Under 16s open Cup campaign

Date: 28 September 2017

Leigh U16s 0 Hoppers U16s 30*
Lancs Cup Round 2

A once proclaimed ethic of the ancient tribe of the eco warrior “Reduce Reuse Recycle” was uttered with a vitriolic chorus at meetings of the bold and brave councils on our sheltered isle. Following a ultimately well earned and prestigious plate final for the Under 16 lads last year, thoughts to build on this very triumph turned towards this year’s competition. The coaching and playing team were looking to “Reduce” the early season mistakes that took us away from our aspirations to lift the top tier cup competition we had craved for so long. We had hoped to “Reuse” some of the spirit that led us to strong showings against some of our more prodigious rivals in the last 2 seasons and undoubtedly produced our most experienced and talented squads to date. We wanted to “Recycle” the abundance of quality we have in our significantly swelled playing ranks, adding some new blood to further expand our resources as we moved towards the dawn of a new campaign. So this weekend we had the opportunity to see if we could indeed muster a positive start to the campaign to rein in Lancashire for the 2017-2018 season (perhaps saving the planet one player at a time!).

Selection for the match was a torrid and difficult affair for the coaching and management team. Not only did the competition for spaces become affected by the strength in depth of the squad, but the spectre of injury would be laying in wake for some of our more experienced players.

Despite this we returned to our fellow plate finalists home ground in Leigh, with a strong match day squad to repeat the action last seen in our ultimately successful final run. Before a ball was kicked, however, there was another hurdle that presented itself on our track toward victory. Leigh were unable to offer a full starting 15 to play on match day. Being the Cup, opportunities to loan, lend, beg or borrow players would not be an option. In the event, the decision to play a 10 a side opening game was agreed between the respective managers, and it seemed the “short-er course” version of the game would have to suffice on the day.

From kick-off it seemed that there might have been a disparate level of quality and experience between the two sides. A long kick off saw ourselves rewarded with a half way line scrum and opportunity to draw first blood. A reduced sized pack by number, did not show a reduced sized quality in the measure of play. The first assured and dominant push would be testament to what was to be a very one sided display. Consistent goal line pressure proved too much for our opponents to manage, with swift hands to the right allowing us to break the white wash for the first converted score within just a few minutes. This Game, little did we know, would not even have the opportunity to progress beyond the first half as a competitive matchup with the 40 points required to seal the win secured within a pulsating half.

Solid rucking across the pitch appeared to blend with instinctive and decisive movement in the backs. Some of the missing components of previous seasons appeared to have found their place in the few short minutes since we had begun this encounter. Quick ball from the completed rucks and mails saw recycled ball become retained ball. Slick hands from the backs allowed for fluid movement across the field, with the constant threat of runners hitting the gain line at pace on the angle being seen with breath-taking frequency. Perhaps most impressive was the calm and clinical nature of the players in managing to “keep a lid” on what was clearly a one sided game.

Few missed/dropped passes, unforced errors at the breakdown and a quiet calculated discipline were the lintel to this heated performance. Tries flowed from the absorption of a cross field kick in the opposition 22 to assured solo runs from the pacey wide men, and equally powerful back rows and centre options. In defence there was a thunderous tenacity to the tackling and positional adjustment of the players, allowing us to steal the ball in the centre 3rd of the field on a number of occasions.

To their credit our hosts continued to rally inspiring cries from their players to focus on playing their game and get back at the opponents from the next kick off. This appeared however to be some what in vain with the match closed out beyond the 40 points required in the first half; to end the match as a competitive encounter.

Fortunately with Leigh having the resources of a small number of colts players and us with 11 available substitutes we were able to offer a further period of friendly competition for the day. The addition of the older players for the opposition added a more abrasive yet rewarding encounter. Clearly the boys provided a far more assertive option for the hosts, with heady clashes seen in all areas of the pitch. This would be a good lesson for the boys around how their game would develop over the coming months towards their ascension to the adult standard of the game. Despite this and trailing by 5 at one stage our second set of players were able to offer some exceptional and spectacular play to win this half of the match also. Of particular merit was a sublime running and passing movement on the right flank of the pitch, that saw an explosion of pace, skill and balance, leading to a converted try under the posts with only a few minutes to spare.

You will note an absence of names from this report, which I concede is deliberate; as today it is only right to congratulate our entire squad of 21 who rose to the occasion this weekend. With another raft of talented individuals who were unfortunate not to gain a place this weekend; we all remain excited about the opportunities that this season will has to offer. Competition will be fierce not only from those we invite to our home ground and on the road; but also on the training pitches where selections will be earned and learned. Here’s to the big one boys. C.O.Y.H.

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