Newbury Blues
Sun 12 May 2024
Newbury Rugby Football Club
Newbury Blues
Tries: T THORNE, J WINFIELD, W OsborneConversions: D THORNE (2)Penalties: D THORNE (2)
Victorious, Cup Winning  Blues

Victorious, Cup Winning Blues

brian lee13 May - 19:11
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Great teamwork , great resolve, great skill lead to Blues winning their Papa John Cup South Shield Final at Dings Crusaders in Bristol

The Rugby Football Union, (bless 'em) was founded in 1871 and since then they haven't half copped a load of stick from stakeholders everywhere. Most famously, ex England captain, Will Carling, in 1995 referred to the RFU General Committee as, "57 old farts." Not surprisingly he was sacked as captain but later reinstated. The real issue was the increasing demands put on elite players in what was still an amateur game. After the game went professional in that year, the RFU had an opportunity to shape the future of the game by collaborating with what were the newly professionalised clubs. Looking on from the outside the generous thing to say is that the clubs and RFU continue to work towards a full understanding of each other's position, some twenty nine years later. Whatever the perceived failings of the RFU in some quarters, the one thing they have done right recently is to introduce the Papa John's Cup for community clubs. There is a very different feel to a cup game than a league game and if that cup game is a final then, wow. Excitement, anticipation, enthusiasm and so much more and these were evident in the build up to last Sunday's final at Dings Crusaders. It's one thing getting to a final it's another thing altogether winning it and that is exactly what Blues did last weekend and what a feeling at the end of the game for the players, coaching and support staff and supporters. It was great to be there and thanks to everyone who turned up to support the boys. The effort put in by the whole squad was monumental and Gravesend were outplayed for much of the game. In his team talk to the players prior to kick off Head Coach James McAvoy said "The best thing about history is making it," and at the end of the game that is exactly what this group of Blues players did, their first Papa John's cup victory in only the second season of the competition. Well done boys, great effort.

The start though. Great intakes of breath as Gravesend came at us with a bang and for the first ten minutes or so it was all Gravesend, winning ball at will, winning penalty after penalty, winning scrums and lineouts, communication not at its usual high standard and after ten minutes Blues were trailing eight nil. The Gravesend supporters must have been thinking, "this could well be our day." But like all sport it's often not the first ten minutes that are crucial it's the next ten minutes, and the next, and the next and so on and as the game progressed Blues took an increasing stranglehold on proceedings and for the final seventy minutes Gravesend failed to score any points. That statistic alone is enough to exemplify the magnificent defence of the team. Captain Dan Thorne acknowledged this superb effort of his team and pointed out that team defence has improved out of all recognition compared to the start of the season.

So, ten minutes in, Gravesend looking strong but then a glimmer, a spark that can sometimes help turn the fortunes of a team. Dan Thorne, a perfect attacking high, hanging kick in the middle of the field, Oli Rhodes chasing for all his worth and a superb jump and catch at full stretch with defenders all around him. From the resulting breakdown, Blues won a penalty and clawed back three points. This gave Blues confidence and they started looking to get to the edge, almost succeeding but Jamie Futcher was just pushed into touch. Crisp, accurate passing wasn't the only thing on show, so was the relentless carrying of Jonny Lees, making ground from which Blues could launch attacks. And if that wasn't enough Blues scrum started to gain dominance. Ben Hicks and man of the match George Robinson Slater were simply outstanding. Their work led not only to a number of scrum penalties but to the disruption of a lot of Gravesend ball, stifling their ability to create attacks of their own. As the penalty count began to shift in favour of Blues, Gravesend were fortunate not to go further behind but then after exerting a lot of pressure on their opponents Blues scored a thoroughly deserved try, Toby Thorne going over from short range after a strong attacking Blues scrum close to the Gravesend line. The successful conversion by Dan Thorne made the score 10-8 to Blues at half time.

The start of the second half was reminiscent of the first few minutes of the game, Gravesend disrupting Blues ball and gaining an attacking foothold. And then another repeat of the first half, Gravesend failing to deal with a high kick giving Blues good field position. Although Gravesend managed to clear their lines, it wasn't long before they were under more pressure, another Blues scrum penalty resulting in Dan Thorne adding three more points to take the score to 13-8 ten minutes into the second period. Gravesend were now finding it difficult to break out and develop any attacking phases due to the relentless defensive effort of Blues and as the half progressed, Blues seemed to be well in control of the game. With only five points the difference though, everyone knew a Gravesend breakout, a lucky bounce of the ball, a refereeing decision going in their favour would see them back in the lead and mid way through the half these were nervy moments for the travelling Blues support. Some of the the concern was lifted on the hour mark when Blues scored their second try, courtesy of a reverse penalty decision and a yellow card for one of the Gravesend players. The initial penalty on the Gravesend five metre line had gone against Blues but some player backchat led to the reversal of the penalty. As all players and supporters know, chat back to the referee at your peril, particularly a referee who was very decisive in his decision making. Blues opted for the scrum, began nudging forward and Josh Winfield picked up from his number eight position to power over for the try to take the score to 18-8. Some breathing space at last and a scoreline that started to reflect the balance of the game. It was now all Blues, with Gravesend struggling to get out of their half. On one of the occasions they did mange an attack, Blues turned over the ball and transitioned to an attack of their own in an instance with some slick handling and decision making. Continued pressure on Gravesend resulted in them miskicking a defensive clearance and then Tom Cole almost scored with a chip over the defence, noticing the full back was out of position. The game was now entering its final five minutes and to their credit Blues not for one moment took their foot off the pedal and with the final play of the game, some top class handling from right to left resulted in Will Osborne going over for Blues third try. The successful conversion by Dan Thorne made the final score 25-8.

Whatever the level, whatever the sport, to win a knock out competition is special, that realisation of success as the players lifted the shield to show to the supporters in the stand before going over to speak to their family and friends who had come along to support. As one of the players said afterwards, "My dad came to see the game and to share this moment with him is great." And that's what all players say, elite or amateur, it's those moments of sharing success both with team mates and family and friends that are so important and make it all worthwhile.
What a day, what a way to end the season and what a coach journey home! As always huge thanks to everyone who travelled west to what is a great rugby city and here's to next season. Have a great summer.

Brian Lee

Ben Hicks
Harry Waye Branch
George Robinson Slater
Ashley Doel
Duncan Craigen
Alex Du Sautoy
Jonny Lees
Josh Winfield
Toby Thorne
Dan Thorne
Michael Klichovicz
Ali McGee
Oli Rhodes
Jamie Futcher
Tom Cole
Tom Haynes
Robbie Drysdale
Sebastian Burgess
Charlie Lewis
Will Osborne
Jacob Checksfield
Josh Bartlett

Veo link for the game

Big thanks to the large contingent of faithful Blues supporters who made the journey to Dings

Big thanks to our match day photographer Peter Branch whose photos can be found on Facebook Newbury RFC Seniors Supporters Photography Page.

Big thanks to all our Player Sponsors and our Club Sponsors, your support is much appreciated

Big thanks to Stella Coulthurst and Kennet Radio for their support,

Match details

Match date

Sun 12 May 2024


Team overview
Further reading

Team Sponsors

Player Sponsor - Prianto
Player Sponsor - VOS
Team Sponsor - T  Mather Tree Services
Team Sponsor - Kress
Club Sponsor - Precision Fabrication
Club Sponsor - Dave Shields
Player Sponsor - Kept Assets Limited
Player Sponsor - Swindon Sports Therapy
Player Sponsor - WMJ Consulting
Player Sponsor - MJP THERAPY
Player Sponsor - Vets4Pets