Saturday the 13th April, was the date for the first of this seasons Steeden Development National Touch Series, a chance for 20 mixed touch sides to finally come together and put their hard winter training into practice. Expectations were high for Chargers after an excellent preseason, and all players were raring to go.
The first match of the day was against Camp Hill. Chargers started the day strongly, with Bruce and James both scoring a hat trick to kick off their high scoring day. Kathi, Jordan, Channy and Em all got their names on the scoresheet after some nice team efforts. The score ended 10-0, a baptism by fire for Camp Hill in their first ever national touch comp.
After a 30 minute break, the Chargers team took to the field for the second pool match versus Nottingham Hoods. We knew that we needed to continue to build momentum and plenty of hard driving and fast footwork saw Kathi, James and Em all touchdown. Fortunately, Harry Thompson and Harry Armitage were both wearing a number 105 jersey, so there is no confusion that Harry scored 2 in this match. Bruce picked up where he left off in the first game with a glorious second hat trick; could he make it 3 in 3? Final score 8-0.
Next up, back to back fixtures against Derby Merlins followed by Cheltenham. A thrilling high scoring match against another tournament newbie, the Derby Merlins struggled to cope with the pace that confident Chargers were playing at. Em, Adam, Rob and James all scored a brace with Harry 105, lightning quick Crosse, and Bruce Almighty touching down each to make the final score 11-1.
Chargers had no time to rest however, as we were straight on against Cheltenham, last years development NTS runners up. The game was a close run affair with both sides showing good defense and attack. The final half of the game found Chargers 4-2 down after a strong start from Cheltenham, with 2 good team scores through Bruce and James keeping us within reach. The team showed great resilience to score twice more through Rob and the game ended 4-4, a fair result for 2 quality sides. The draw meant that Chargers topped the pool on points difference with Cheltenham second, and onto the knockout stages it was.
After a 2 hour lunch break, Chargers were back on against Norwich in the cup quarter finals. A great start to the match saw “I can run 100m in 10 seconds” James touch down within the first set of 6. However, a determined Norwich side fought back to go ahead 2-1. Chargers had several scores that should have been, including a touchdown on the 5m line and dropped balls at crucial moments, which added to our growing frustrations. Nonetheless, our perseverance in attack saw Harry105 cross twice (or once each perhaps?) and Channy score in the corner to edge out the match 4-3. A nervy quarter final for Chargers.
Cup semi final: Frenemies Yorkshire Thorns. With both sides having tested each other regularly during the winter at Burnage, we all knew this would be a hard fought contest. A rousing team talk from Coach AJ Southgate saw a reinvigorated Chargers take the field for arguably our best performance of the tournament. Strong defence kept out the Thorns on several occasions, forcing their errors, and Chargers bossed the game right from the start. Several sexy plays saw Harry 105 and James touchdown, with Em scoring another brace to make the final score a 4-2 Chargers victory. A fine fine performance and onto the Cup final against rivals Chester.
A repeat of the previous weeks final at Burnage, both sides knew this would be close. With Sammy’s confident prediction ringing in their ears (“we’ll probably lose, we never win in the final”), the Chargers were fired up. Chester came out of the traps all guns blazing though, and Chargers found themselves 2-0 down within the first 5 minutes against a confident Chester side.
The determination from Chargers was evident and a strong comeback saw us pull the score back to 2-1 at halftime through Captain James. After more inspiring halftime words from AJ Southgate, the Chargers were fired up, ready to throw the kitchen sink at Chester. Both sides went back and forth with little to separate the sides, and scores from Harry 105 and Bruce saw the final whistle blow at 3-3. Drop off time! Chargers had the first attack with 5 on the pitch, which resulted in a sublime touchdown from James on the last touch. Advantage chargers! A new defensive 5 came on the pitch for an irate Chester’s reply. On the 4th touch, it looked like Chester were through but a superb ankle tap touch from Harry A stopped them at the crucial moment. The defence reset and Chester looked to set up the score with 5th touch coming.
The crowd held their breath as we all wondered what the Chester attack would possibly consist of. Chester made their play, but a brilliant defensive effort saw a forward pass being forced, giving the victory to Chargers!
It was a sweet sweet victory against a strong Chester side; the culmination of a strong pre-season and the hard winter training efforts have payed off with our first Silverware of the season. To see the improvement from the first tournament in Burnage over the winter to the first national competition is a joy to see, even bringing a tear to the coach’s eye like a proud dad. A very enjoyable day, bring on the next one! Chargers champions!
Roll of Honour
Female MVP - Channy Crowl
Male MVP - Bruce Bailey
Most Improved - Kathi Uari
Top Scorer - James Simons