It was that time of the year again and the U12 Mini’s brought an 18-strong squad to contest the District Championship at DIOK… and more importantly to qualify for the National Championships (LMT) in April. Like normal, the top 4 teams qualify for the LMT by default. Well, I say we brought 18 players… It was 18 players on Thursday night, but on Friday, the numbers started going down faster than Facebook’s shares as illness hit the squad at such a rate, it would have made Darren Anderton proud. So, we actually arrived with a 13-man squad, with Henry Gallagher being in the prestigious position of being our super-sub, in only his 3rd ever game of rugby… no pressure mate!

After arriving at DIOK RC, there were a few clubs who weren’t too happy about the schedule. The competition was divided up into 4 pools of 3 teams and you had to win your pool to qualify for the National Championships, with some pools being stronger than others. Whilst we had no complaints ourselves, let’s just say that if the teams were pulled out of a hat to make up the schedule, then Fanny really was my aunt!

The objective of the day was qualification for the nationals… obviously we wanted to compete for the districts also but with only 12 experienced players (6 first year players) and a rookie sub, we knew it would be a tough ask, given the strength of HRC, who would be fielding their best players from their numerous squads.

Our first game was against The Hookers. Knowing we couldn’t afford any slip-ups in the group stages, the Mini’s came out strong, immediately putting the Hookers under pressure and the tries started coming thick and fast. The Mini’s were fast to the breakdown to secure the rucks and they attacked at pace on the wings. The Mini’s were 6-0 up at half time and continued to dominate play; tries from Augustin, Gabriel, Henry, Jack, Jacob and Josh amongst others securing a 12-0 win.

After a 5-minute break… if you could call it that, we played DIOK (2) for LMT qualification. The Mini’s continued were they left off, dominating possession. Strong runs from Jacob and supporting forwards sucking in defenders for the backs to run in tries. Gabriel and Christopher swapping scrum-half position to provide the link between the forwards and backs. The Mini’s qualified for the LMT with an easy 9-0 win.

We now had an hour’s break, where we would meet group 4 winners; Delft in the semi-finals. We weren’t surprised to see Delft in the semis, as they are a big and capable team, who had been developing well over the season. Delft were under pressure from the kick-off, a knock-on by Delft, 10-meteres out from their try line was immediately picked up by Archie, who playing advantage, ran in a try. The Mini’s quickly added another to open a margin. In the last action of the half, Augustin made a line break, but was denied by an excellent tackle by Delft’s fullback. The Mini’s took their foot off the gas in the second half, they added another try and held firm under late pressure from Delft. Final score 3-0.

Predictably, it was the BSN against HRC in the final. The Mini’s trudged into the pitch like someone had swapped the Duracell’s with Tesco’s value pack batteries; with Jacob, Henry and Jamie also showing battle damage from the previous engagements having already played 80 minutes of rugby! The Mini’s, looked lacklustre from the very start, as they conceded from HRC’s first attack, two more tries were quickly conceded due to missed tackles as HRC attacked with speed and aggression. Three tries down in as many minutes, Jacob eventually brought the team to life, with some strong runs and the Mini’s started to put some pressure on HRC, which and been non-existent in the first three or four minutes. Jacob looked to have scored from a driving maul but was deemed to be held up. HRC soaked up the pressure of a scrum and penalty before a turnover and counter-attack saw them score just before half time. The second half was a lot more even, the Mini’s actually having most of the possession but HRC soaked up the pressure well with some good tackling and scored two tries from counter-attacks on the wings to secure a 6-0 win. Congratulation to HRC.

So, 2nd in the districts and qualification to the nationals…. nuff said!

Squad: Aiden, Archie, Christopher, David, Henry B, Henry G (super-sub), Gabriel, Jack, Jacob, Jamie, Joseph, Josh

Captain: Jamie

Man of the match: Gabriel

Coaches: Daran, Thomas, Julien… and special guest star coach: Andy!

LMT Qualifiers: HRC (1st), BSN (2nd), DIOK (3rd) and Delft (4th)