At The Wallich, we’re helping our BOSS Project participants break through the barrier of a criminal record and get back into work. 
As part of our support, we sponsored four of our BOSS clients through an eight-week sport and employment programme called the School of Hard Knocks

Professional training, such as interview techniques, was intertwined with the discipline of an intensive rugby programme, and finished with a jobs fair and a big rugby game against a local team.

All four BOSS participants completed the programme, were chosen as starters for the rugby match – one even making captain – and spoke to several employers at the jobs fair, with strong hopes for the future.

As we continue to support our four brilliant service users, read our proud account of how all of the players gave it their all in the final big match.

The Wallich’s match report

By Tom Beer

School of Hard Knocks 14 – 45 Caerau Ely RFC 2nds

First half

SoHK rugby game - The WallichAs the School of Hard Knocks (SoHK) team took to the field, it was hard not to notice their socks. The different types and colours reflected the diversity of the team which had been assembled. Today, however, they were playing in the same shirt – as one team.

The opening exchanges were a nervy affair with both teams kicking a lot, to feel each other out, and making a lot of handling errors.

A key feature of the first half was SoHK’s outstanding defense, creating pressure and forcing errors. Everyone hitting hard and playing for each other. Even in the wider channels, SoHK were coordinated and quick to put pressure on.

Caerau scored first, by keeping the ball tight and using their strong ball-carriers to pick and go around the breakdown.

It was SoHK making more clean line breaks. When the number 8 found one, a few defenders missed him and scored a great try after a 30-yard run. It was converted, to give SoHK the lead.

The end of the first half saw two Caerau tries; one from a line break of their own with a missed tackle, the other, a sheer display of power from the forwards forcing their way across the line.

A few missed conversions meant the half time score was 15-7 to Caerau.

It must have been disappointing for SoHK to concede just before the whistle. However, if they’d been told eight weeks ago that they would be just eight points down after the first half, I’m sure many would not have believed it.

The scene during the break was heart-warming; no one’s shoulders were slumped in resignation, no one on the floor, they were all up in a huddle with arms around each other listening to their coaches.

From the stands, it was impossible to tell that they had just eight weeks of training under their boots.

Second half

Caerau came out with a different game plan in the second half.

They stopped kicking for territory and kept the ball for multiple phases. Their big ball-carriers sucked in defenders until their backline was facing a narrow SoHK defense, and Caerau took the advantage to score with a fine line break of their own.

SoHK immediately could be found under the posts again in a huddle. Eight weeks ago, this was a group of individuals; on this field, they stayed a team. They played hard for each other and hitting tackle after tackle, ruck after ruck – their captain, Joe, leading by example.

The switch in game-plan proved successful, as Caerau took the game away from the School of Hard Knocks. Using the strong forwards as a base, they unleashed their backline to take advantage of the tiring defenders, still valiantly making their tackles but simply running out of numbers.

Caerau kept the ball in play for extended periods and stretched SoHK from one side of the field to the other, scoring several well-taken tries, taking the score to 45-7.

As the game was winding down and the players undoubtedly exhausted, it would have been so easy to give up and concede more points.

Emblematic of the philosophy of SoHK, they found another gap and surged through midfield, knocking on, but seizing their next opportunity. Caerau secured the ball and from the next ruck and gave away a penalty.

SoHK rugby huddle - The Wallich

The SoHK scrum-half, seeing a disorganised defense, took the quick tap and darted forwards. He gave a perfect offload to his inside-centre, who took the ball straight through the Caerau team and all the way to line. Cue roaring approval from the crowd.

The final score is just a number, the story of the game was a team made up of people from various backgrounds – some of whom had never held a rugby ball in their lives – taking to the field and making the game competitive.

After the match, the teams formed a tunnel for each other and clapped their opposition. They then lined up together for a group photo. A scene of immense sportsmanship, from both sides, after 80 intense minutes of a brutally physical game.

To the School of Hard Knocks: having been only together for eight weeks, you played so much better than anticipated. Your tackling was fierce, defense was aggressive and not once did anyone give up.

You have all been a part of something amazing and should be incredibly proud.


Read more about how The Wallich is preventing homelessness through the Building Opportunities Skills & Success (BOSS) Project.