Shrewsbury School

Rugby: 1st XV and U15 XV tour to Valencia February 2012

Friday 17 February 2012

Both the 1st XV and U15 rugby squads took the skies this half term and landed in Valencia in order to test themselves against foreign opposition. While the locals wrapped up for their ‘chilly’ weather of 16 degrees, the Shrewsbury boys donned shorts, polos and flip flops, making sure they took advantage of their mid season sun!

In addition to excellent performances on the pitch, the boys managed also to fit in visits to the sights and sounds of Valencia's old and new towns, the impressive aquarium and arts and science museums, the Valencia vs Sporting de Gijon La Liga match, a trip to the vast city beach for touch rugby and volleyball, plus plenty of paella.  This was most certainly a trip to remember.  Full match reports below.

1st XV Match reports:
Despite starting the tour with a defeat (3-29) against a strong U18 regional side, the Shrewsbury boys went from strength to strength recording good victories over local club sides, Tecnidex (50-5) and CAU Rugby (46-7).  Performances of the highest order were more pleasing than simply the results, with the team producing some of the best rugby Shrewsbury has seen over recent seasons.

Match 1 vs Comunidad Valencia
LOST 29-3
In a match that was always going to be the toughest on the tour, the 1st XV played well in fits and spirts but could not counter the speed and physicality of the U18 Valencian regional side who compete in the Spanish National Championships this week. This representative side pulls from around 10-12 club teams as far north as Castellon de la Plana and as far south as Alicante. A new experience for many of the team was playing on an artificial grass and rubber crumb 3G surface, and apart from a few burnt knees, it was a positive introduction. Charlie Farquhar scored Shrewsbury's three points, and many of the opposition's tries came from tight and powerful running around the fringes of the breakdown. There were enough encouraging signs and opportunities to give Shrewsbury heart for the rest of the week.

Match 2 vs Tecnidex Valencia
WON 50-5
This was without doubt one of the best performances in recent years by a Shrewsbury XV against a defensively sound club side, but one which didn't have the opportunity to threaten the Shrewsbury line that often. The tempo of play was lightening quick, the speed and aggressiveness at the breakdown outstanding, and some superb handling and back play a real feature. Most improved player of the tour Jamie Galyer really stood out in this one, carrying the ball with real determination and strength and was almost always responsible for stealing some of the opposition ball. Player's Player of the Tour Alasdair Pollock ran the show very well at fly-half and his accurate distribution set off some impressive back moves, finished with precision by Ed Wilson, Tom Fletcher-Wilson and George Ellery amongst others. The boys were on a real high after this one - they knew that the quality of their play had reached new heights.

Tries: Ellery (2), Wilson, Bridges-Webb, Fletcher-Wilson, Mason (J), Galyer
Cons: Mason (W) x 6
Pens: Mason (W)

Match 3 vs CAU Rugby Valencia
WON 46-7
It was perhaps always going to be difficult to surpass the performance of the night before, but following a good active recovery and stretch in the swimming pool, the team were determined to match the tempo and quality of play, and finish the tour on a high. Once again on a 3G surface, the game was played in an excellent spirit although the officious nature of the referee perhaps spoilt the flow of the match somewhat and there were periods of play that were very stop/start and tedious. However, once again the backs delighted the crowds with some good handling and impressive running lines, and once the scrummage started going forward, the points started to pile up in Shrewsbury's favour. The Spanish defence always threatened more than their offensive patterns or play, but they did breach the Shrewsbury defence once late on in the first half. Captain Oliver Hughes was impressive as ever from number eight with some good ball carries from the base and in midfield. Will Mason, having recovered from a knee injury, always looked threatening with his good pace and quick step. We were treated to some excellent hospitality and a presentation after this and every match.

Tries: Mason (M) (2), Bridges-Webb, Mason (W), Wynne, Galyer, Fletcher-Wilson
Cons: Mason (W) x 4
Pens: Mason (W)

PG

Under 15 XV Match reports:
The tour provided the U15 squad with a chance to experience rugby outside the UK and to play, for many, on artificial pitches. Valencia is something of a rugby enclave with a number of clubs sharing facilities in and around the city. The multiple usage of pitched necessitating the switch to 3G from grass and the building of some impressive facilities.

Our touring squad was somewhat depleted because of injuries sustained in the weeks leading up to the tour and it was fortunate we didn’t sustain any injuries to the backs! The standard of opposition varied somewhat as did their approach to the game and the high quality of most of the referees came as a pleasant surprise. Although the coaches did have a different interpretation of her laws at breakdowns than the referee in the last game.

Match 1 vs Comunidad Valencia
WON 22 - 12
This game was against a Valencia representative team and proved to be a difficult opening game. The opposition were well organised playing a tight forward based game; a pattern we were to see again during the course of the tour. The game was always close and well contested particularly in the early stages although fitness and general match awareness gave Shrewsbury an edge as the game progressed. Shrewsbury looked the more threatening out wide but had to defend stoutly in midfield particularly against a strong Valencia back row.

Tries:    Litchfield (2) Smith
Conversions:  Humes (2)
Penalties:  Humes (1)

Match 2 vs Tecnidex Valencia
WON 41 – 0
A somewhat more straightforward game. The opposition was quite strong and committed in the forwards but Shrewsbury had a real advantage out wide and scored regularly throughout the first half. The lead at the break being 36 points. Whenever quick ball was won and moved with purpose a score always looked on the cards and James Plaut led the way with four tries. In the second half Shrewsbury tried to vary the play but the game became very ragged and lost much of its structure which meant the various moves which were tried often came to nothing. However a very strong first half performance had secured the win long before the interval and the game provided an opportunity to rest a number of key players in readiness for the final game.

Tries:    Plaut (4) Smith Peat  Rowley
Conversions:  Humes (3)

Under 15s

Match 3 vs CAU Rugby Valencia 
LOST 20 – 10
Local knowledge indicated that this would be the hardest game of the tour, and so it proved to be. Returning to the 3G surface where we played the opening game, this time under lights, all was set for the final game of the tour. The opposition were well organized and played a tight aggressive game. Unfortunately the referee’s liberal interpretation of laws regarding the breakdown area and players staying on their feet counted against us and Shrewsbury never really got out of third gear against a team which could, and perhaps should, have left the squad unbeaten after 6 tour matches together. However a slight lack of focus and continual changing of players meant that no real pattern of play could be established. At one stage on of the coaches lickened the replacements bench as a scene from MASH!!. Fortunately there were no serious injuries and the game ended in a mixture of frustration and disappointment. However lessons will have been learned and the experience was far from wasted.

Tries:    Smith Litchfield

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