Play-off Despair and Delight for Junior Skolars

15th July 2015

As the regular London Junior League Season drew to a close, it was fantastic that for the 1st time in Skolars Junior’s history all 3 teams would progress into the play-off rounds of the competition.

Our U13’s finished the season 3rd and would face a trip to Southern counterparts Ruitlish Raiders, whilst our U17’s finished 6th and would take the long trip to long standing rivals Elmbridge Eagles, the side that has caused them the most heartbreak in knockout games in recent years. Our U15’s were gifted a week off, as they finished top of their League and were crowned Champions the previous week.

With both teams facing long journeys South of the River it was an early start on Saturday morning from New River for coaches and players alike. The U13’s travelled to Ruitlish Raiders, who have had an impressive opening season, reaching the cup final and finishing 3rd in what was a strong Southern league. Even though the U12’s were missing a few key players and coaches, Head Coach Paul Quill and his assistant Adrian Fraine were quietly confident of providing an upset. The U13’s had been slowly building as the season progressed and with some really positive results in the last few weeks, went into this game full of confidence. However as the game kicked off it seemed that the long journey was still in the boy’s heads and they started the game sluggish and making uncharacteristic mistakes, this allowed the Raiders to strike first and go ahead.

Some wise words from Coach Quill geared the boys into a better mind-set and they began to exert some real pressure on Ruitlish, with some great play from Hooker by Thomas Quill, the Skolars forwards began to make some great yards and some excellent back play resulted in them going into half-time with the lead.

The second-half was very much like the first, with some excellent play by both sides. Raiders regathered the kick off and from this ensuing set crossed the Skolars line to bring the game equal again. The game turned into a real battle and as soon as Skolars scored, Ruitlish would hit back eventually crossing for the games decisive try after some silly penalties from the Skolars forwards. A final late assault couldn’t bring the Skolars any joy and as the final whistle sounded with the scoreline at 22-20 it was the Raiders players who would celebrate as they progressed into the Semi-Finals of the Play-offs.

It’s been a fantastic season for this young side and with the majority being U12, they will have another year under Coach Quill’s guidance and I’m sure we will see them go one better next year and reach that Grand Final.

The U17’s meanwhile travelled to rivals Elmbridge Eagles, looking to avenge the heavy league defeat they suffered in Kent earlier in the season. Having lost out to Elmbridge in last year’s cup and play-offs the Skolars were well aware of the threat posed by the Eagles. However with some off-field events seeming to have galvanised the boys from North London, they set about producing one of their best performances of the season, blowing Elmbridge out of the water with some sensational Rugby League. Standout performances from Alex Pentecost and captain Rodell Reid, saw the Skolars home 38-18.

This was another huge result for our U17’s age group and was their first ever victory of Elmbridge. Coaches Matt Cuss, Fred Pentecost and Pete Hamer will hope to welcome back some influential players next week for the Play-off Semi-Final, which sees the Skolars travel to Medway Park, to take on the league winners Medway Dragons. If the previous league encounter is anything to go by then this game should be an absolute thriller, and the Skolars are under no illusion that they will be at their very best to reach their first Grand Final since the U19’s managed it in 2013.

Our U15’s welcome Elmbridge Eagles to New River on Saturday in the Semi-final of the play-off, as league leaders they have had a fantastic season, but they will need to overcome a notoriously strong opponent if they are too make that elusive Grand Final on 25th July.

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