History Made by Ledbury RFC Under 14s
Ledbury 15 Luctonians 7
For the first time in the club’s history, Ledbury Rugby Club’s Under 14 contingent have won the North Midlands Junior Cup, open to all rugby clubs in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Shropshire and the Greater Birmingham area.
In what was a brilliant showcase for Herefordshire rugby, three of the four semi-finalists were Herefordshire teams this year. Ledbury beat a physical Stourbridge side to reach the final and Luctonians knocked out Hereford to claim their spot. The final was held at Dudley Kingswinford RFC and they did a superb job of hosting the tournament finals, with great facilities and plenty of the kind of volunteers that make grassroots rugby clubs tick.
The final was always going to be a tense affair. Despite the two clubs playing each other every year, neither was used to the playing in front of a grandstand of vocal support, nor the atmosphere created by the occasion.
Ledbury started brightly with sustained physical pressure in the Luctonians 22, carrying and recycling well and eventually leading to an infringement from Luctonians in front of the posts. Calm heads called for the kick to be taken and a sweet strike gave Ledbury the first points of the game from Carter Hogg after just a few minutes of play. Ledbury 3 Luctonians 0.
It didn’t take long to work out either side’s game plan. The Ledbury pack were battering their way down-field marshalled by their scrum half and Luctonians were looking to get the ball out wide, around the Ledbury pack. It made for an interesting clash of strategies, possibly not the most aesthetically pleasing, but a tight and tense game, fitting for a cup final.
Inaccuracies from both sides saw plenty of set-pieces and whilst the lineout stuttered for both sides Ledbury were in complete control at the scrum, always serving up clean ball on their own put-in and denying the opposition the same. For safety reasons the push is held at junior level, but without this rule Ledbury would’ve had much more possession and most-likely, more points too, such was their dominance. Luctonians looked dangerous out-wide, Ledbury looked dangerous through their pack, but neither side could turn the danger into further points and the first half ended a tight Ledbury 3 Luctonians 0.
Ledbury began the second half as they ended the first, attempting to bludgeon their way over the Luctonians line. They made their way deep into the Luctonians 22, where either by design or fluke a Ledbury ball carrier became a decoy and the ball moved to another carrier behind the first and he crashed over from short range for a well-deserved try from “Rambo”. With the conversion from captain Ben Deards good Ledbury extended their lead to Ledbury 10 Luctonians 0.
Despite being second-best at scrum time, the Luctonians pack had used mauls to very good effect, choke tackling Ledbury players on a number of occasions and turning over ball. They were technically astute and executed their plans very well indeed. Ledbury simply weren’t used to the technical accuracy being demanded at mauls from the lineouts and following a succession of lineouts, mauls and penalties, Luctonians moved up the field far too easily considering the energy used by Ledbury to win the territory. A maul 5m out brought Luctonians success with a well-taken try from the tail of their maul. The conversion was good and the first ten minutes of the second half had proved eventful with the score now at Ledbury 10 Luctonians 7.
Ledbury were being far too profligate with possession in their back line, with runners turned over and a number of kicks finding nothing but opposition hands. Luctonians by contrast looked dangerous with ball in hand and it needed some last ditch defending to keep them out. Luctonians were having their best spell of the game with a number of runs into the Ledbury 22. They had been lifted by their score and so it was somewhat of a sucker-punch when Ledbury turned over possession and an inspirational run into the Luctonians 22 enabled Ledbury to set up a platform to batter the Luctonians line. The pressure was too much and Luctonians infringed. Ledbury opted for a scrum, 5m out and 15m in-field. Predictably the platform was set, as it had been every time, and a neat pick and go saw a strong carry and drive from No 8 Ellis Locke over the line to score. The conversion was unsuccessful leaving the score Ledbury 15 Luctonians 7.
The final five minutes was as tense as expected. Neither team could put together a string of phases and credit must go the Luctonians defence. All season Ledbury’s ball carriers have made suitably sized holes in defences and more often than not, those rampaging runs have ended in a score. Not this time. Despite knocking on the door for the whole game, Luctonians gave up little ground around the fringes of the breakdown. From turnover ball Luctonians moved the ball wide quickly and the Ledbury line was beaten. Once again a last-ditch cover-tackle was needed and just at the right time, 5m out, it was delivered. From the resultant lineout Ledbury were unable to get much distance on the clearance and so Luctonians came again but were met with a physical Ledbury defence. The ball was eventually knocked-on and the final whistle brought cheers for some, disappointment for others and relief all round, leaving the final score Ledbury 15 Luctonians 7.
Lifting the cup was a nice end to a strong cup-run, but the testament of a great season was having one of the largest junior squads around there to support those in the match-day 22. A big squad, with big smiles was a fitting end to the 2018-19 season for Ledbury RFC Under 14s.