A difficult season for many reasons but as ever seeing the boys playing Rugby and importantly enjoying it made up for any difficulties we had. Under 17’s teams have historically been difficult to maintain as the demands of school, part time work and girls take their toll.
However we were determined to keep the age group together and provide the entire squad as many opportunities to play rugby as we could, we started the season with 29 boys signed on, once again we entered the challenging Division 1 of the HML league.
At the same time the club had set up the Academy for under 18’s and our players would not only get the opportunity to train and play with the Academy but go on to provide a significant number of the regular playing team.
The league didn’t start well with a significant loss to Hitchin, the score line of 14-43 in Hitchin’s favour did not fairly reflect a game that Ampthill could have easily won, a lack of composure at important times, forcing the game when we should have been patient allowed the game to get away from us.
We managed to put this disappointment behind us and went on to win the next 4 games against Esher (12-23), Twickenham (36-15), Bishops Stortford (47-19) and Saracens (18-22). The game against Saracens being particularly satisfying as we played this game with our captain and vice-captain away on East Midlands duty and injuries leading to us borrowing 3 players from the Under 16s.
The game was played in a heavy snow and was interrupted for twenty minutes when Jacob Dodd dislocated his knee, at this point Saracens led, the boys were given the option to call the game off and replay later in the year but insisted they wanted to play on as they felt they could win the game, which they did, a very proud moment for the coaches.
A significant number of the team attend Samuel Whitbread and participate in the Northampton Saints sponsored rugby programme, the squad were very proud of their achievements this year making the National Schools final, the first state school to do so.
We unfortunately had to pull out of the Under 17’s Beds Cup as the Academy had a National Cup game the same day and needed us to release players, which we were happy to oblige but then did not have enough players for our game.
We went into the new year with a real opportunity to win the league, unfortunately the demands of school and academy rugby along with a number of players understandably deciding that they needed to concentrate on school work, had started to take its toll.
We went into a crunch game with OA’s losing our Captain Fynn Cooke to a dislocated knee the day before the game and were left with 17 players, three of which were again under 16’s players. Despite this the team were fantastic, racing into a 17-0 half time lead. Unfortunately second half injuries and the tough demands of the game took their effect, with two minutes to go we were down 22-17 but camped on OA’s line, only for OA’s to run the full length to score and win the game 29-17.
I would like to thank Josh Stone and the under 16s players who played for us in both games, without them the games wouldn’t have gone ahead and all of the players acquitted themselves fantastically in both games.
While we played a number of friendlies, all with positive performances and results, a number of games had to be called off either due to poor weather or a lack of fit players.
So with the league unfortunately lost we went into the final game for the age group against Harpenden in the league, again disrupted by injuries and a lack of training sessions, we unfortunately came up short, losing 26-17.
In reality we lost this game purely down to a loss of concentration and intensity for twenty minutes of the first half, letting in three tries, had we played as well as we did in the second half for the entire game it would have been a very different result.
I would like to thank all the coaches, helpers and parents for all their support and hard work not only this year but since this team came together 11 years ago, it has been a journey.
I am extremely proud of the boys and the effort and commitment they put in week in week out, I have been fortunate to witness them develop from not more than babies to young men that there parents, the club and our local community can be proud of.
I will miss coaching the boys but believe I am passing them over to an Academy that will help them further develop both as men and rugby players and look forward to watching them play as a supporter rather than a coach.
Thank you boys for the enjoyment and pride you have bought to myself and all the coaches over the last 11 years, good luck in all that you do in the future.