Fleetwood U15 0 Hoppers U15 30*
Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup
21 December 2014
Fleetwood kicked off on a cold and windy day at the coast-side pitch that always feels that it has worse conditions than inland. Memories were evoked of past tag rugby games here, when the lads were in the minis, with parents chasing the tags as the wind carried them off after tackles, and huddling together to keep warm as the horizontal rain ripped across the fields! The conditions,though, today were not that bad, and the first team pitch we played on was actually quite decent for the Hoppers handling game.
Despite playing into the wind, Fleetwood started strongly, much better than their table position suggested and it needed strong defence from Hoppers in the early exchanges to keep them from scoring. Andrew and Dunny were strong in the tackle as Fleetwood forwards ran straight lines, close in to the breakdown: Callum also started very strongly at 10, marshalling the back line and stripping the ball from his opposite number in the tackle to turn the ball over and defuse a dangerous position. Equally, Fleetwood tackled well to keep the dangerous Hoppers’ backs in check.
Kieran utilised the favourable wind very well in the first half, with some excellent kicks from our 22 relieving the pressure. Hoppers quickly started to get into their groove and the backs made some dangerous breaks, Ryan, Adam M, Lewis and Jake all put in excellent work in attack, and as the Hoppers forwards starting to dominate, It was only a matter of time before we got our first score.
The score came after several attacking phases that drew the Fleetwood defence tighter and tighter: we then moved the ball quickly to the left through the backs and Fleetwood ‘ran out of defence’, with Jake going over to score the first try. Excellent continuity between forwards and backs to open up the strong defence. Conversion just missed from wide out. 5-0.
Fleetwood rallied and put pressure on Hoppers, who conceded several penalties to give the opposition good field position. Hoppers defended well to repel several Fleetwood attacks, but eventually Kieran put in a great variation on his clearance kicks, putting the ball straight down the middle into space and the chase pinned Fleetwood back, with the forwards showing their mobility to hold Fleetwood up in an maul and get the turnover. Following this, Hoppers added to the score with a great second try. Following a great forward drive by Alex and great offloading in the forwards, Callum put Jake away with a well timed pass: he broke the line before feeding Ryan on the left wing, who outpaced the cover to score. 10-0 with the difficult conversion missed on a very blustery day.
Fleetwood still felt they were in the game, and were kicking into the wind very well, with an excellent hanging kick off defused by Lewis, and Kieran used the conditions to eventually punt to the their 10m line. As usual, the forwards showed their mobility and Lewis was tackling everything from the back row, with Alex and Dunny putting in strong work from the tight 5. Hoppers scored their third try after a crooked feed from Fleetwood, and quick thinking from Tom N, who controlled the first half from scrum half really well. He tapped quickly and fed Kieran who exploited the fragmented Fleetwood cover, before putting Jake away who then fed Harvey and Jamie down the line – great handling in the windy conditions, with Jamie finishing well in the corner. 17-0 with a great conversion from wide out by Kieran.
Hoppers were now dominant in most areas of play, and Fleetwood were always kept at bay by great Hoppers’ defence: as usual Harvey dominated his opposite centre with some physical, and technically superb tackles. In attack we now looked like scoring on every occasion. The next try came with Tom N attacking down the blind side, and the forwards taking the ball on well, finally Sam W breaking down the middle of the field and when tackled, offloading to Sam R with him excellently backing up to dive over to score under the posts. 24-0 with the conversion made.
Hoppers’ attacks were now threatening every time, with great efforts from Adam M, Jamie, Kieran and Ryan just being stopped by the gallant Fleetwood defence. Half time 24-0 to Hoppers.
Hoopers kicked off the second half, having made a number of changes, but this did not weaken the team at all. Duggie showed his ‘one man army’ power and speed immediately, but after being pinged for an over enthusiastic tackle, he ran the Fleetwood kick back to power through the middle to score. Conversion missed 29-0.
Charlie was now looking very dangerous at scrum half with some incisive runs, and following a super break out by Callum and work by Duggie and the whole the back line, Jake powered up the middle to score again, making the score 36-0, conversion made by Harvey. The Hoppers’ backs were now playing exceptionally given the difficult conditions, and the final score of the main game came through Harvey who had become increasingly dominant in the centre: he straightened up in mid field to power over under the posts. With the score 41-0, the game now ended and became a training game – with all of the Hoppers’ squad being used. Fleetwood never gave up all day, though, and kept on tackling well and trying hard. Hoppers ran in further tries through Jamie, conversion missed and Duggie, conversion made.
A convincing win for Hoppers in the Cup against a Fleetwood team that competed well and all their players kept going to the final whistle. Hoppers showed excellent technique and handling in difficult conditions, and should be very pleased with their efforts from the whole squad. Thanks to the ref who had an excellent game, and Fleetwood for their hospitality.