Eccles U14s 26 Hoppers U14s 56*
Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup. Sunday 1/12/13.
After a couple of weeks lay off as other teams had cried off, Hoppers U14s were raring to go in the next round of the Lancashire Cup. Eccles had only narrowly lost in a previous round to Fylde, so we were expecting a really good test in the match. The weather was very kind, mild and calm, and the rain held off giving good conditions for running rugby – just a very low sun to concern the players as they fielded kicks.
Kieran kicked off and we put pressure on Eccles straight away and forced a line out in their half. Eccles, though, had a big, strong pack and it was clear from the early exchanges that they would be very competitive, particularly in the set scrums. Eccles used the ball well, with several strong runners in their midfield backs making ground, but the Hoppers’ defense was strong from both our backs and the back row: Harry particularly tracking well and snuffing out a dangerous early break with a good tackle.
Hoppers began to get their game together and soon made the first score. Several good phases and good continuity by the forwards let to a great score on the right by Nathan. Following a very strong run by Jake on the left wing, the ball was shifted to the right through the back line,where Kieran entered the line from full back before feeding Lewis: he straightened and made excellent ground before feeding Nathan who finished expertly to make the score 5-0, the conversion missed.
Hoppers were getting on top now and looked dangerous right from the kick off when Kieran ran back strongly into their half before feeding Adam M who took it on, only stopped by vigorous Eccles defense. Eccles were still attacking strongly, having a good amount of possession from the set scrums and rucks and attempting to set their backs loose. Hoppers had to put in a stint of strong tackling, notably the whole back line and Duggie and Harry who put in strong hits. However, Eccles got the next score after Hoppers conceded a series of penalties in the loose, and finally a big Eccles forward drove over from close range following a tap. Conversion missed 5-5.
Both sides were now playing some really strong rugby, with Eccles winning the forward battles, but Hoppers stronger in the backs, and we nearly scored after a very strong run by Harvey, who created space and put Nathan away on the right wing. He beat his man and cut in for the line, only to be stopped by a wonderful Eccles tackle. Hoppers did get the next try, though, when having repelled an Eccles attack, Duggie managed to firstly hold their player up to form a maul, and then rip it free: he then powered down the left hand side to score under the posts. 10-5, conversion missed.
Hoppers were beginning to get the upper hand again, and we nearly scored again after Harvey ran the ball back from the kick off, beating several defenders, then he moved the ball to Lewis and then it went on to Kieran who set Jake away on the left wing – but he was just stopped before scoring, again by a great Eccles covering tackle. From the ensuing line out, Hoppers’s forwards won it against the put in with a tap back, and it was cleaned up well and moved along the backs. Harvey, as he did all game, ran it straight and hard, beating the first tackle and making space for others before timing the pass brilliantly. He did this again and when he was just stopped before the try line, he fed Ben who was supporting strongly, taking the pass to power over to score. 15-5, conversion made my Kieran to make it 17-5.
The lads were now trying to dominate the opposition with our expansive style of rugby and we ran back strongly again from the kick off, but Eccles didn’t let us dominate easily, defending well and there was some great rugby from both sides. Hoppers were still getting penalized frequently at the break down, but despite this still managed to keep constant pressure on Eccles. After a committed tackle by Sam M, where he came off slightly worse with a clash of heads, we retrieved the ball and moved it through the backs to Duggie who ran in his second try to make the score 22-5 – kick made brilliantly by Kieran from far out on the left making the score 24-5.
Eccles, though, kept regrouping and coming back, and some sloppy work from the kick off put us under pressure. Eccles attacked strongly with several penalties given against us and strong drives from their forwards and they eventually scored their second try to make the score 24-12, conversion made – they took some real momentum into the second half.
The second half started with Eccles’ momentum telling and they soon added to their score after we received the kick off. They were dominating at this stage in the forwards and this was starting to tell. Conversion made to make the score 24-19. Game on!
Hoppers responded very well and raised their game. The play became quite frantic, but Hoppers particularly needed to defend the Eccles attacks, and noteworthy was Sam W, who made several telling tackles. We scored the crucial next try, though, with Harvey breaking tackles, setting Kieran and then Duggie away with strong runs. Duggie got his hat trick having shown incredible power to beat the despairing Eccles tacklers making the score 31-19, conversion made by Kieran. We pressed the advantage home with another excellent try. James G fielded the ball from the kick off and ran in very strongly before setting the ball. Harvey powered in yet again with a straight run, breaking tackles to feed Sam W in midfield who got the ball quickly to Duggie, who ran in yet another try, this time on the right. Conversion made, 38-19.
Hoppers were now in control and Adam R was subbed after having a great game distributing at scrum half, as was Ollie after a sterling effort at hooker. Having used all of the squad, such is our strength in depth that this did not affect the Hoppers play, and we scored another super try soon afterwards. Having held up an Eccles attack in a maul, we won the ball in our 22 and it was fed to Kieran ‘in the pocket’ to kick to the right hand side on their 10m line. Nathan had chased brilliantly to recover the ball and outpace the defense on the right to go over and score. 43-19, conversion missed.
Eccles showed their great effort, and never-say-die attitude by scoring another try. Hoppers were still getting penalized in the loose and Eccles forwards took advantage to drive over, making the score 43-26, conversion successful. Hoppers then came back again and nearly scored following a break by Kieran and a miraculous take by Harvey from the offload right off his boots! Hoppers did score soon after, following good work in defense by Jamie, and an interception by Kieran on the right after another tap penalty to Eccles. Kieran ran the score into the right hand wing before cutting under the posts to make his conversion easier and the score 50-26. Kieran was really on fire now, and got the final try after ripping the ball on our 22 and taking it the length of the pitch to score. Final score 57-26, conversion made.
A really competitive, high scoring game with great commitment and skill from both sides. Thanks to Eccles for their hospitality and the great spirit in which the game was played.