In disorderly and last minute fashion, a ragtag squad of 12 were cobbled together to take part in the Chiswick 7s Open. With competition featuring the likes of the China 7s squad and recently promoted to level 5 HAC, in addition to the well known on the circuit Wild Dogs 7s featuring in our own pool, The Ragtags entered the day with low expectations despite the strong squad that had been assembled. However, things all changed when a huge scalp was made over Wild Dogs in our first pool game.
Things couldn’t have gotten off to a better start after Josh Steadman took a tap on halfway following an offside at the dogs kick off, caught his opposite man napping with a trademark step of his and was away under the sticks for Ben Parkinson to add the extras. What followed was 6 minutes of resolute defence lead by Josh Rudling before the dogs finally breached on the stroke of half-time to make things 7-5. Some back and forth followed in the second half before a dogs breakaway was stopped short by Lewis Steadman, with Josh intercepting the offload the counter attack was on and some nice interplay between the two brothers lead to a finish under the sticks for Oliver Morris, Parkinson again adding the extras. There was enough time for the dogs to make one more try of their own with the FT score being 14-10. The Ragtags were here to play!!
Second up in the group was level 7 opponents Romford & Gidea Park RFC. A bit of a stop start affair in the first half with The Ragtags not quite firing but 3 tries from Morris, Rudling and J Steadman were enough to lead 17-0 at the half. Some glorious feet and link ups between Stan Duhamel and Max Muirhead along with strong carrying and hard hitting from Nyall Wake and Sean Munemo followed in the second half and another 4 tries were added to the tally to make the FT score 41-0 to The Ragtags. A bye in the third pool game after a no-show from the Wooden Spoon Marauders left us top of the group and waiting to find out our cup semi final opponents.
As the pools concluded and rankings were decided, The Ragtags were to face level 5 HAC - also undefeated - for a spot in the cup final. HAC came out firing and were first to make a hit with a score under the sticks to make things 7-0. The Ragtags hit back with a sublime solo effort from Lloyd Anderson to bring the score to 7-5. HAC then struck again to make the lead 12-5 before one of their subs made the foolish mistake to call 1871’s defence ‘soft’. The Ragtags immediately hit back with some slick feet from J Steadman creating space to offload to Anderson to get his second, 12-10 HT. This ‘soft’ comment was discussed in the half time huddle…. What followed in the second half was a large slice of humble pie. Some seriously hard hitting high pressing D in the second half lead by Kyle Beck kept HAC constantly under pressure and a 3rd try was added by Morris to give us a 15-12 lead. The game was then tied up with a quick counter leading to a score in the corner for Jason Dissanayake - aka ‘The Engine’. FT 15-20 to the RagTags, the cup final was on!!
With the Wild Dogs taking a big semi final win over China, a rematch was on the cards to decide the Open Cup. The Dogs got off to a dream start, working an overlap to release their winger down the right hand side who was able to finish under the posts, 7-0 Dogs. Things then went from bad to worse in a 10 second period for The Ragtags after L Steadman was penalised for an extra roll after he thought he had been tip tackled, and Rudling was then shown a yellow for not retreating 10 after the penalty. Down to 6 The Ragtags showed precisely why they were in the final, digging incredibly deep and holding out the dogs before returning to the full compliment just before the half. Things then got a bit spicy on the stroke of half time as Parkinson took exception to a high hit on him, the standard posturing between the two sides ensued and tempers were nicely flared in half time huddles to bring in the final 7 minutes of the competition. The second half started perfectly with Beck gathering the kick, beating 2 men and making it up to halfway before offloading off the floor to L Steadman who was just able to escape the clutches of a last ditch tackle as he made it to the line and the score was on a knife edge at 7-5 to the Dogs. A lot of cat and mouse then played out with both defences holding firm before the Dogs breached The Ragtags one final time to make things 14-5 with 15s to play and essentially kill the game. The Ragtags hit back hard but the tired legs didn’t have enough in the tank to make something happen and the cup dream was over, FT 14-5 to the Dogs.
So there was to be no dream ending to the day for the bunch of unlikely lads who had turned up and caused a stir at the tournament. A special shout out has to be made to Tim Hitchcock, Euan Jones and Lucas Braithwaite who were down marshalling the sidelines all day, as well as 1871’s sevens specialist Josh Steadman for captaining and coaching the squad so well. In the final huddle the team unanimously decided player of the day would go to Jason Dissanayake who must have made about 5 try saving tackles and logged an incredible amount of minutes. A huge congratulations must be made to the entire squad who came a whisker away from winning it all. Long live The Ragtags!
Squad for the day:
Josh Steadman (C)
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