Hoppers U13s 36 Leigh U13s 5
What a difference a few days made to the weather: at Wednesday training the ball was kicking up dust and by Sunday we had a downpour and driving wind and rain. This made the conditions very treacherous for the usual Hoppers’ handling game, but the ground was now just firm rather than hard, and at least was still taking a stud OK.
There was a good squad turn out, despite the school holidays, though a few players were playing in new positions. Leigh kicked off up the slight slope and the difficult conditions were apparent from the start as we knocked on and put ourselves under pressure on our 22. Leigh had the best of the early exchanges and only good work in defense by the Hoppers’ backs stopped Leigh scoring early on.
Hoppers started to get going from a slow start, and Ben made a strong run down the right wing to get us into their territory. Again, though the progress in the backs was still not as slick as normal with the slippy ball, and several times good moves were hampered by slow ball or handling errors. Charles was having a super game at full back and retrieved several clearing kicks by Leigh and returned them with interest to set up goods positions. Eventually, the deadlock was broken as Leigh kicked again from a set piece, and we got the ball to Jamie on the left and he fed the ball to Jake on the wing. Jake ran hard down the left wing and was stopped by the Leigh cover on their 10 m line. Quick ball from the forwards at the breakdown enabled the it to be moved to the right, and quick hands in mid field from Harvey and Callum saw the pass timed well by Charles to get Ben free on the right wing. Ben was already struggling with a strained muscle and just got to the line for the first score, unfortunately having to be subbed straight afterwards. 5-0 with the conversion narrowly missed.
The rain and wind were still making handling difficult and Hoppers again put themselves under pressure from the restart. A sustained period of pressure followed from Leigh on our line with notable defense by the forwards and by Harvey who put in two try saving tackles. Last ditch defense from Hoppers kept Leigh out again and again, despite a series of penalties against them, but finally the Leigh forwards drove over to score. 5-5 conversion missed.
Charles kicked off well into their 22 and Leigh let the ball go into touch, swinging the pressure back on to Leigh. The play was still very scrappy,though, and Hoppers really had not got fully into their stride. Good defense by both our forwards and backs ensured that we kept the territorial advantage. Hoppers went back into the lead soon after when, following good set piece possession, the backs moved the ball to the right to Harvey at outside centre with a bit of space. Rather than run the space out as he ran the outside line, he straightened up and took on the defense – pace and great strength saw him break the line to score to the right of their posts to make the score 10-5, conversion missed.
Hoppers were now playing much better and this was illustrated by a great passage of play. Charles fielded a Leigh clearing kick and put in a super run down the right. When he was stopped, quick ball from the forwards freed the ball to be fed to Jamie on the left, who the put Jake away on his wing. He was just stopped and the forwards again arrived quickly to set the ball up. Several drives in mid field saw Owen make a storming run for the line in the centre of the field, only to be stopped by a great Leigh cover tackle. We then recycled the ball again to move the ball to the right, where Andrew timed a great pass to put Charles (who originally started the move) away to go for the corner, but unfortunately, he was just stopped before the line. Great play from both sides, but Hoppers extended their lead soon afterwards as the pressure told. The ball was fielded and returned after Leigh’s clearing kick from a scrum, and we nearly scored on the left: the ball was then moved right to Andrew who was, again, just stopped before the line. The ball squirted out from the following ruck into Teo’s hands who shipped it quickly to Jamie, who in turn fed Charles who ran in well and scored on the left hand side. Conversion made by Charles for his own try to make half time score 17-5.
The conditions were now improving as the rain stopped and the wind dropped somewhat. Hoppers kicked off and made a good start putting Leigh straight under pressure with a move through the backs to our right, just stopped by a good Leigh tackle. Hoppers were now beginning to dominate and had lots of possession but were initially unable to convert this into more tries. Attempts by Jake and Owen with good runs were thwarted, and Hoppers really should have increased the score when a drive by Owen led to the ball being taken down the short side to the left, through Sam M to Jake on the wing who was pushed into touch in goal. Again, straight afterwards Hoppers looked like scoring with a loop move to the right with Jamie and Andrew but they were just stopped.
Leigh were still competing, but Hoppers eventually made the possession and territory pay with a brilliant try by Lewis playing today at No8. He took the ball down the narrow side from a No8 pick up on the half way line, and breaking through three attempted tackles got free. His amazing pace set him clear, and then he easily stepped inside the full back to score under the posts and make the score 24-5 after a successful conversion by Teo.
Hoppers now had control of the match and scored again straight from the kick off. The ball was run back hard to the left hand side through Ross and quick ball put Harvey away on our left who drove hard to make an extra 10 metres with second effort, putting the Leigh defense on the back foot. Winning the ruck again Hoppers span the ball well through the mid field backs and Andrew timed the pass to put Jake, over from the left wing, into the right hand corner. 29-5 conversion missed. Another try followed quickly again from the kick off: Sam R did really well to fall on a scrappy ball as we tried to secure the ball in a ruck, and we then moved it to our right through the backs with another great run by Jake. This was followed by a storming drive by Owen who was just stopped short, but Lewis was backing up and drove over to make the score 34-5. Conversion made my Teo, to make the score 36-5.
Hoppers were now playing much more to their abilities as the conditions improved, illustrated by Jamie with a great take over his shoulder from a high kick by Leigh and strong drive back to relieve the pressure. Hoppers then showed some good technical play with movement along the line in the backs complemented by good recycling in the forwards. Harvey in particular was ensuring we got over the gain line and kept going forwards.
Leigh were still working hard and trying to compete despite the scoreline and had some periods of pressure on the Hoppers’ line and some territory. Hoppers likewise were trying to spin the ball to get an additional try. Unfortunately, a rather ill tempered period saw the referee warning players from both sides for ill discipline. Finally, a brilliant covering tackle by Harvey stopped a Leigh breakaway on our right wing as their player seemed certain to get free to run to the line.
The match ended 36-5 to Hoppers. A good performance by Hoppers in the end, in quite difficult conditions and with several players playing out of position. Training next week, and then everyone is looking forward to the Lancashire Cup final against Fylde at Southport!