Academy get back to winning ways at Fortress Meads
By Peter Hutton
Academy end 2018 with impressive win at home.
Having been on the wrong end of a 27-0 result at a wet Priest Hill in October for this, our final game of 2018, we welcomed Sutton & Epsom to the Meads for the return friendly. The onus was on the Academy to make amends and end the year with a win, although, as before, the order of the day to the squad was to have the license and confidence to play open rugby.
To start with a cliché, this really was a game of two halves. In the first period the Academy had significant possession and enjoyed the early territory; however our forays into the opposition in goal area resulted in scrums or 22 drop outs rather than points on the board. After six minutes the game was paused to allow for an injury to one of our players. This hiatus seemed to mute our early momentum and gradually the tide turned with S&E pressure drifting the game into our half and ultimately into our in-goal area (0-5). Both teams then traded attack and defensive roles, with handling errors and knock-ons leading to a succession of scrums, penalties and lineouts. Although there was a greater degree of parity between the two teams compared to the October match, it was S&E that added to their score on 20 minutes with another, unconverted, try (0-10). This was the score line going into the second period.
Squad rotation saw a few fresh Academy players swapped in; in common parlance I think the phrase we use these days is “game changers”. The Academy’s purple patch came after about 5 minutes with the kick ‘n’ chase strategy finally being rewarded with a try (5-10). Four minutes later parity had been achieved as continuing Academy pressure was rewarded with another 5 points (10-10). S&E continued to persevere, but with our forwards putting in a shift our defence held. Our third try settled the nerves (15-10) and then our final try was a small moment of individual beauty with a 60-yard sprint down the wing culminating in the ball being dotted down under the sticks (20-10).
All in all, after the recent string of defeats this was a good way to round off part one of the season. The manner and maturity of the Academy play was encouraging against proven tough opposition and hopefully bodes well for 2019. Big thanks to Nick Bush for officiating. Well done to all the players for their efforts today; but that effort will only be worthwhile if this win acts as a springboard for the second half of the season. It is home training for the next two weeks and, as the coaches noted, there are still definite areas for improvement so a full complement at the Meads would be appreciated.