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England’s premier Touch team, re-live their win

England’s premier Touch team, re-live their win

2013 saw sweeping changes to England’s premier touch team - the England Men’s Open. Ben Smith stepped up from coaching the England Men’s 30 team and brought with him an intricate knowledge of the game and also unrivalled energy and enthusiasm. Coach Smith’s ability to instruct a team is only enhanced further by his sideline presence, there is no hiding from that voice.

This years team was a finely balanced mix of both youth and experience with a number of last seasons athletes being joined by senior stalwarts returning from the over 30’s division. Once adjusted to the superior pace and skill in the Open’s category these players, Justin Conway, Mike Stibbs, and Simon Whitnall were able to use their experience to help guide the team and provide direction at crucial times. Of course there were also several new recruits, with James Knoop and Dom Tripp standing out as exciting young talent.

The fitness and speed of this years team was immense. Coach Smith led some gruelling training sessions where more than one player lost their breakfast.

The benefits of strong training were evident during the all England training weekend where despite being one of the last teams to complete the fitness tests, and having played several matches immediately beforehand, the Men’s Open still produced impressive results, claiming the highest five results in the Yo-Yo test, not to mention blistering results in all of the speed and agility tests.

The team started their campaign with a reasonable performance against Wales (7-3) who chose not to field a 14 man team and as the speed and intensity of the England Men’s Open team only increased, they conceded more and more tries as the game went on.

Against Scotland, the top seeded team, the skies opened and a heavy downpour set in before the match much to the frustration of both teams. With the ability to play an expansive game stymied, both teams had to change their strategies. The England Men’s Open team adapted to the conditions better than the Scottish and this was reflected in the final score (10-4).

Day two saw the England Men’s Open team play Ireland twice. The first match was the final round robin match and saw the England Men’s Open team win comfortably (12-2) despite a lot of Irish enthusiasm and strong home support. The second time the two teams met was in the semi final (1st v 4th), a sudden death match where previous results counted for nothing.

The discipline and relentless commitment to the game plan that Coach Smith had instilled came to the fore in this match. After a strong start from the Irish, the England Men’s Open team put the foot down and comfortably won the match (16-2).

The final was a repeat of the first match of the tournament, England vs. Wales. The Welsh squad had dwindled further in size, fortune often favours the well prepared and the England Men’s Open team remained in great condition and at full strength. The team was still continuing to improve with each match and was eager to perform well in the final.

Wales started very strongly and raced to a 2-0 lead. Both teams struggled to adjust to how the rules were being interpreted by a referee neither team had encountered before the final. After weathering the Welsh attack, England were able to fight back and go into the half-time break slightly ahead.

In a cruel blow, it was at this time Coach Smith had to depart, international business deals and six figure bonuses wait for no man, even one as athletically endowed and charismatic as Coach Smith. Long after his departure, the call of “Fresh Pegs!”could still be heard ringing in many players ears. Assistant Coach Rowling was left to fill the void and stepped up to ensure the team continued to play mercilessly.

During the second half the England Men’s Open team proved why they are the number one team in the Northern Hemisphere. Unrivalled athleticism, disciplined attack and superior skills saw the team edge further ahead and score a couple of truly remarkable touchdowns. Final score 9-3.

Game Stats

Played 5, won 5. 54 touchdowns scored, 14 conceded.

http://internationaltouch.org/home-nations-2013/fixtures-results/mens-open/

Special Mentions

Ben Meakin; played a hand in a good team touchdown in the final, Ben beat a lightning quick shutdown by going through his legs to hit the wing outwide. He may have mentioned this to you?

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Ben Powell; played every minute of the tournament and comfortably took top points scorer for the team.
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Dan Mendis; as the team's new captain Dan led from the front and is on the path to becoming England’s most successful captain. Ever.

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Justin Conway; played the tournament like he wished he could have when he was half his age. Armed with all time high levels of muscle mass, a record low BMI score, and streamlined haircut, at times he gave the appearance that he could seemingly do whatever he pleased, despite what the opposition wanted. Much like a partner at a prestigious law firm.

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Matt Myerson; melt the terminator in a cauldron of acid and Matt Myerson is what you end up with. It’s no surprise that “Myerdino” received the most MVP votes for the team.

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Mike Stibbs; added more caps to his already impressive lead as the most capped England player. Ever.

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Shaun Bengtson; Warning!

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England Men’s Open Squad 2013

Shaun Bengtson, Justin Conway (Vice Captain), James Heptonstall, James Knoop, Gareth McRae, Ben Meakin, Dan Mendis (Captain), Matt Myerson, Ben Powell, Daniel Rowling, Paul Smuts, Michael Stibbs, Dom Tripp, Simon Whitnall.

Ben Smith (Coach), Clinton Rowling (Assistant Coach).

We are England Touch

We are the players. We are the supporters, willing us on. We are the medals, waiting to be won. We are the touchdowns, waiting to be scored. We are the men and women of all ages. We are the talent of today. We are the potential for tomorrow. We are one team. We are England Touch