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5 March 2020
On Friday 28 February, The Beacon school departed for the wonderful town of Cheltenham on the school’s first ever hockey tour. Months of early morning hard work with indoor sessions and Monday night squad practices had been building up to the event, so the excitement was noticeable as the boys boarded the buses to depart for the Cotswolds.
Our first match saw us pitted against Cheltenham College Prep, and as the boys rushed onto the pitch, only the torrential rain could dampen their spirits.
Despite the three hour journey the boys went toe-to-toe with their hosts, only narrowly succumbing to a 4-3 defeat. The post-match meal in the wonderful school buildings of the Prep were just an opener into what would be the first of many fantastic examples of hospitality from our host schools.
Saturday morning was the start of the ‘big 3’ – three games across one day and 80 miles. Game 1 was at the delightful Beaudesert Park School in Stroud. The team started at a raw and frenetic pace, taking a well-deserved 2-0 lead before the hosts started to claw themselves back into the game. Chances were shared and a well-worked Beaudesert goal was the only action of the second half, until a slick breakaway and cool finish two minutes from time saw The Beacon post their first win of the tour. At full time there were handshakes all round before a lovely pitch-side tea of sausage rolls, chocolate brownies and a chance to mingle and chat with our hosts, before the 45 minute drive back to Cheltenham to play the hockey powerhouse of Dean Close.
Game 2 of the ‘Big 3’ would always prove to be the hardest of the Tour. Dean Close are a world class hockey outfit both in attitude, ability and approach. Having produced national schools champions for decades and numerous junior international players over a number of years, their pedigree was unquestionable. And this is when The Beacon showed its true colours!
In a match which could have gone either way, The Beacon dominated. The goalkeeping assured, the defence solid and secure, the midfield creative and industrious and the forward line slick and razor-sharp. Goals were scored by both teams, including a wonderful (and rarely seen) chip-lob. The standard of hockey was supremely high, played at a fantastic pace, and in tremendous spirit. It only took a late goal from Dean Close to break the resolve of The Beacon boys, who went down 4-2 having battled away for the full game. Not disheartened or down, a rallying end-of-game speech from the ever-wonderful Mr Williams reminded the boys that this would not define their Tour, they stood up to a hockey powerhouse and deserved more.
So on to game 3 of the ‘Big 3’ and an hour drive up into the Malvern hills to play The Elms Prep. In another game where chances were created, this was a game too far for the visibly jaded Beacon team. The passing remained slick, the tackling ferocious and the endeavour unquestionable, but all a half second too slow or too early, an inch too short, half a step too soon or too late, but still creating those chances. Sadly, the turning point was a missed penalty that would have reduced the deficit of 2 early Elms goals. The chance gone, the hosts stretched away to a 4-0 lead before The Beacon clawed back a well worked goal, only to concede almost immediately. As the legs tired, the game was played out and the eventual score was 5-1 to The Elms.
Spirits remained high and the minibus chat was full of giggles and laughter, with attempts at a freestyle rap battle! “Stick to the hockey” would be the advice from Mr Kochar!
A well-deserved Nandos was the reward for a tough but successful day of hockey, before a much needed early lights-out.
Sunday would bring new opposition in Cheltenham HC Under 12s, who were preparing for their national Finals. An unknown quantity and with fatigue an issue, the game (and the Tour) could have petered out. What was displayed was some of the most incisive and devastating counter-attacking hockey of the Tour from The Beacon, who dominated from start to finish. The wide-midfield play was always a threat, whilst the goalkeeping of both Beacon keepers was a highlight of the Tour.
The Beacon kept opposition chances to a minimum whilst playing a suffocating press to ensure The Beacon remained on the front foot. The boys finished with a 5-1 win and huge smiles. A great way to end the first ever Beacon Hockey tour!
Huge thanks to Mrs Kochar and Mr Williams for supporting the boys throughout the weekend, to the parents for their unwavering support from start to finish but, most importantly, to all 12 of the squad who definitely represented The Beacon to the best of their ability! A fantastic weekend.