The first weekend of the new league season saw Mill Hill run in 8 tries away from home against UCS Old Boys, putting a marker down in Herts/Middlesex 1 having been promoted to the league last season.
The pre-match build-up was classic Mill Hill; an injury before the match left us rearranging our already depleted pack while half the team met at the club for a lift to the ground with only one car and driver in attendance. Having arrived at UCS' brand new ground (& very nice it is too), with all our gear squeezed into the back of a Toyota Prius, we taped up, put our kit on and got ready to go to work. The weather was glorious and we knew that this match was going to be a real test of all the fitness work we've been putting in over preseason. Our scrum half Seb arrived two minutes before kick-off, having forgotten to set his alarm, and with that we were ready for kick off; our first taste of rugby in the Herts/Middlesex 1.
The disorganised pre-match was mirrored in the first 15 minutes of the game. Mill Hill kicked off to begin proceedings only to be caught in front of the kicker straight away, scrum to UCS on the halfway. The home team started strongly, they won their own ball and began attacking with direct runners and an impressive intensity but the Mill Hill defence was valiant, big physical tackles and dogged work at the breakdown from forwards and backs alike. The only issue was our discipline; numerous team penalties saw UCS maintain their position in our 22 for a good 10 minutes, hammering away at our try line - but they could not break the resistance. The first real moment of the match came after we forced a turnover on our own line but from the resulting clearance kick Jimmy was caught just offside and after making a trademark tackle was shown a yellow card for an accumulation of penalties from the team. Mill Hill down to 14.
The first try of the game followed shortly after and it went to the home team. Still stuck in the 22 Mill Hill sent a long clearing kick down the pitch and the chase was good. However, a man down we couldn't quite cover the space and a strong run down the touchline saw the UCS full back in to the corner. 5-0 UCS, conversion missed. Mill Hill regrouped under the posts and promised to step up for the rest of the game. The ill-discipline continued for the next 5 minutes with UCS working their way back into our 22, however, a missed penalty kick from the UCS fly half gave us a chance to clear our lines. From the ensuing 22 dropout Remi went up to catch the ball but a heavy landing on the head meant he was off for the rest of the game, replaced by Kian, who made his league debut for Mill Hill.
The injury galvanised Mill Hill and from that moment on we changed gear. It was the first time we had had the ball in the UCS half, a couple of penalties went our way and after some kicks to the corner and strong line out work from the forwards we had their try line in our sights. The forwards carried strongly and maintained possession at the rucks, whilst the backs were also pummelling away at the line, perhaps not the prettiest pattern of play but we were determined to get over the line. Big Ben Nwaka finally broke through and powered over the line. Mill Hill on the board 5-7, conversion made. We were back to our full complement of players with Jimmy returning to action and had the bit between our teeth; the second try came not long after. UCS kicked off and after a few phases Mill Hill put a long kick down field into the UCS 22. The chase was immaculate; Jimmy (with slightly fresher legs than the rest) worked his socks off and smashed into the full back just as he caught the ball, the hit was hard enough to dislodge the ball and Tim pounced on it to go over the line for Mill Hill's second try. 5-14, conversion made. Our strong play continued; defending on the half way line a chopping tackle came in before a good turnover on the deck from Charlie and a slick pass to Sam Fenn who ran 50m to score near the corner. 5-21, conversion made. Soon after that, the half time whistle blew.
We came out for the second half raring to go, wanting to maintain the momentum. Our enthusiasm was perhaps a little bit misplaced, however, as a borderline high tackle from Tim, followed by an incorrect entry to the ruck from Will Gleeson saw them both sin-binned. Mill Hill down to 13. We knew we had to keep things tight with two men down. The next try came when, off a powerful Mill Hill scrum, the ball reached Charlie at fly half who chipped over the top of the UCS defensive line, he regathered it and managed to beat the covering full back to the corner for the try. 5-26, conversion missed. Mill Hill were now in total control, Tim and Gleeson returned to the pitch and over the course of the rest of the second half Mill Hill ran in four more tries, all converted. Two more came for Sam who secured his hat trick, big Frank got one in the corner after great hands down the blind side and Tim made a great outside break before a lovely left-hand pass inside put Jimmy under the posts.
The match finished 5-54 to Mill. And what a performance it was, the forwards worked tirelessly (shout-out to Tom playing out of position at prop) and the backs brought out some lovely hands and running lines, especially in the second half. We won't get ahead of ourselves just yet but can be incredibly proud of the effort put in. Back to training on Tuesday before our first home game of the season against Thamesians on Saturday at 3pm (get down and support). The hard work continues...
MOTM - Charlie
KOTM - Sam