The Dorset Destroyers Wheelchair Rugby Club, based in Poole, Dorset smashed their way into Top position in the newly formed sport of Wheelchair Rugby 5’s this weekend.
The Destroyers played against 4 other teams in the first weekend of 3, including against local rivals The Solent Sharks from Southampton.
The first game was against Northampton Saints, and it was the very first match of the day and very first match of the new League of Wheelchair Rugby 5’s, so it was all about settling nerves and starting strong. The Destroyers line up included Ben Steele, Gold and Bronze Medallist from the Invictus Games, Paul Sutherland and Nick Coombs co-founders of the Destroyers.
The game was end to end at first with both teams wanting to win, but after a while the Destroyers had settled down and were forcing errors by Northampton and the points were starting to gain for Dorset’s team. At the end the score to the Destroyers was 27-14. A magnificent start. The nerves had calmed, and they went off ready for their next match, against local rivals The Solent Sharks.
Both teams had met in friendlies and the Destroyers had not won against them, but this was a new competition and the Destroyers were determined to put that ghost to rest.
Both teams were well matched, and it was high octane action. The whistle blew and the sound of metal on metal smashing and grinding was very intense. You could feel the tension as tries were scored down both ends, with both teams trying to get a stranglehold on the game. But something needed to happen to break the deadlock. Sue Coombs, Coach of the Destroyers explains “Sometimes you just need to mark out one opponent, stifle his play and frustrate him, so we did just that and took control of the match” Soon the tries were coming in and the Dorset Destroyers came out winners at 24 – 13
Time for a short break, and for the team to recoup. There was an opportunity for players to watch other teams playing, as there were another 5 teams playing in the other league, which we would eventually meet in the final weekend, so time to do some homework.
The next match was against Ospreys from Swansea and they had some big players on their team. But with 2 wins under our belt, we had a bit of confidence, and we knew what was expected of us. Ben Steele, Team Captain for the day explains “We could never afford to be complacent, if an opponent smells complacency they will go for your jugular”
The Destroyers went in with a comfortable lead and soon built up a cushion which allowed a different style of play and different players to come on. Sue Coombs, Coach explained “We needed some players to have a rest, and we also had to make sure that our tries were still going in, because not only have you got to look at the points, but when we meet the other teams in the final weekend, it may all come down to tries scored and tries against”
Dorset turned the pressure up with a different team and won 23 – 8.
Now it was time for our final game, and we were playing Woodbridge Warriors. This is the sort of team that you see on paper and think that should be ok, but in reality…… We continued with resting a few players and see what would happen. But Woodbridge had other plans and were trying to spoil our record, they were soon ahead of us, so Sue and Aaron (Head Physiotherapist) resorted to bringing the strongest line back for the final game and bring the game back in our favour.
The game was slowly turned around, but Woodbridge were like a dog with a bone and refusing to let go of it. We eventually won, but it had been a bit of a shock. The score was 17 – 10.
Being a new team to Wheelchair Rugby in general, we are surrounded by clubs who are well established, such as the Solent Sharks, Stoke Mandeville Maulers, Leicester Tigers, West Country Hawks so the pressure is more on them to win as they know the set up more than most and they’ve been through this sort of thing before. We, on the other hand, have the pressure of just wanting to win put on by ourselves.
But Dorset are leading the way, and it’s a great start, but one that we know is a long journey. But being on the front foot is a good start, and you couldn’t have asked for a better start.
Team Line Up
Ben Steele – Team Captain
Paul Sutherland, Nick Coombs, Dillon Fung, Alan Stevenson, Grace McGowan, Dave Jolliffe, Andy Elliott, Richard Bray, Becky Hill, Jo Barents