2018 has been a great year for the Guildford U21 squad who are unbeaten so far in this season’s U21s Surrey Cup. They were drawn in a group with Old Ruts, Effingham & Leatherhead and Sutton & Epsom. As we finished top of the group in the pool stages we qualify for the semi-final of the Cup Competition which will be played over the Easter Break.
The U21 Surrey Cup Competition began in 2005 with the intention of providing an opportunity for clubs to give their young players who had gone to University a chance to reunite and play with their mates in a competitive environment during the university vacations. Guildford re-entered the competition after a break of several years in the 2016/17 season where we were finalists in the Plate Competition losing to Reeds in the dying seconds, as a long range kick to win the game dropped under the cross-bar. Last season we were finalists in the Shield Competition, but due to the terrible weather conditions over the Easter period we couldn’t play the game. This season we have improved on the previous two in winning the group and making the Cup Semi finals.
Our first game was at home against Old Ruts back in September before the players dispersed across the country to their respective universities. The team comprises a range of players from U18 through to U21 and took a while to gel as it was the first time most of them had played together. Old Ruts were a very physical and skilful team who wanted to play in a very unstructured way and who proved to be a stern test for the scratch Guildford team. Guildford managed to control proceedings enough to come out 24-17 winners – try scorers were George Harding, David Voller and Rob Voller.
The next outing for the U21 squad was on 22 December after a 3 month break, when they had another home game against Effingham & Leatherhead. Games between these two sides have always been keenly contested throughout the youth age groups and this game was no different. Both sides scoring 4 tries, the Guildford scorers were David Voller, Dan Wallace, Sam Westerman and Freddie Blagden. The 100% kicking accuracy of Rob Voller combined with a second half penalty kicked by Ben King, being enough to separate the two sides as Guildford ran out 31 – 22 winners.
The final pool game of 2018 was played at Sutton & Epsom under lights on 28 December. The last time we played Sutton was in our first season back in the competition when we won in the semi final, so we were hoping for a similar outcome this time round.
With the U21 side it is difficult to get the same team out for two games running and this year proved no exception. Due to injuries and unavailability we had to look for reinforcements both outside the club, which is allowed within the competition rules, and from within the Guildford U17 and U18 teams, which meant ensuring that we followed the club safeguarding procedures before some of the younger players could take the field. This resulted in documents being emailed around Surrey to collect relevant signatures and approvals a couple of hours before kick off.
The team showed six changes from the previous Saturday and again took their time to get going, conceding several penalties early on to a very physical Sutton team who took an early 3 – 0 lead. Guildford had very little possession early on and frustrations started to show. As the half wore on however, Guildford got into their stride and scored 3 tries from Joe Wilderspin, Rob Voller and David Voller with one conversion, going in at half time with a 3 – 17 lead.
The second half got off to a perfect start with Tom Westerman scoring a try out wide early on with his first touch of the ball. It was then a case of keeping in control and working hard to ensure the result. With another try from David Voller and two penalty tries, Guildford finished 10 – 41 winners.
The table at the end of the pool stage is shown below.
|Team||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Points For||Points Against||Points Difference||Try Bonus||Losing Bonus||Points|
|Sutton & Epsom||3||2||0||1||87||105||-18||2||0||10|
|Effingham & Leatherhead||3||0||0||3||68||84||-16||2||2||4|
We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has supported the U21s over the last three seasons and particularly in this season’s campaign which is our best performance at this stage since we entered the competition in 2016. This illustrates the depth of talented young players we are lucky enough to have at Guildford which bodes well for the future. So, on behalf of the players, thank you to everyone for their support – particularly to the following who have given generously of their time over the Christmas period: Peter Rankin, Peter Bergman, Bric Tyson, Ieuan Jones, Chris Alder, Rob Butler, Ant Lloyd, John Mairs, Matt Trott, Ollie Bancroft and to everyone who has come and cheered them on.
I would also like to thank Kelly Hill, the Director of Rugby at Godalming College, who has helped me coach the side this season, and provided a great link between Godalming college and Guildford Rugby.
And finally, Penny Burden has been critical to the development of this side with her boundless energy, enthusiasm and an ability to get players to turn out for the side to make sure we are able to fulfil our fixtures, and for taking the thousands of photos to record every second of every game played by the U21s.
We go again at Easter – fixtures will be published early in 2019.
U21 Head Coach