U15s too strong for Bolton

Date: 02 December 2014

Hoppers U15 30*  Bolton U15   0
Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup, Round 4.
November 30th 2014

Following several good performances in friendly matches recently, Hoppers were keen to test themselves again in a competitive cup match. Another fine day greeted us at Lightfoot Green, with blue skies and a dry(ish) surface gave great conditions for Hoppers’ running rugby, and a decent crowd of parents from both sides lined the fence around the second team pitch.

Tom N kicked off with a low drive that was fielded well by the Bolton forwards and they returned the ball back well, keeping the ball in the forwards to test the Hoppers’ defence around the rucks. We stood up well, and following good work by the Hoopers backs, the ball was fed to Jake in from full back to split the Bolton defence and he powered over on the left to score, with Tom N making the conversion.

Hoppers would have added to the score soon after as Nathan showed great pace to run clear of his opposite number on the right wing, only to be stopped by a good cover from the Bolton full back,who used the angle to shepherd him into touch near their 22. Bolton did have several chances to get on the scoreboard, but the cover defence from Hoppers meant that even when they broke the first line of defence, they were soon run down. Following such a dangerous break by the Bolton backs on our right, Jake covered well to tackle the player and we turned over the ball. This possession was then moved down the right wing by Jamie and then again through the backs to the left to Ryan, who showed his great elusiveness to skip inside back to his support. This gave us a very dangerous ruck in their 22 and Tom N span the ball quickly to the right with Tom W braking through superbly in the centre, before feeding Jake who powered over to score his second.  Brilliant rugby, turning defence quickly into attack.

The forwards from Hoppers were playing really well, with strong runs from Henry, Will and Sam W, and good back row play from Lewis, Adam and Sam M getting several turnovers in ruck situations. The Bolton forwards were playing to their strengths and keeping the ball tight to the ruck, and were having some success with cleaver kicks in behind the Hoppers’ defence, realising that our back line was very difficult to penetrate. Following a great Bolton kick into our left hand corner flag, Jake recovered at full back with a strong kick chase in pursuit: Jake ran the ball across and outpaced the cover to set up a Hoppers’ attack from our own line. Only good Bolton defence stopped us scoring again as we played with great pace and handling in the backs, and mobility and continuity in the forwards.

Bolton had held their own for a while, but we added to the score as we won the ball against the head in the forwards and Lewis put in a powerful run to get us moving forward. The ball was fed into Tom W in mid field who had a storming performance, excellent in all parts of his game. On this occasion he cut back in towards the covering Bolton defence, and stepped though several attempted tackles, before showing real pace to run free and score, conversion made by Tom N.

Bolton kept trying but were now being outplayed in all areas, with strong tackling by our forwards pinning them back as soon as they threatened, notably by Adam M, putting real pressure on with a crunching tackle on their kicker. Soon after we scored a further try with great work by the forwards covering a Bolton attack on the short side to our left, before Sam M and Henry secured the turn over ball with good technique. We then moved the ball quickly to the right with a break by Jake in mid field feeding Nathan: he then scorched down the right handing of several attempts to stop him by the remaining Bolton cover, conversion made by Tom N.

Despite Bolton keeping working hard and Hoppers conceding a few penalties we extended the score with another great score from Tom W, assisted by Jake to give a converted try. The forwards were also making great runs with Will and Sam W making barnstorming runs, nearly scoring breakaways for the pack! Just before half time Hoppers closed the game out, Bolton tried to run the ball from their 22, Tom W capped a fine first half display by ripping the ball in the tackle to run free and score his hat trick. Conversion made by Tom N.

There then followed a training game, with all of the Hoppers’ squad being used.

The kick off was taken by Bolton and they put us under some pressure to start with. The backs now including Callum, Charlie, Ethan and Harvey and were now operating really well with good distribution cleaver kicks, and crunching tackles – the usual powerful defensive play from Harvey. A great break from Jamie nearly gave the first score of the session, but he was just stopped and Sam W was unlucky not to be awarded a score in the follow up. Hoppers were still dominating all areas and smart thinking by Ryan to take a quick line out nearly led to a score for Hoppers. Bolton now tried to keep their rare possession and drive through the forwards, their dangerous 8 showing some good touches.

The inevitable Hoppers score came, despite the stronger forward play from Bolton and following a period of attacking play from the opposition, we turned it over and Jake ran almost the full length of the field to score his third of the day. Conversion made by Tom N. Another great move from the backs led to the next try with Harvey, Charlie and Ethan all contributing, before Jamie nearly got over to score. Bolton were penalised in the ensuing ruck, and we moved the ball with a quick tap through Jake to Harvey who went over. The speed of play and thinking was excellent. Conversion made by Tom N who put in a wonderful kicking display all day, as well as ensuring the ball was distributed well at scrum half.

Bolton never gave up, and Hoppers were required to tackle hard, notably from Adam M, Lewis and Andrew, as the opposition tried to make ground through the forwards. A neat kick from Harvey was followed up by Jake on half way creating a dangerous attack. Following a super turnover from Andrew at a ruck where he got his hands on their ball as first man in, we span the ball to Jamie who went on to score a well-deserved try. Conversion Missed. The final score of the day really summed up the great Hoppers play, with Lewis fielding the kick off, scorching though several tackles before giving a brilliantly timed offload to Jamie on the right wing who had worked hard to back up, despite the late stages of the game. Jamie then had too much gas for the defence and went over for his second try. Conversion missed.

A wonderful performance by the Hoppers lads, with the backs looking really pacy and strong, whichever line up was playing and benefitting from a forward pack that is very mobile, but can also ‘out muscle’ teams if they need to. We were just too strong in all areas for a Bolton side that showed great tenacity to keep trying, and excellent discipline and spirit even when the game went against them. Particularly pleasing was the decision making from Hoppers, with them not trying to force every attack, but instead combining the forwards and backs excellently to create opportunities to break through. Thanks as always to the ref who, despite feeling under the weather, refereed really well to ensure free flowing, entertaining rugby.

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