Under 16s ease past Waterloo

Date: 08 February 2016

Waterloo U16s  17  Hoppers U16s  34
Sunday, February 7th 2016

The match at Waterloo was at the dry but very windy Merchant Taylor’s pitches near the coast at Crosby. The day was bright, but very cold in the gale force wind that blew diagonally across the pitch, against Hoppers in the first half. Waterloo kicked off and Hoppers took the ball well and set up from the ruck to clear the lines. Despite good breaks from Charlie playing at 10 and Jake, it was clear that the first half was going to be difficult as the conditions made kicking for territory near impossible and even passes and line out throws were being blown off target.

Hoppers started slowly, and were camped in their own half for several periods as Waterloo took advantage of the wind behind them to pin us back with some good kicks. Strong defence initially kept Waterloo out and particularly Lewis, Darren and Joe – and Harvey and Andrew in the backs put in some great tackles. We had chances to get some territory to work with, but each time we seemed to spill the ball or turn over possession.

Tom N put in a great box clearing kick from scum half to clear some of the early pressure, but inevitably Waterloo opened the scoring as they pressed us hard. From a scrum near our 22 they drove the ball in through the forwards for several phases and, as they moved the ball in the backs, we ran out of cover enabling them to score in our right hand corner. 0-5 to Waterloo, kick missed.

Conceding the try woke Hoppers up and we started to play much better. Jake had a good run from the kick off, and with a combination of some cleaver kicks and good defence we started to get some territory at last, as most of the half so far was in our own 22. Jamie made several very strong runs, and Harvey made a number of his usual, straight breaks. A piece of individual brilliance, though, gave us our first try: Waterloo cleared their lines with a long kick out from their 22, but Jamie made a great catch in the conditions, and set off down the left wing. He beat three defenders and then showed his pace to run in from about 40m to score in the corner. 5-5, kick missed.

Waterloo now seemed rattled and put the kick off straight into touch. This gave us some possession and territory for the first time and we had several good attacks, particularly following a great No8 pick up by Lewis and good work by Nathan, but we just failed to keep the ball in hand. The next try again came from some individual brilliance, as Harvey beat half the Waterloo cover to run in under the posts! After some strong forward play, we got quick ball from Adam in the line out (which he dominated all match) and moved the ball to our right through the backs. Jake cut back inside as we ran out of space, and strongly held off his defender to feed Harvey, who knocked his cover off with a strong hand off, before running the arc down the right wing and under the posts. Kick made 12-5 to Hoppers.

Hoppers were now starting to make clean breaks and Jake, who played excellently from full back, fielding the ball well all day and always made ground with his returns. Following another good line out win, Jake he broke away on our left wing. As he was about to be stopped, he fed Jamie with what looked like a forward pass and Jamie slowed down. The ref seemed to miss what every spectator also thought was a forward pass, and Jamie then took off again to score his second and make the half time score 19-5, kick made.

The second half was kicked off by Hoppers, and as Charlie kicked the gale force wind suddenly dropped and the ball didn’t go 10m! Waterloo had some possession and territory as a result, and attempted to get back to their strong start in the first half. They did not make the most of the early chances, thwarted by the very strong defence from Hoppers in the backs, with great defensive tackles from Ryan and Tom W.

Waterloo also tried to use their kicking game as in the first half, but although the wind was swirling around, it was definitely in Hopper’s favour now and made it difficult for them to make ground. Jake continued his great day at full back in the difficult conditions, and made an amazing clearance kick from tight on our right touch line, reaching their 22 as the ball was carried in the diagonal wind.

Soon, though, Hoppers added to their lead with excellent work from both forwards and backs. Hoppers won clean ball at our set scrum in mid field, and Lewis executed a text book No8 pick up. He arched his run to our left side and outpaced the cover, before dummying to the winger and powering for the line. He was just stopped with a last ditch tap tackle by Waterloo, but the Hoppers’ support got to the breakdown quickly, Sam M doing well to secure the ball. The backs span the ball smartly to our right and fed Tom W on the right wing, who was too fast and strong for his marker and he sped through to score. 24-5, kick missed.

The strong wind now seemed to now be blowing from all directions! Their kick off went high and long, putting us under pressure as we knocked on. Waterloo now changed their tactics somewhat keeping the ball tighter in their forwards as they struggled into the wind. Our forwards tackled really well and repelled each drive, winning a 5m scrum as they knocked on near our line. Unfortunately, under immense pressure our clearing kick went straight to one of their backs, and after several drives, they managed to get over to score. 24-12, kick made from under the posts.

The next phases of play were now more even, as Waterloo regained confidence. Hoppers though dented this confidence again with a brilliant try from 70m out. We won our set scrum just outside our 22, and Lewis picked up from No8 taking the ball to our right. He offloaded perfectly out of the side of his hand as he was tackled, and Callum fed quickly along the line to Ryan, who injected pace as he broke through in mid field and passed to Jake. He sped down the right wing, before putting Tom W away to score his second to make the score 29-12, kick missed.

Hoppers were still having to fight on all fronts to keep on top, and our backs did not give them an inch as we showed good line speed and tackled hard. Waterloo had more success as they continued to drive in close via their pack and after winning several rucks, they eventually went over again to make the score 29-17, kick missed.

Waterloo hopes of a late come back were immediately dashed as Hoppers hit back in the first play after the kick off. They tried to run the ball straight back to try and put pressure on us, and having made good progress they tried one dangerous off load too many and Tom W intercepted. He still had a lot of work to do, but broke several tackles and ran through to score a great second half hat trick. 34-17, kick missed.

Both sides kept trying to the final whistle, but there were no further scores in the final 10 minutes. The game was great given the very difficult wind, and both teams tackled hard and tried to play some good rugby. Hoppers are still not quite back to top form, but the forwards did well particularly in the line out and scrums, and held a determined Waterloo pack. Our backs were their usual dangerous selves in attack, and never gave their opposite numbers a chance to break all match. Thanks to our hosts Waterloo for a good competitive game, played in a great spirit.

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