Saturday saw an entertaining, if bruising, encounter between the Hemel Hempstead Camelot first XV and TringRugby II at Chaulden Lane in the first of Hemel’s two friendly matches before league fixtures get under way later this month.
Despite a Hemel team weakened by the holiday absence of several key players, the prospect of a local derby and evenly balanced packs meant both teams started strongly.
There were fierce encounters between the forwards, with excellent efforts from Hemel’s Joe Cox, Jon Byrne, Jake Bonfield and Ryan Long, and early efforts to find weaknesses with yard-gaining runs from man-of-the-moment Tom Aitken and Danny Howard.
Despite this, Tring were in the ascendancy by half-time with a lead of 14 points to nil.
The second half saw several replacements through injury or fatigue which even saw Hemel’s own commercial director, Charles Riches, making his debut for Camelot at the age of 37 – replacing Alex Goodley on the right wing.
Hemel ran in two well worked converted tries in quick succession, carving through the Tring defence, with excellent individual efforts from the two scorers – Nick Stowe and David McKenzie punching through the final yards.
Tring matched Hemel’s two converted tries in the second half, plus one not converted, with their final try coming in the final minute of the match after Hemel’s successful defence of five pick and go’s from the ruck within a few yards of the line couldn’t quite manage to hold up the sixth.
The final score of 33-14 to Tring tells a distorted picture of the massive effort shown by Hemel who walked off the field with heads held high.
All three senior sides, along with the new Camelot Magicians veterans team, now look forward to the new season of fixtures.
Encouraged by the new senior incentive scheme, double the cash injection from sponsors and excited by the Rugby World Cup suite of club events and of course the RWC games themselves, the club is well positioned for the new season.
September 26 sees the start of the Camelot Beer Festival (September 25 to October 3) and Family Fun day (2-5pm) which are open to the public.
In addition, the new relationship with Heineken Brewery (RWC sponsor), the new EPOS and financial management system – under the stewardship of chairman Toni Massa and with key personnel changes, notably Chris and Ruth Topping and Nikki Byrne – make Camelot an exciting, thriving family orientated club to take the club forward beyond the RWC and towards the club’s centenary in 2019.
The club is actively recruiting through all age groups from U7s to seniors – for more information please email charles.riches@ntlworld