Under 16s crash out at Collegiate

Date: 16 March 2016

Liverpool Collegiate U16s 30*   Hoppers U16s 0
Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup Quarter Final
6th March 2016

Hoppers U16s were drawn away at Liverpool Collegiate in the quarter finals of the Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup competition. Hoppers had a bare 15 players to start with – the squad ravaged by unavailability due to injury and, mostly, to the clashing with a range of school, county and academy commitments. It was always going to be an ‘ask’, and starting the match with several lads out of position, including a hooker and a second row on the wings, it was starting to look ominous.

The conditions were fine and Hoppers kicked off well through Tom N, but Collegiate started very strongly and immediately put us under pressure. Good defence from the backs, particularly from Harvey kept them from opening the score immediately. Eventually, though, they went over for the first score after we gave a penalty in front of our posts and they drove over in their forwards to make the first try. 7-0 kick made.

We were immediately under pressure after our kick off, as their savvy 10 utilise the strong wind well to kick into the corner and keep play in our territory. We had several opportunities to have a go by attacking in the backs, but we could not keep any sustained pressure despite a number of strong brakes by Charlie playing in the unfamiliar 10 shirt. Our scrum was doing well though, and we forced our way into their half from a defensive scrum though smart work at the base by Tom N and Sam M, and good offloading by Harvey and Sam M as we made ground up the middle.

Their second try came following a poor defensive kick, and their player receiving the ball found space on our left flank to break several tackles and go over in the corner. 12-0 as the great conversion attempt hit the post. We kept trying to compete, and good work at the restart saw us with some field position, but to no avail as we lacked the continuity to seriously threaten their line. We conceded the third try after a similar pattern, of them gaining good territory through their 10 kicking well, and then powering over from near in. Kick made, 19-0.

Each time the Hoppers lads showed good resolve to try to hit back, and Harvey, Charlie and Nathan all had good runs to try to drag us into contention. To no avail though, as we still needed to defend as hard as possible just to keep the score down. Notably, a great try saving tackle from Harvey as their backs attacked. Eventually, though, the next try came from out wide from their most dangerous player, their left wing, who made many breaks and eventually went on get a hat trick of tries. He sped around the cover tackles on our right flank to make the score 26-0, kick made. The half ended with no more score as we defended resolutely.

Collegiate kicked off the second half, and although the lads never wavered in their effort, it already felt like damage limitation. We really needed to score next if we stood any chance of getting back into the game. We had the wind and a slight slope that gave us some greater assistance, but it was Collegiate who scored the next try – after moving a quick penalty they went over to make the score 31-0, kick missed.

Hoppers did have some periods of pressure and were trying their hardest to get a score. Nathan nearly went the length of the field: after fielding a Collegiate kick at full back, he showed brilliant pace to break on our left wing. He looked like he would go a full 90m to score, but their full back managed the angles well to push him inside, where the opposite winger tackled him. We lost Alastair through injury and went to 14 men, and then to 13 and uncontested scrums as Henry had to go off.  With collegiate now rotating their squad, and having to match our reduction (rules say a team can only have one more player on the pitch) the contest was effectively over.  Collegiate added another try to make the score 38-0 (kick made) via their ‘hat trick’ winger, and as we lost Sam M with a knee injury the game finished 12 vs 13 men!

A disappointing way to end our domination of the Lancashire Cup from U11 to U15, but the fates seemed against us. Fair play to Liverpool who look a very good side, and they were obviously well coached and drilled, and very confident from their excellent form in the league stages. They may be favourites for the cup now, with the shock news that Fylde and Eccles (our closest rivals for the past three years) also went out at this stage. The 15 Hoppers lads need to be proud of their efforts, and they could not have given more on the day. Each ‘hit’ they took, they dusted themselves off and went again, with most of them were totally spent at the end. Many thanks to Collegiate’s hospitality on the day, including helping with some of our injuries – and good luck for the rest of the tournament – we hope you can now go on to lift the trophy and at least we can say we were knocked out by the eventual winners!!!!!.

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