Under 15s march on at Southport

Date: 03 March 2015

Southport U15  12   Hoppers U15  41
Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup Quarter Final
1st March 2015.

Hoppers visited Southport again, having already played them away in the pool game, and if successful, we will play there again in the final this year. Southport are always a handful, with a big set of both forwards and backs. There was, as usual, a strong wind at the coast, however compared to last week, the conditions were much better.

Kieran started the game off with a good kick, but unfortunately we knocked on and gave up possession. In the first half Hoppers were playing with the strong cross wind effectively against them, and combined with a slow start put us on the back foot. The first 10 minutes saw Southport have the majority of possession and territory, and the ball we did get was defended well by their set of big backs. The Hoppers’ forwards competed strongly with the big Southport pack, as the opposition kept the ball close in around the rucks, and Hoppers did hold their own in set scrums.

Hoppers were put under considerable pressure in this first period, and had to defend well until Kieran was able to put in a good clearing kick; Alex, Sam W and the forwards all made good defensive tackles and unfortunately Sam W had to go off after a knock. Hoppers had their first real attack when we moved the ball well to Jake on the right, but in kicking ahead the ball skewed into touch. We were starting the get into gear and putting pressure on the Southport line out – the back row now doing better work around the rucks and mauls to get some territory. Eventually, Hoppers managed to get the ball moving in the backs, and after a bursting run by Duggie, Harvey worked the ball well to Jake on the right wing, who despite being half stopped, managed to go again and dive over to score. Kieran hit the post with a great effort, but the conversion was missed. 5-0 to Hoppers.

Hoppers did not deal with the kick off and immediately put themselves under pressure. We struggled throughout the half to avoid giving away penalties, and were not able to build any pressure in the Southport half. Soon after a good kick through by Southport, we failed to clear and this put us under pressure in our 22, and when after Sam M was unlucky to be penalised for an attempted interception, Southport scored from good work after the tap penalty. Conversion made, 7-5 Southport.

Duggie made a great take from the kick off by Kieran and Hoppers had another chance through Jake, and a kick though by Kieran was nearly taken on by Duggie, but all to no avail. Southport scored again, following good play by their backs, to make the half time score 12-5 Southport.

Hoppers realised from MC’s half time talk that they needed to up their game from their first half performance, and indeed they started the second half like a different team. After again conceding a number of penalties, Hoppers managed to finally put concerted pressure on Southport with a strong run from Alex, and Duggie ripping the ball from their maul and feeding Kieran: he timed a great pass to put Jake away on the right who was too quick and powerful for the cover, going in under the posts to score.  Conversion made by Kieran to make the score level at 12-12.

Hoppers were now really getting going, and from the kick off Tom W fielded the ball and Dugggie ran it back into their half, with Hoppers exerting more pressure and now going through several phases to create opportunities. Duggie did an amazing ‘salmon’ like leap near the touch line to keep a Southport kick from finding touch, and setting up runs from Hoppers to regain territory. Hoppers were also now moving the big Southport defence around the park including great runs from Duggie, Tom W and Kieran, and soon after this we set up the try that put us back into the lead. After a break own our right, and a couple of forward drives, the backs moved it quickly to Jake in space to speed over to score his hat trick in the corner. A brilliant kick from Kieran from wide out made the score 19-12 to Hoppers.

Southport were still in the game, but soon after the restart they were hit with another try. All game the backs had to show strong defence against the big Southport backs as they tried to ‘muscle’ their way through, but Tom W and Harvey in particular tackled really well. As Southport span the ball to our left on the half way, they were stopped in their tracks and tried to feed the ball inside. Charlie had read the move, and intercepted the pass, sprinting away from their backs, showing excellent pace to run the ball in for what was the ‘killer punch’ that seemed to deflate the Southport efforts. 24-12 conversion missed.

Southport rallied for a while with some very powerful play in our 22, having territory and possession and for a period appeared to be getting back into the game, particularly when a poor Hoppers clearance was dropped by them when a dangerous situation was looming. Hoppers, though, were playing sensible rugby in the windy conditions and with good play by Duggie from a number 8 pick up, and a rare penalty reward for Kieran ‘Jackling’ at the breakdown saw us get back into their half. In fact, both sides putting in some very strong tackles, with Southport defenders stopping Kieran and Duggie in full flow on several occasions, and Hoppers stopping the powerful Southport forwards and backs – notably a great effort by Alastair to stop Southport’s ‘O’ who had made powerful breaks on more than one occasion.

Hoppers were now attacking dangerously with good quick ball won by the forwards being moved well by the backs. The next try came when we span the ball wide to the right to Nathan who was stopped just short of the line. Southport won their scrum, but kicked inadvisably to Kieran in midfield: he took the ball at speed and ran a great line to set up Jamie on the left wing, who sprinted in to make to score 31-12, with Kieran making the conversion.

Hoppers added to the score soon afterwards as Southport faded, with another great try. Having won our set scrum and a drive by Duggie to get us over the gain line, the ball was shipped to Kieran who put in a wonderful 30m kick over to our right, with Nathan showing excellent pace to reach the kick and score in the corner. 36-12, conversion missed from out wide. Ollie recovered the kick off, and we soon put Jamie away on the right wing and, when tackled, he offloaded expertly to his support with us winning a penalty as Southport failed to roll away from the ruck. The quick tap penalty caught the tiring Southport defence sleeping, and Duggie powered towards the line, only to be stopped by a really good Southport effort: the danger was only delayed as we recycled the ball quickly and Kieran fed Alastair on the left wing. Al showed brilliant hands for a big forward to ship the ball on in one movement in a tight space, to give Jamie the chance to dive over in the left corner, with an extravagant ‘roll’ as he put the ball down to score. 41-12 to Hoppers as the conversion was missed, and the game ended.

This was a real test for Hoppers, and great credit to Southport for running us close in the first half, with some very powerful play, and at times great tackling on our hard running players. In the end the pace and skill of the Hoppers team made the opposition fade in the second half, as the pressure from Hoppers moved their big squad around the pitch. Both teams should take great credit in the standard of play and commitment they showed, and Hoppers now are looking forward to their semi final challenge.

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