Hoppers U14s 36 Sedgley Park U14s 5
Hoppers picked up their competitive matches after the cancelled game last week against Lymm. Despite the half term and several absences, Hoppers had a good turn out of players, with around 20 players who were all used in the match. The weather was, thankfully, much better than expected give the deluge in the previous 24 hrs, with bright but windy conditions. We expected a hard game as “Sedge” are usually a big, physical pack and had been our one defeat last year, albeit us having 14 players in a depleted, half term, squad at the time.
Hoppers kicked off through Ethan, playing down the slight slope, with the strong cross wind favouring them slightly. Although it was sunny and dry, the cold, windy conditions still made handling difficult, as shown by the knock on by Sedge from the kick off. This put pressure straight away on them, and Hoppers moved the ball well though the backs to the left to Ethan playing on the wing, but good Sedge defense stopped the move. Hoppers played their usual expansive game, and Callum, playing at 10, distributed well to the outside back all morning.
The Hoppers’ pressure from the resulting scrum to Sedge near their line led to the first score. Decision making was not at its best, as the big Sedge centre opted to kick into the wind rather than run the ball out through the phases. The kick held up in the wind on their 22, and was fielded by Duggie who ran the ball powerfully on an arc, to score near the posts. 5-0 kick missed.
The second score came very soon, after great work by the Hoppers’ forwards meaning they won a penalty: Lewis ran the ball really powerfully down the middle, breaking up the Sedge defensive line before Jack took it on making further metres. The forwards then recycled again from the ensuing ruck, and Ben dummied in mid field, before putting Jake away. He was initially stopped, before regaining possession and going over to score under the posts. 12-0 with the conversion made by Duggie.
An excellent kick off by Sedge was returned brilliantly by Harvey, setting Hoppers up well with decent field position. The Hoppers’ forwards were doing really well against a strong Sedge pack and at times were driving them back in the tight and out-rucking them in the loose. Sedge coped really well with this through their strong No8 who picked up on numerous occasions and made good ground. Exceptional covering from Dugggie at No8 for us, though, stopped dangerous attacks with crunching tackles – a really good battle of the 8s!!
Sedge had a good phase of play with some incisive runs from their big backs and this required strong defense from Hoppers, particularly from Sam W, and Duggie. However, the Hoppers’ forwards were making some really strong drives themselves, and Lewis again made a clean break nearly leading to a third try, as the ball was moved quickly by Callum to the wing, but just stopped short. Sedge were still looking dangerous round the fringes, and strong defense again from Ben, Callum, Duggie and Harry kept them at bay.
It was only a matter of time before Hoppers scored again, and they threatened with a good move from Jake, Sam M and then Ben but he was just stopped short on our right hand side. After a period of pressure with runs from Duggie, Lewis and Ben we eventually got a scrum in a really dangerous position in the middle, right in front of their posts. If ever there was a No8 pick up opportunity, this was it and Duggie obliged, running in easily to score near their posts. 17-0 as the conversion was missed.
The fourth try came after probably the best move of the match. The ball was passed over to the left, where Harvey appeared and he made a great run down the left wing, beating several players, before cutting infield. The ball was recycled and moved to the left with good work from Harry and Jack who held the ball up well, before it was moved by the backs slickly to the left again, where Ethan was put into space and finished well in the left corner. 22-0 conversion missed. Sedge had another period of pressure, including a dangerous scrum and then a tap penalty, but Hoppers held strong and the half finished 22-0.
The second half was started by Sedge kicking off, with Hoppers making several changes in their line up and several positional changes at half time. They were now playing up the slight slope and the cross wind was against them. Harvey stared with another strong run back but Sedge were much more in the game in the first stages of the half, their big forwards doing well in the tight and in the rucks, stopping the Hoppers’ fluidity with some disruptive forward play.
Hoppers were still threatening when they did win clean ball, and there were good runs from Charles on the right wing, Jake coming into the line from his full back position and the ball was moved well in the backs but handling let us down on several occasions at crucial points. Sedge were now looking dangerous, and strong runs by their big centre and No8 were stopped by Duggie with text book tackles, and the forwards were now competing better in the loose. Following strong forward play Sedge were pinged for a penalty, and then marched 10m for being offside. The tap was played well by Tom to Jack who drove in, timing a short offload to Duggie who powered down the middle from half way to score again. 29-0 with the conversion by Charles.
Sedge were not giving up, and had a good period of play, requiring strong defense from Duggie, Jack and the Hoppers’ forwards, and eventually they got a score as the Hoppers’ defense was breached following a tap penalty. 29-5, conversion missed as it was charged down by Jake.
This galvanized Hoppers to work harder and keep up the intensity, and a great kick off from Tom led to a knock on by Sedge and pressure on them in their half. This phase of play was quite even, with notable defense from Jack who had a powerful performance in the pack adding to the already good physicality, and another great period of play led to the final try. The ball was moved slickly to the left by the backs with good play by Jake and Oscar, before being recycled quickly and moved to the right, the stretched Sedge defense not coping with Charles’ pace and he went over to score in the right hand corner. Conversion made brilliantly by Duggie to make the final score 36-5.
A really good test for Hoopers against a Sedge side who competed well and never gave up. Thanks to the ref who had an excellent game and to everyone involved in a hard fought contest, but one played in great spirit and with lots skill and commitment from both sides.