This Bank Holiday Monday saw Guildford Under-18s celebrate the phenomenal achievement of getting their hands on The National Colts Cup. Guildford’s future stars – under the stewardship of Lions Sports Director and Coach, Andy Jones – beat York Under-18s in a thrilling final at the home of the Bedford Blues. But the run did not begin there. Rather, it all started on a warm September day in Teddington. What was thought to be a slightly depleted Guildford side – with a number Under-17s drafted in – performed brilliantly to overcome Teddington 29-5, in a more comfortable encounter than many had predicted.
(Matt Vawdrey breaching the Teddington defence - Image courtesy of Julian Cotta)
Then came Esher, fielding a full-strength Surrey Division One line-up. However, still with key players absent and a side full of younger talent, Guildford strolled comprehensively to victory, by a 43-15 scoreline. And there was more of the same to come; almost a carbon-copy in fact, as Guildford ran out 45-13 winners against Alton. Having played together very seldom as a unit, and with many carrying fatigue and niggles into the game, Guildford’s new look pack took a while to get going. But when they did, they bullied their opponents into submission at the breakdown, and ran out comfortable winners in the end.
(A pennetrating run from Miles McDuffus - Image courtesy of Julian Cotta)
Next up were Braintree, brimming with confidence after a 54-5 demolition of Thurrock, and once again expected to provide stern opposition. However, supreme performances up front from Dan Davis, Hugh Leckie and Will Sutcliffe – not to mention Under-17 flanker Archie Hosking – laid the foundations for a glut of opportunities for the backs to feast on. George Rhodes and hat-trick hero Miles McDuffus helped themselves to the buffet, with their dazzling footwork and incisive running leading Guildford to a thumping 45-7 win.
(Dan Davis breaking tackles against Braintree with Mcduffus in support - Image courtesy of Julian Cotta)
After a freak trampolining incident compounded their already lengthy injury list, Guildford travelled to Worthing. Playing a side well-renowned for their physicality, on a miserable March day on the south coast, this was always going to be one for the purists – but no-one had predicted the rollercoaster that would follow.
(Dazzling pace from George Rhodes as he beats Alton Defenders - Image courtesy of Julian Cotta)
With the wind behind them, Guildford slugged their way through an attritional first half to lead at the interval, via another try from that man McDuffus. However, against the wind in the second half, 8-0 looked a slender margin. In conditions increasingly resembling a quagmire, Guildford huffed and puffed by could not get over the line – not definitively anyway, in the eyes of the referee – and in an instant, two breakaway tries gave Worthing a 12-8 lead. However, against the wind, the rain, a resurgent Worthing and a partisan crowd, Guildford rallied, and 10 minutes from time Matt Edmondes went over in the corner to secure a hard-fought victory.
(Tom Heyes packing down in the scrum on a day for the purists - Image courtesy of Julian Cotta)
Guildford then met the undefeated kings of Colts Rugby in the southwest, St Austell, in what was meant to be an extremely tough quarter-final. In reality, however, the win never looked in doubt. From the moment Rhodes cut through the defence to open the scoring, Guildford were in the ascendancy, and barring a brief period of Cornish forward dominance in the first half, Guildford were in total control. The end result was 38-10, with McDuffus yet again at the heart of things, adding two tries and an assist to his sizeable tally.
(Max Texier in the middle of one of his barnstorming runs - Image courtesy of Julian Cotta)
The semi-final draw beckoned in a home tie against much-fancied Midlands champs Chinnor, and for the first half at least, it looked like it would be more of the same. Tries from Rhodes, Williams and – yep, you guessed it – McDuffus, saw Guildford delight the Broadwater crowd to a 20-0 half-time advantage. The second half, however, was a different story. Chinnor’s superior fitness began to tell as they bludgeoned their way back into the tie with two tries. Battered, beleaguered and bereft of the injured Texier and Edmondes, Guildford clung on to a 25-17 win, thanks in no small part to a heroic defensive effort from man-of- the-match Jamie Cotta.
(Jamie Cotta putting in a text book tackle against Chinnor - Image courtesy of Julian Cotta)
Finally, the final – and yet another tale of two halves. This time, however, it was Guildford who had to dig deep and come back from a losing position. At a significantly sloping Bedford ground, in blustery conditions, York enjoyed near total domination in a first half that saw Guildford earn two yellow cards and zero points. 11-0 to York at half-time. However, it was not over yet.
(Hugh Tizzard finishing off a self made try - Image courtesy of Julian Cotta)
A change in tactics in the second half saw Guildford utilise their substantial man-for- man weight advantage in the pack, bringing the pick-and- go into play far more than it had been before. This, coupled with the slope advantage, meant York had no resistance to offer. Thanks to three second half tries, Guildford ran out 17-11 victors to get their hands on the illustrious trophy. Well done Guildford, and well done Andy!
(National Colts Cup Champions 2017 - Image courtesy of Julian Cotta)