boys to ensure they were focused on the final game. In a division of two halves, any two of four teams could be relegated on the final day of the season, with A’s needing to win with a bonus point to stay up. A delayed kick off added to the nerves, and a tight first 15 minutes unfolded with A’s defending excellently up the slope against a strong OA’s side. A backs move led to an excellent fist score, and then a moment of inspiration led to another and the team were 12-0 up at half time. Playing down the slope, and with confidence brewing, the squad turned in the most joined up 60 minutes of Rugby all season and ended up winning 34-7 and in turn – after checking the rules in the bar – confirmed our Division 1 status for another year. OA’s, gracious in defeat, were relegated on the day along with Bedford – we wish both sides all the best for 2016 / 2017.
Epilogue – Alls well that ends well – With divisional status confirmed, two cups in the bag and a number of new players embedded in the squad, a good season overall. To add to the success, in the newly formed U15 DPP side, Ampthill made up over ½ of the boys selected and of that, one of the squad made it further and is now representing Ampthill at the EPDG sessions with Northampton Saints. As we start to prepare for the 2016 season, our head coaches can already be heard screaming – Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more
Joint Head Coaches : Damon Blakey & Craig Ashby
Team Manager : Ellen Ashby