Hamilton and Ayr both progress in a great U18 game.
U18s continue to grow but have to respect the level they are playing at.
It was with some optimism that Hamilton U18s travelled to Ayr having the knowledge that we had improved our performance against our last two opponents. What had in fact happened was, that we had improved by a greater margin than our opponents and our hard work and improved skills and team play, had shown, as you would expect in the performance and the score board. This week, it is fair to say, that we continued to improve and put in perhaps one of our most comprehensive performances of the season so far. What we can’t factor for on the training paddock is that the opposition may also have improved at the same pace as we have. This was certainly true of Ayr and what resulted was an Under 18 game of some caliber, with some exceptional skills and game play on display from both sides, a joy for any neutral observers to enjoy. Unfortunately, there was only one and he was refereeing!
As the game started everything that was asked in the game plan was working well. Hamilton’s attacking platform and defensive press was working well. Considering the mucky conditions hands were good and it was quite a surprise that Ayr exploited a penalty and resulting line out to drive the maul over in the corner.
The game leveled again and there was some great rugby played by both sides Hamilton almost made a decisive break by releasing winger Callum Stewart with some great forward handling. The support unfortunately was a little late and the referee deemed the ball to have been held in the ruck.
It appeared that it was then Ayr’s turn to attack and as they made some ground on the right, Hamilton got sucked in and lost their focus on working hard round the corner in defence. To be fair Ayr spotted the overlap and their winger who had held his position on the touch line received a fantastic floated miss pass to send him into the corner for Ayr’s second.
Half way through the half Ayr again used a penalty to pin Hamilton back in the corner and it was a resulting ruck that allowed Ayr to drive from 2 metres over the line for their third try.
Hamilton then had a period of the game where they had Ayr pinned back in their twenty two. It was only a fantastic clearing kick that eventually relieved the pressure for the home side. Shortly after from a Hamilton tap penalty the forwards released the ball to Andrew Crawford who chipped the hard line press from Ayr, Ollie Dalby collected the ball behind the Ayr line and with only the fullback to beat unfortunately the pass to release Andrew was judged to have been knocked on. As the half drew to a close, it was however another penalty on the Hamilton five metre line that allowed Ayr to use their effective forwards to rumble the ball over the line for the fourth try of the day.
In the Hamilton huddle there was only resolve at half time, to right what appeared to be a totally unrealistic score line of 26-0.
It was Hamilton that made the first decisive move of the half combining Ollie and Jordan Craig in a break from the Hamilton twenty two well into the Ayr half. Receiving a penalty Andrew put the ball in the corner five metres from the Ayr line. Unfortunately the ball was stolen in the lineout and Ayr were able to clear their lines.
Ayr then attacked with speed down the left hand side of the park and won themselves another penalty on Hamilton’s five metre line. Kicking to for touch they used their effective driving maul for a second time to get over the line for the first try of the half.
For twenty minutes the game was played between the twenty two metre lines. Both teams creating some great attacking rugby and but being neutralised by some great defence. It was in the last five minutes of the game that Hamilton made a handling mistake on their own twenty two metre line and as the ball bounced off a shoulder Ayr got an easy catch and run in for a the final try of the game taking the score to 38-0
Once again the challenge of playing the top teams in the country has brought out the best in this U18 squad. Scores are low down in the priorities when the required improvement to even compete at this level is getting delivered week in week out. The way that the boys have risen to the challenge and on several occasions been complemented by the opposition on how they are so obviously at this level, is fantastic to see. It was great to see that skills worked on at a Wednesday session and feedback given to the individuals showing as actions on the park and there is really a willingness from the boys to improve every week. To be honest the coaches could not be more happy at the progress. Well done guys!
Thanks once again for the great support, Libby and Mary for the photos and Aaron who came all the way to Ayr to be game assistant this week. Thanks to Ayr for their hospitality and as always a great game played in the great spirit of rugby.
Next Week it is a 12pm kick off against West at home. We look forward to inviting all the club members to come and watch the next chapter in this team’s growth.