Fleetwood 0 Hoppers 19
Ok “Hopperites”, where are you right now?
Are you in your night attire, relaxing in an armchair as the sound of “Sky cops” fills the air and the subtle text of Sue Townsends Adrian Mole fills the synapses (Ya’ Bonce for non-rubbish talkers like me).
Or could you be sat in the lounge pondering how the day’s events have gone and are licking the wounds of a day at the “outdoor” office, whilst staring at the remnants of today’s late roast lunch.
I, personally, am neither. I am not suffering a debilitating “Ladies and Lads” of the U12’s post day out Ouzo headache. Nor am I recounting the players’ effort and commitment of today’s first round match (Cheers Neil and Scott for your concise recollection of the more important highlights of the day by text!) in clinical detail.
Tonight I sit in front of my laptop asking you all to applaud one of the most decisive, inspiring and excellent displays of flowing rugby this team has ever produced. Following the usual extended prologue to proceedings from our opponents coach/referee; we were warned of penalties being potentially abound for loose, dangerous and (as became clear quite early on) overly competitive play. The pre-game question of “who’s first competitive game of rugby by raising your hand”, should have warned of a precursor for some more “lenient” supervision of the game by the referee (with all concerns by our coaches to be only recognised at the interval 12 minutes away from our kick off time).
What was clear from the off was that the Hoppers intended to not just win todays encounter, but win as a “team” having left individual motivation/actions to score tries in the changing rooms prior to the match. The winning spirit appeared to flow through the team as opposed to being the metaphorical “albatross” that has on occasion left us wanting when faced with quality opposition.
The forwards gave a completely dominant display once again to show that the put in to the scrum is merely an excuse to gain possession and cycle through 2, 3, 4 phases of possession finally rewarded with points on the scoreboard. As agreed by all the coaches and supporters, this was their crowning glory of the day. Our scrum halves were blessed with so many feeds from the scrum it was often difficult for Daniel and Cian to get back in time to allow the flow of play to an excited and fearless back line.
The backs showed another set of good hands, clean crisp passing and pace that made the opposition helpless irrespective of their persistent attempts to stop the flow of play away from their last 2/3 of the pitch and back beyond their “enemy lines”. It was refreshing as a coach and supporter to only see sporadic breaks of concentration in dropping loose passes; indeed often any loose ball from the backs was in response to the persistently debilitating defence of their star player (A tall and range-y centre, with reasonable pace – but two tall legs to nail a good tackle to!).
As I ponder the range of the police helicopter on the screen to my left (remember the opening everyone!) as a critical friend of the team I seek to find improvements to our display that will develop the team further. Firstly, as identified by Scott, the time for more planned miss passes, miss moves and positional variation would show more of the clear skills the back division have and clearly hinted at in this performance. As for the forwards, collection of loose ball from the rucks and scrum might be somewhere where we might gain some good ground. Actually, as I recall in this match should we have collected some of the less well presented possession from the scrum we would have been afforded around 70-80% of possession from the scrums alone. The decision from the referee in the second half to have uncontested scrums due to a perceived injury (??) to the neck of one of his props didn’t affect our performance; this being the only opportunity to win their own ball from their feed to the scrum. Even with this good pressure from the scrum halves and the back line still led to dropped passes and one way traffic to their constantly tiring star player.
EVERY PLAYER, STARTER OR SQUAD MEMBER ON READING THIS TAKE A BOW; IT WAS WITHOPUT DOUBT YOUR BEST PERFORMACE OF THE YEAR – AND AS JUSTIN HAS RECENTLY STATED “COME ON WARRINGTON” WE ARE WAITING!
Conversely (and in complete contrast to our old ingrained practices) the second friendly match was won by our battling hosts. This match appeared less Pie and Mash; and far more chalk and cheese in comparison to our previous encounter. The concerning traits of missed passes, poor tackling and defensive anarchy (How many times did the boys hear the coaches screaming for them to get back in position to defend from the breakdown of play!). The crowning glory of this encounter was a mazy run from the ever upright Cian, who showed a clean pair of heels and the determination and pace to find the try line from 30-35 metres out. Unfortunately this was a half and 8 minutes too late to forge a comeback from the ending 21-7 final score. Thank goodness we have reversed the ethic from slow start, good finish or this may have been a far different report.
So tries for Cian, Michael Woods, Jak and Max Gardner (Max you looked positively ecstatic at your well-earned try- a pleasure to see) all gave ample reasons to look towards a man of the match (es) award. The referee and opposition coach choose Cian for his/their player of the match (es) for his determined an unflinching play. The coaches award was far less easy to choose with the opposing coach pointing to Archie for another determined effort and a captains performance; but there was one face that appeared at the front of every ruck, maul, open play, even “offside” play on occasion (not a criticism, just an opportunity to show his persistence in defence!) which was Aaron whom took the coaches award of the day.
Today however was not about giving individual plaudits and pats on the back to individual players, but raising a glass of whatever comes to hand (Ladies….hopefully not the combination of shots that you apparently consumed on the Saturday) to salute a coming of age for the Hoppers U12’s. Justin has reminded us by email that we are due to accept the company of the “mighty” Warrington. As from today we have earned the right to be scared of no-one; we need not hide in the shadows of being just participants in a contest, but being the team to beat. Today we showed in the first round of our County Championship that we can produce performances that can exhilarate, motivate and entertain anyone who watches or plays this exciting team.
Who are we?
We are Preston Grasshoppers……….
Are you listening Warrington et al……….