Hoppers U14s 30* – Warrington U14s 0
Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup.
Another really good day for rugby with mild, still conditions and firm ground underfoot. Hoppers were aiming to continue their strong performance in the Cup that sees them unbeaten at the top of the Group A, from Fylde in second place. Warrington (aka Wire) kicked off the first half, but unfortunately for them they kicked straight to Duggie who ran the ball powerfully back down the left wing, outpacing the defense that had not really woken up, to run under the posts. 7-0 with the conversion made by Harvey.
Warrington restarted and got themselves going after conceding the early score, but Hoppers were matching them in all areas, particularly doing well in both the tight scrums and in the rucks and mauls. Jack D (aka Dunnie) was dominant in the scrum all day, pushing back the wire props who never were able to handle him. This great work from the forwards gave Hoppers lots of ball to work from and the backs took advantage, moving the ball well to threaten the dogged Wire defense. Following good phases of forward play, and great continuity by Jack and Sam W, the ball was moved quickly to the right, with Lewis feeding the backs and the ball reaching Jake who had supported on the right wing. Only a great cover tackle from the Wire back, Jack stopped a second Hoppers try.
Hoppers were putting a lot of pressure on Wire now, and had most of the territory and possession. Only good defense from Wire kept Hoppers out. Hoppers were also having to defend well though on occasion, particularly in the backs and Harvey had a great defensive performance, knocking his larger opposite number back again and again with great technique. The next try to Hoppers came eventually, though, following a great move. It was started again by the forwards who won a scrum against the head pushing Wire back, then Tom moved the ball to the left to Jake on the wing. He made excellent ground before cutting in and getting the ball to Harvey in support. He set the ball expertly to get quick ruck ball, and the backs span it wide to the right, with Adam entering the line well from full back to put Nathan away who finished it strongly in the right hand corner to make the score 12-0, conversion missed.
Warrington again came back strongly, and had a period of pressure, some of it caused by Hoppers errors and poor decision making, and a change of tactic where Wire put in a number of kicks through in the backs. Good tackling by Duggie and others kept Wire out and the pressure was relieved eventually with a good run out by Lewis. Unfortunately, he was felled and injured and had to go off in his first outing at flanker. Hoppers were not disrupted too much and scored again soon afterwards, started and finished by Sam W who had a wow of a game! He took a great line out ball, and we moved the ball to the left to Jake on the wing, who again made great metres, stretching the Wire defense and enabling us to win quick ruck ball when he was tackled. The ball was then switched to the right, where Adam again joined well to make a overlap: Sam W had made up ground to support and dummied to the overlap, to cut in and score himself under the posts. Conversion made by Harvey.
Warrington were a little rattled now, and put themselves straight under pressure as their kick off failed to go 10m. Hoppers had a couple of attacks from this possession, before Duggie made a break down the left and when finally stopped, we moved the ball again back against a stretched Wire back line with Adam feeding Nathan wide on his right wing. He was just too powerful and fast for his opposition and ran in to collect his second try, conversion missed. Wire were still trying hard and applying themselves well, and following competitive play by both sides it remained 24-0 at half time.
The second half started with Hoppers kicking off and carrying on from the strong first half performance. The team had several changes, but nowadays this does not weaken us at all. Another Hoppers try came soon into the half, again after taking a scum against the head and Duggie picked up to storm down the left hand channel, just far too fast and strong to be caught to collect his second try, kick missed. A super run by Dunnie from the kick off kept the pressure on Wire, but they again regrouped and had periods of territory and pressure, helped by the indiscipline from Hoppers that saw a heavy penalty count against them in the loose.
Jamie and Callum had a really strong performance in defense and Harvey tackled hard all day keeping Wire at bay in another period where they had good possession and territory. Eventually this was relieved with a kick from Callum, and an excellent chase from Nathan. Hoppers then scored with Duggie getting his hat trick, and Harvey making another conversion. Hoppers were now dominant. Nathan scored to get his hat trick, but an ‘assist’ to Dunnie, who in defense stopped their attack, and ripping the ball free before making a strong run on the right blind side. He set up to get quick ball, and Nathan read the situation really well, picking up and he took it again down the blind where the Wire defense had left space. His pace and strength meant he was never going to be caught and he went over under the posts, the kick was made by Charles.
Warrington never gave up and kept having periods of possession and territory, but good Hopper’s defense meant that they did not really get near to scoring. In fact, Nathan got his 4th of the day, again set up by good defense. We turned over a ruck ball from their attack and Charles had a good run down the left. When he was high tackled, we quickly tapped the penalty and it was moved to the right with fast hands, Jamie driving for the line. He was well tackled, but presented well and Nathan picked up to dive over, conversion missed.
Hoppers finished a very strong performance with the final try of the day through Sam W, again after a good run by Charles down the left wing and, after good continuity, Sam W powered in to for the final score, conversion missed. Hoppers put in a great attacking performance today, but were also much tighter in defense compared to the Eccles game in the last round – we now look well set to top the group if we continue to perform as well. Thanks to the ref, who refereed the game expertly, and sympathetically for the age group, and for the spirit shown by the Wire players who never stopped trying.
A break now for Xmas after an unbeaten first half of the year, with us top of the Blacksticks table – so have a well deserved holiday and hopefully the lads will keep their fitness levels up for the New Year!