Fleetwood U14s 0 Hoppers U14s 30*
20 October 2013 – Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup round 2
The second round of the pool games was away against Fleetwood at Melbourne Avenue. The weather started with clear blue skies, and promised a dry pitch for once, suited to Hoppers expansive style of play. This was Fleetwood though! By the kick off the heavens had opened, with leaden skies and looking like difficult handling conditions for the second week in a row. I am never going to listen to Michael’s weather predictions in future and will get my brolly before it pours!
Hoppers kicked off through Kieran, with a deep, long effort. Hoppers started a little slowly and were pinged for penalties several times in the early exchanges. Fleetwood cleared their lines with a penalty and Kieran ran back strongly, but the ball went to ground from the support. Fleetwood had a period of pressure on Hoppers in our 22, but strong defense from Adam at scrum half and the back line repelled any danger.
Hoppers then started to get into top gear, and a great move followed: Fleetwood had kicked a penalty to our 22 on our right, but we won the line out on their put in and Adam fed the ball quickly along the line – the backs moved the ball really well in mid field to Kieran, who was only stopped with a great Fleetwood tackle. Eventually though, Hoppers got the first score after some strong work by the forwards, Kieran holding up the Fleetwood player in a tackle and the forwards holding them up in the maul and getting the put in to a scrum. Winning clean ball, we moved the ball down the right, blind side and Harvey powered away with a clean break before cutting in on their 10m line and feeding Lewis as he was tackled: Lewis then ran the score in powerfully under the posts. Conversion by Kieran, 7-0. Kieran was to put in a great kicking display, converting all the first half tries!
Fleetwood kicked off and Lewis fielded well, and drove in making lots of ground. When he was stopped, Nathan drove in strongly again from wing. Hoppers were still getting pinged for infringements, but soon scored a second try. Fleetwood were guilty of some poor kicking, and following a failure to make touch after a penalty to them, Harvey put in a very powerful run making 20m, and was only stopped again with a great tackle! He offloaded brilliantly in the tackle to Kieran who fed the ball on to Jamie, who drawing his man put Jake away on the left wing. Only one outcome was likely with Jake in space – he ran around the cover to score under the posts. 14-0 as Kieran converted again.
The conditions were deteriorating towards ‘monsoon’, and Fleetwood had some good possession following a knock on from their kick off, and generally their set plays were quite effective. However, Hoppers were putting real pressure in the back line, particularly through Callum and Jamie in the centre. Several excellent attacks fell victim to the conditions, particularly one where Kieran shaped to kick a penalty to touch, but moved it to our left, the ball going quickly to Jake who was stopped by a committed Fleetwood tackle: Hoppers then moved through several phases before a clear overlap was created on the right, but the ball just went to ground.
The third try came soon after though. A great run by Nathan on the right wing set up several drives, and eventually for Duggy to pick up from the back of the scrum and nearly score, but winning a penalty. The ball was quickly spun to the left and Jamie ran in well to score under the posts. 21-0, try converted by Kieran. The forth try came through Nathan, who capitalized on a mistake by the Fleetwood backs, who spilled a ball on the half way line. He recovered the bobbling ball and powered down the right wing, before cutting in under the posts. 28-0, converted by Kieran. The half was ended when a try was scored by Sam W after great continuity. Nathan put another great run in on the blind side on the right after being released by an 8 pick up by Duggy. When tackled, Nathan set it up well for Adam to spin the ball out from scrum half, through Kieran and Jamie, before Jake ran down the wing, being stopped but again winning a penalty. The ball was then moved to Sam W who drove over to score, 35-0 another conversion made.
The second half started with the rain still very heavy as Fleetwood kicked off. Hoppers made several changes, using the full squad of players, but this did not affect their dominance and immediately from the restart Hoppers put pressure on the opposition. Harvey fielded well and ran back straight down the centre of the pitch, making 40m before popping the ball well to Lewis who drove the ball on, the forwards providing quick ball from the ruck for Harvey again who fed Kieran, then Duggy – recycled again back to Lewis to sprint over score. 40-0 kick missed.
Fleetwood did not give up despite the one sided score, and had some decent possession and territory in the second half – aided by the still difficult conditions that led to several Hoppers handling errors. Good defense by the reworked back line meant that Fleetwood never looked like scoring, specifically from Harvey and Ethan at stand off – but Hoppers spent a significant period trying to run out of their 22. Sam W was doing very well in the line out, and was linking well in open play. The next try came after the best move of the match, with a series of about 5 phases, started by Sam W winning against the line out put in, and the ball being moved to our right wing. The ball was spun back to the left by Tom, and then went via Charles, Harvey, Sam W and various forwards, and finally to Duggy with the ball in some space in mid field, and he straightened powerfully to drive over and score under the posts. 45-0 the conversion missed. Amazing handling and continuity given the really foul weather!
Fleetwood had another period of possession and territory, but again did not look line troubling the scoreboard. Hoppers continued to run the ball from anywhere on the pitch and there were good runs from, Adam M, James and Andrew. Good work by the forwards put lots of pressure on Fleetwood when they had the ball, particularly notable were several tackles by Duggie. Hoppers were still pressing in attack, and another try came after the ball was set up well by Charles as he was tackled, and the ball was was spun through Harvey and Callum to Jake who showed great pace again to speed down the right wing to outpace the Fleetwood defense to score. 50-0 conversion missed.
The final play of the match saw a try from Sam W, after great work from Harvey, Tom and Callum: from about 15m he just put his head down, straightened and dived over to score. Final score 55-0 as the conversion was missed.
Another excellent performance by Hoppers, but done as usual with style rather than just with forward dominance: particularity impressive on a day that suited tight forward play. Hoppers have made a great start to the defense of their Lancashire Cup title, and now have a series of hard games to look forward to starting with the always strong Lymm next Sunday.