Kesteven’s Black Army U14s travelled to Ruskington Road on a gorgeous late autumn morning to face tough opposition from the Sleaford boys on Sunday.
Whilst both teams had minimal numbers for the match, the game was played at a high tempo and in good spirits with a high quality of rugby on show, resulting in a very close finish.
Ks captain Zak Draycott won the toss, elected to kick and immediately the visitors went on the offensive with excellent phase play and smart tactical kicking from Hawkins, starting in an unfamiliar 10 shirt. Harry Clough went over the line first after a nice move down the right wing to open the scoring.
Sleaford didn’t really wake up until after a quarter had elapsed but by then George Park, who impressed again in the open side flanker slot, had gone over for Kesteven’s second score.
It was this score that stirred the home side and, led superbly by captain Ewen Owen, Sleaford began their comeback. Strong running from the centres and wings coupled with uncharacteristic poor tackling from Kesteven led to two tries in three minutes to level the scores at half time.
After the break, Kesteven gained a penalty on Sleaford’s 5m line. Opting for the corner, Ks regained possession from the line-out and fly-half Tom Helliwell threaded his way through the tiniest of gaps to nose the visitors ahead.
With Clough back on the field, the pressure mounted and another penalty in the 22 allowed him to intelligently take three points, which would prove decisive at the final whistle.
However, Sleaford again upped their game and for 15 minutes Kesteven could not hold their open running play, opting to sit back in defence and be lazy with tackles. Full back Hawkins was sin binned for a high challenge and, whilst he was off the field, Sleaford scored twice, one an excellent solo effort and the second after a line-out error from Kesteven whilst in Sleaford’s danger zone.
But, to their credit, at 22-18 down Kesteven didn’t give up. Nice control from half backs Bryn Williams and Helliwell steered the boys to within striking range and it was aptly left to man of the match Jacob Ball to crash over after a signature bullocking run to nose ahead by a point.
Kesteven won the day though with strong performances from Keenlyside, Clough, Park, Ball, Helliwell, Brady and Draycott; Jacob Ball was named player of the day and took home the Underwood Trophy, which is supported by Rory Underwood, former Leicester Tiger and England star and ex-RAF pilot.
The Kesteven U14 squad were lucky enough to secure funding from RAF College Cranwell, Recruiting and Selection, and their match kit proudly boasts the RAF Recruiting logo.