Under 16s back to winning ways

Date: 19 October 2015

Hoppers U16s  40    Fylde U16s  32
Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup Second Round
18th October 2015

After their defeat away at Eccles in the first round Hoppers were keen to get back to their winning ways against their arch rivals Fylde, the draw pitting Hoppers against the second and third placed in last year’s competition in the first two rounds. The weather was kind being cool and dry, and playing on the big first team pitch at Lightfoot Green it promised to be an exciting match – it didn’t disappoint.

Hoppers kicked off through Kieran, but a good chase only resulted in us knocking on and giving the initiative to Fylde. Immediately, Hoppers had to display strong defence as Fylde dominated the set scums and had good attacking ball. Good line speed from the backs saw us tackle well and turn over the ball, moving the ball well to Jamie who sped to half way, only to be stopped by a strong Fylde cover tackle. A good positional kick from Kieran gave Hoppers some dangerous territory, but we struggled to go through phases by winning ball at the breakdowns. Ryan in his unusual scrum half position started really well, and put pressure on Fylde around the fringes, nearly setting up a score by charging their stand off’s kick down.

Hoppers were continuing to pressure Fylde, despite being second best in the breakdowns, and were forcing errors through excellent defence in the back line. Ryan nearly broke free after a great tackle by Kieran, and a run by Duggie that fed him the ball on the half way. A super covering tackle by Fylde stopped the danger. Eventually, the Hopper’s pressure told and we score the first points. A loose defensive clearing kick by Fylde was returned strongly by Duggie, before he set Kieran away who created space in midfield with a powerful break, and put Jamie in space. Jamie’s pace took him around his winger and under the posts to score. Conversion made 7-0 Hoppers.

Hoppers were definitely on top at this stage, and worked a great ‘exit strategy’ from their kick off with Alastair running the ball back, feeding Duggie who made further ground before Kieran cleared our lines to the Fylde 22. Ryan again put pressure on from scrum half with a second charge down, only a lack of accuracy along the line stopping us scoring again. Fylde were never going to lie down though, and following a recover from a clever clearing kick, they nearly broke away to score. Only a great covering tackle from Jake stopped the attack. Hoppers were again under pressure and gave several penalties, allowing Fylde to build pressure. They kicked one of the penalties to make the score 7-3 but Fylde were lucky not to have a player sin binned as he purposely obstructed a quick kick off by Kieran, with only a penalty ensuing.

The Fylde pressure eventually paid off, and after a quick tap penalty the Fylde winger went over on our right, showing great pace and strength to knock off several Hoppers’ tackles. Conversion missed, 7-8 Fylde. The balance had shifted to Fylde, but Hoppers continued to look dangerous, with good runs through Jake, Tom and Kieran, mostly defended well by Fylde’s tenacious tackling, and good work at the loose. Hoppers in this phase of the game were getting ‘bossed’ in the set scrums and were not getting to breakdowns quick enough to defend possession as we moved the ball wide. Fylde were keeping the ball close in, using their well drilled forwards to secure possession and make ground. Only super defensive work from Hoppers, particularly Duggie, kept them from scoring as they had a period of possession near our line.

Hoppers were often trying to make plays from first phase and, with us taking risks with possession, we were often caught out if we infringed, as we struggled to put any pressure on their scrum put in. We were, though, competing well in the line out with Adam and Will securing good ball and putting pressure on their ball. We nearly added to the score after winning quick ball ‘off the top’ and moving the ball to Jamie on the wing, he combined well with Jake from full back and we were unlucky not to get over for a try.

Fylde were just stopped from scoring by brilliant defence from Ryan to get under the player and hold him up as he went to score: this again illustrated our difficulties as they had won against the head, and outrucked us before breaking away and nearly driving over to score. The dangerous 5m scrum, however, let to a Fylde score, as they used their forwards to drive over. Conversion made, 7-15 Fylde.

Hoppers needed to gain some momentum as the game turned, and great pressure from the kick off led to a penalty as they knocked on, and an off side player picked up the ball. We kicked to the corner to keep the pressure on and this brave decision let to our next score. We won quick ball off the line out and span the ball, Harvey running straight, holding the defensive cover; a quick ruck ball enabled us to move the ball to our right through Tom, before Nathan recovered a loose ball to dive over and score in the corner. 14-15 Fylde, after a wonderful conversion by Kieran from out on our right. We managed to put ourselves under pressure again from their kick off, and eventually gave away a penalty – fortunately for us the kick was missed making the score 14-15 Fylde at half time. A really close half pitting the strength of the Fylde forwards against our dangerous backline.

Fylde kicked off the second half, and we put ourselves under pressure again by knocking on. Fylde piled on the pressure, needing a great defensive effort from Hoppers to keep them out. Ethan, Duggie, Alastair and Will all put in great tackles, but Fylde were offloading really well to keep the moves going. Eventually, the pressure told and they went over to score. Conversion made 14-22 to Fylde, exactly what we didn’t need at the start of the half.
We really need to raise our game now, and Duggie led the line with a crunching tackle from the kick off to help us secure possession and territory, and soon after a penalty. We kicked to the corner, and won good line out possession. As we spun the ball along the backs, Harvey cut back straightening the line and nearly went over himself, but we set up the ruck and Duggie ran hard to our left before ‘basketball’ passing the ball to Jamie on his wing who, with just a bit of space, ran in to score in the corner. Kieran made a sublime conversion from right out on our left wing, to make the score 21-22 Fylde.

Despite working the ball out well from their kick off with a super clearing kick and chase from Kieran, we let them in to score next. Our inability to win our scrum on half way enabled them to move the ball to our right, into our 22, before rucking quick ball and outflanking our defence on the left, for their right winger to go over and score. Kick missed 21-27 Fylde.

We dusted ourselves off again, and forced a knock on from the kick off by great pressure again from our forward chase. We were again winning good ball from the line out, and after a brilliant break by Kieran in midfield, he fed Ethan backing up brilliantly inside who went over powerfully to score. 28-27 conversion made to put Hoppers in the lead for the first time since the early part of the first half. Nathan nearly added to the score after he was put away on the wing, but an excellent tackle from the Fylde full back stopped him: we followed up with several moves, and probably should have extended the lead with two well worked overlaps that we did not finish. Eventually though, the sustained pressure broke the Fylde resistance, with them conceding a penalty close to their line, and Kieran quick thinking, tapped to go over to score. Kick made brilliantly from wide out, off the post by Kieran to make the score 35-27 and it seemed with two clear scores ahead, Hoppers had sealed the win – Fylde, though, were to show great resolve and scored after we put ourselves under pressure again, being held up in a maul from the kick off. They capitalised to score again, unconverted to make the score 35-32. We seemed to be on ‘Fergie time’ as we played a significant amount of injury time, and the nerves of the crowd were rising to a crescendo. We seemed to want to give maximum excitement to the crowd by running several penalties from our half, and conceding possession on several occasions.

Great tackles from Harvey, Duggie and Kieran helped keep them out, and we were still attacking hard, with a great kick through by Jake just failing to be recovered for us to score. Their full back made a wonderful clearing kick that moved them from their 22 to ours, putting the pressure back on. From the line out, though, we won good ball again and fed Duggie for a storming run down the middle. Recycling the ball well by the forwards, Kieran moved the ball to Ethan who went over excellently on our right to score the try that finally made Hoppers safe. Conversion missed, 40-32.
The final whistle went as a great kick pinned Fylde into the corner. The game was very hard fought and showed great skill and commitment from both sides. It also showed how both sides were never going to give up at any stage, and was a great advert for the game at this age group. With these displays it’s likely that both sides will progress into the knockout stage and may meet again in the competition at some stage.

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