Millwall kicked off this years campaign against Braintree following a mixed pre season. Losses against Woodford and Southwark didn’t reflect the effort put in by the personnel available, with wedding season, sesh lyf and work engagements ensuring that the squad had been well and truly rotated before the opening match.
These three hurdles also meant that the opening 18 included a number of debutants. Jacob Lloyd and Dom Alden joined the returning Dan Faram to fill the back row, Matt Krizek started in the second row for his first game, Adam Page stepped up to the 1s, and Matt Pownall and Chris Prowse slotted in to the backs to make their debuts for the club.
Millwall kicked off and started well, managing to retain the kick and set phases on the opposition 22 before a basic handling error let them down. Braintree were already on fire, breaking out from the resulting scrum and after two or three phases, they were over the whitewash for the opening score.
Millwall dusted themselves down and went about their game plan once again. However, two penalties in quick succession meant they were soon defending their line again, and with the referee playing another advantage, the Braintree 12 broke free from the back of a mail to glide over. 10-0
Millwall needed to do something quickly to get themselves back into the game. With Braintree attaching hard again on Millwall’s 22, Ollie Jardine reached out for the interception. With the ball looping in the air, Jardine managed to catch it off his toes and race away. With the opposition winger in hot pursuit, he put in a sweet chip that bounced into the path of the supporting Rio Cooper, who looked up to see Harry Barrett chasing on the opposite wing. Cooper put boot to ball and were it not for an incredibly unfortunate final bounce, Barrett would have been over for Millwall’s opening points.
This chance seemed to rejuvenate the boys somewhat. Millwall started finding gaps and were it not for a forward pass from Cooper, Chiranthe Ulapane would have been under the posts.
Shortly afterwards, Millwall’s chances took another bartering with the forced substitution of Matt Pownall. Having started brightly, he brilliantly retrieved the ol’ Garryowen, only for an awkward hit to his knee to send him to hospital.
James Dyer made his return to the club completely out of position but did himself proud at 12, hitting hard and running well.
The half finished at 10-0.
Braintree clearly wanted the game more, as they came out of the blocks flying from half time and had scored another two tries and a penalty within 7minutes. 27-0.
Millwall’s frustration became evident and a spell of stupid penalties meant that whatever good positioning they had they would soon turn over to the more aggressive Braintree.
A good break from the Braintree 10 allowed them to score out-wide again, before Millwall finally managed to score themselves- new 8 Jacob Lloyd, who didn’t stop running all day, managing to drag three defenders over on the fifteen metre line. Cooper converted. Despite the good finish, Braintree were to have the final word, their 8 breaking from the back of a scrum five metres out.
Final score Millwall 7-37 Braintree
Coach Matt: Tough opening game to start the season for the 1st team, which coincided with a disrupted preseason. Despite the scoreline, there were some pleasing phases in attack and without a high error count in defence, I'm sure the scoreline could have been much closer. With so many new faces, it's going to take some time for it to come together, but looking forward to seeing how the side can progress in the coming weeks