An impressive seven try performance by the Eyasses sees them crowned Champions of the 2014/15 Regional Age Grade season
Just six games ago the Blues beat the Ospreys Under 18's 33- 0, it is a testament to the hard work of the coaching staff and players that not only did they turn their season around enough to reach the final, but to beat that same team so convincingly to be crowned Champions.
Head Coach Steffan James recently described his first season in charge as a roller coaster, and with spectacular highs and lows he couldn't have been more right. After preseason wins against the Northampton Saints and Worcester Warriors Academies, hopes were high going into the start of the season. A win against RGC kicked off their Regional Age Grade year but soon after came crushing defeats to the Scarlets and the Blues, where the Eyasses managed only 10 points over two games in response to 68 being scored against them.
With the coaching team focusing on performance rather than results and developing a young team that consisted of many players fresh from the Under 16's teams, the teamwork built and those results soon came. They recorded win after win until a comprehensive victory over the Dragons sealed their place in the final against table toppers the Blues.
At a cold but dry Ystrad Mynach, both teams started with a determined effort befitting the occasion. The Eyasses weathered early pressure from the Blues and as soon as they gained control of the ball looked dangerous. When the Blues were penalised, Matthew Aubrey gave the Ospreys a line out just feet from the try line with a perfect place kick. From there it was down to the patience and teamwork of the Eyasses to get their first try with Callum Jones powering over the line. Phil Jones swiftly adding the conversion.
Despite the Blues doing some good work, the young Ospreys soaked up their attacks and when the Blues knocked on inside their own 22, it set the Eyasses up for try number two. Quick hands sent the ball across field and helped by a Keelan Giles run, Rhys Gealy raced up the wing avoiding Blues players to put the ball down before Phil Jones added another two points with the conversion.
Just ten minutes later the Eyasses were at it again, two fantastic breaks through the Blues defence saw them gain yards before Owen Watkin completed the move and raced over to score try number three. Phil Jones' successful conversion giving them a 21 - 0 lead after 20 minutres.
When the Eyasses had the ball in hand they looked practically unstoppable and the teamwork they displayed was highly impressive. With every man seemingly knowing exactly where all his fellow players were around him, there was some beautiful passing on display and handling errors were few and far between. This development in their game showing beautifully when just two minutes after his last try, Owen Watkin crossed over for the Ospreys' fourth. For the first time all evening Phil Jones was unable to find his mark and the try went unconverted.
For a split second it looked like the Blues would be next on the scoreboard after they started a race to the try line with no Eyasses defenders near, but Keelan Giles intercepted the ball to put his side back on the front foot. The Ospreys made short work of racing up the wing again and just before half an hour had been played, Kieran Williams bagged them try number five. Again the angle of the kick meaning it went unconverted.
Despite trailing by 31 points, the Blues still looked strong when they got control of the ball and despite an impressive display by the Ospreys in defence, they finally found a small gap to slide through just before the half time whistle. With the conversion slotting between the posts the game went to half time:
Ospreys U18's 31 - 7 Blues U18's
As they had at the end of the first half, the Blues got the best of the first few minutes of play in the second. They worked their way into the Ospreys 22 before a clever dummy allowed them to sail over the line for a converted try before the Eyasses had time to react.
As well some good offensive play, the Blues also showed strong work in defence to begin with. They started to put pressure on the Eyasses, who looked so dangerous whenever they had the ball in hand, and forced them to kick their possession away.
However it was to no avail as Keelan Giles showed more of his impressive pace when he set off down the wing again. Despite a bad bounce meaning he couldn't pick up his chip downfield, the Eyasses remained in control of the ball and with another chip putting the ball behind the Blues defence he raced over to complete his earlier efforts. Matthew Aubrey, taking over the kicking, had a difficult angle to contend with on his first attempt and the ball changed direction at the last minute to stop him converting.
Two minutes later the Ospreys found themselves back near their own try line defending against another strong Blues charge until Keelan Giles, who's ability to read and intercept the ball has been visible in every game this season managed it again. He sprinted down field from within his own 22 to score the Eyasses 7th and final try of the game. Matthew Aubrey this time managing to put the ball right between the posts to add the conversion.
Despite some more strong work from both sides in the remaining quarter, neither was able to bother the others back line too seriously. With injuries and substitutions the game lost a little bit of its earlier flow and fast pace and with no more points from either team the game finished:
Ospreys U18's 43 - 14 Blues U18's
Steffan James, Eyasses Head Coach commented on his side's season and victory in the Regional Age Grade final:
"I am absolutely delighted, if you had told me this was going to happen after the start to the season I would never have believed you! To save our finest performance for the final as well has been really satisfying, the boys were superb tonight and it probably couldn't have gone any better.
"It was a comprehensive win, the boys played superbly, we were clinical and took all our opportunities and as the scoreboard kept ticking over I wasn't going to complain about that."
Captain Will Jones added:
"That was a great way for us to bring the season to a close, we started superbly and were switched on from the first whistle. I think we put a few things right from the Dragons and it paid off with a quite dominant win, although I'm a bit disappointed with the two tries we let in!"