Hoppers U15 35* Leigh U15 5
9th November 2014
Another fine day saw Hoppers’ first home match for a while in perfect conditions at Lightfoot Green on the second team pitch. As with Sedgley Park last week, Leigh promised to be another competitive team with a large pack, set against our mobile and versatile forwards, and pacey backs.
Hoppers started the match with a good kick, but Leigh responded strongly with a dangerous run stopped by a fine defensive tackle from Ryan on the left wing. The early exchanges were well matched between the teams, but with an indication of things to come with strong runs from Nathan at full back and excellent work by the backs stretching the Leigh defence from side to side. Leigh tackled well and initially repelled the Hoppers pressure. Ryan nearly got the first score after being put away by Adam M in the back line (is he playing centre these days?) and outpacing the flank defence: he was literally ‘collared’ though, and forced into touch.
The pressure told eventually and, unlike the early stages in the Sedgley match, Hopper went through the phases to build pressure on the Leigh defence. Following a couple of tap penalties in quick succession given against Leigh as they tried to defend, the ball was switched quickly to the left wing for Ryan to score in the corner. Conversion missed.
Leigh came back strongly and Hoppers had to compete in all areas, with a crunching ‘double’ defensive tackle from Lewis setting the tone. In attack we were again threatening with quick ball from Tom N at scrum half, expansive play and great offloading in and around the contact area. Soon this led to the second try: after a kick through by Leigh, Nathan fielded and ran back straight and hard into their half, followed soon after by a good dummy and break from Ethan. Hoppers went through several drives and attacks to disrupt the Leigh defence, before Ryan scored a classic winger’s try. Fed by Adam M (in the backs again!!!) on the left wing he stood his opposite number up to the inside with a ‘shimmy’ before running the outside line and leaving him trailing, as Ryan scored in the corner and the conversion was missed.
To their credit Leigh came strongly again and we were working hard to keep them out. Following several drives in their forwards, they sucked our defence to the breakdown, and fed the ball quickly to their right. It looked certain that they would score, but Ethan put in a try saving tackle near the line and the forwards followed up by turning the ball over and relieving the pressure. Unfortunately, this led to a lengthy break for an injury to the Leigh player who nearly scored, but it was reported afterwards that he was OK.
Hoppers tried to keep focused, but they were caught cold from the scrum following the injury break as their half back dummied and then went down the blind side to score an impressive try. A lesson that one drop in concentration can be costly! Conversion just missed.
Hoppers regrouped and again moved the ball around the pitch with more good work from Ethan, Nathan and, as usual, Harvey ran hard and straight in mid field to create space for others to exploit. Following such a good straight run by Harvey, and good work by Callum to distribute the ball quickly, Ethan dummied to create a gap and powered over, conversion missed.
The forwards were now dominating with great mobility and effort from the back row, and strong play in the set pieces by the tight forwards. This gave a great platform for the backs to attack, along with some key turnovers in dangerous positions. Harvey was now having a storming game running at their defence again and again, and Lewis nearly went over after his typically powerful drive. Jamie scored the next try after more expansive play in the backs, finishing powerfully in the right hand corner after he appeared to have been stopped, conversion missed.
Jamie was a force to reckon with all day, and displayed a level of physicality in his runs that was amazing. The next try came after he was fed the ball and used his pace to break on the right, forcing his way past tacklers, including a ‘League’ style shoulder charge, which he simply bounced off and carried on forward. He appeared to be halted, but kept driving and went over to score with several Leigh defenders hanging on! conversion missed.
The pressure really built on Leigh now and they were conceding penalties. Following more great work from Ethan, Harvey and Sam W who backed up tirelessly, Lewis powered over to just before half time, Tom N making the conversion.
Leigh kicked off the second half with a mountain to climb, and looked physically drained after the intense pressure of the first half. Credit again that Leigh certainly did not give up or let their heads drop. After the half time break their forwards had a good spell and they held their own. There was very little chance for dangerous attacks though, due to the excellent defence by Hoppers backs and pressure from the back row. One source of danger was some clever kicking, and they pinned Jake down in our right side right near our line as he fielded a through kick. Having our covering backs just about recycling the ball from the following ruck, Sam M found himself exposed in the half back position and put boot to ball with a clearing kick out of our 22. (Correct decision making! – as SH shouted ‘well done’, not ‘forwards do not kick’!).
Again the use of all of the full squad refreshed the team, with, for example, good work at scrum half from Adam R, great tackles from Andrew and searing runs from Jake, Agus and Charlie. After a wonderful phase of play from backs and forwards combining, Adam R dived over round the fringe for a classic scrum half try, conversion missed.
Leigh were wilting now and Jake ran the ball 50m from the restart, and when the ball was won but moved the wrong way to give a 2 on 6 defenders it looked like the attack would be stalled- Jamie though ran round, past and through all 6 to score again and get his hat trick. Stunning finishing and a contender for individual try of the season, conversion missed. Hoppers were completely dominant now and added the final try after a good kick by Agus, and an equally bad one from from Leigh saw Charlie put Ryan away to score his hat trick though the conversion was missed.
Another good test for Hoppers from a committed Leigh side that never stopped trying, and who will only get better with experience. As with last week, the pace and intensity of the Hoppers game wears sides down and they tend to really struggle in the last 20 mins. Cup match next week away at Southport in the Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Tournament.