Hoppers U13s Tour of the North East. 4th and 5th May 2013.
After the tense, but successful Sunday in the Lancashire Cup the previous week, the players, coaches and spectators going on the tour were looking for some light relief and a fun weekend. The ‘theme’ was pirates and when we boarded the coach there was already some Pirate Envy – some people were worryingly authentic and saying OOh ARR after everything doesn’t make it all right Peter.
The first match was at Wharfedale RUFC and the setting was very picturesque, despite the lack of sunshine when the rest of the country seemed to have it. Hoppers kicked off well and put pressure on the opposition forcing a penalty on their 22. From the scrum we went over for the first score: the ball was moved down the short side by Tom at Scrum half and Harvey straightened with an incisive break before feeding the back line. The ball reached Lewis (Players’ Player of the Year) who was playing in a new position of left wing, and he used his speed to get over in the left corner, 5-0. Kick missed.
Wharfedale kicked off into the Hoppers’ half, but we put then under pressure again immediately with runs again from Lewis on the left wing and then on the right by Charles who was just stopped into touch. The second try came immediately from the line out as Sam W ( Coaches’ Player of the year) took the ball and drove through their mid field and looked as though he was in for a solo try. He was just caught before the line, but offloaded brilliantly to Matty C who went over in the right corner. 10-0 conversion missed.
It was all Hoppers at this stage and the ball was being moved quickly to both wings. If anything we were playing a bit too loose, 7s style rugby and the game became a little scrappy. Wharfedale were trying hard and had a period of pressure, repelled by good defense including Sam M hassling from the back row and tight defense from the backs. Each time Wharfedale had an attack, Hoppers then ran the ball back, including strong runs from Jamie and Charles often set away by good distribution from Callum in mid field.
The Hoppers’ third try came after a penalty in the centre of the pitch and we span the ball quickly to the left through Callum and Alastair to Lewis who was just too powerful for them to stop, going in for his second try. 17-0, conversion made by Lewis, improving his own try. The fourth try came soon after as the Wharfedale restart was run back on our left, and quick ball came from the ensuing ruck. Tom took the ball from scrum half down the blind side feeding Callum, who put Lewis away again to run 60 metres for his hat trick. 24-0 with another successful kick by Lewis.
It was all Hoppers and the ball went straight back with a powerful run by Owen and another break from Jamie. Ill discipline in giving penalties away in the forwards, though, gave Wharfedale several chances and they finally put their first score on the board just before half time to make the score 24-5, conversion missed.
Hoppers received the ball from the kick off and Wharfdale carried on where they left off and ran in another try after several drives by their forwards. Conversion made, 24-12. Hoppers were still trying to run everything and following good work by Jamie, now at full back, Charles had another good run on the right hand side. The second half was a much closer contest with strong work by Wharfedale in the forwards, and a few too many errors by Hoppers. We did, however, score next following good work by Tom, and Owen put in a storming run and the ball got to Charles on the left and he was too quick for the cover, scoring in the corner. 29-12 conversion made by Charles to make the score 31-12.
Harvey and Henry made notable runs for Hoppers and Tom and Charlie put in stirling defense against the still dangerous Wharfedale. Unfortunately, a blatant trip by the Wharfedale winger on Lewis denied him his fourth try, and led to him being dismissed, effectively ending the Wharfedale chance of getting back into the game. They were further penalized when we took a quick tap, moving the ball left, then right to Harvey who powered over to score. 38-12 as Charles made another conversion.
The last try of the day was scored by Sam W, who after a period of pressure from Wharfedale pounced on a loose ball and ran around 90m down the centre of the pitch to score. 43-12 with the conversion missed. Wharfedale, despite being a man short finished strongly and Harvey put in two brilliant, text book tackles on their big players to stop then scoring further. The match ended,though, 43-12.
A good competitive match was followed by good hospitality from Wharfedale and we left for the hotel in good spirits – literally for some. A good evening was had by all at the hotel – best recounted in future tales of ‘tours past’, rather than written here!! The lads also seemed to have a great, fun evening and were a credit to the club in their behaviour.
Next day the short trip to Boro delivered us to a very nice, new club house facility and a cricket match underway in the sunshine. The kids, though were worse for wear, with little sleep and a back-back- match to play against a strong Boro team. The warm up was the most lethargic I have seen.
We suffered from the start and Boro having put pressure on us from the kick off, went over for the first score, their big forwards just driving on till they were over. 5-0 conversion missed. Sam M started to get Hoppers awake with a good tackle, and this was followed by great defense by Harvey on two occasions and a great break by him. Unfortunately, Harvey hurt himself and had to go off. Owen put in a dangerous run and Teo set up some good moves as we tried to get our running game going. Just as we were getting going, we were disrupted again with Jamie injured and going off, and with other players already carrying injuries from the day before, we had to ‘loan’ a Boro player to make our 15 up.
Hoppers had a good period now, with Boro giving away penalties, and good work from Lewis and Sam W threatening Boro, culminating with Charles being held up over the line, just unable to ground the ball. We were now getting into our stride, despite the fatigue and injuries. There followed probably the try of the Tour: Boro made an excellent play in their backs and put their winger away and he seemed certain to score. Charles though had not given it up, and in supporting their player, a Boro back was guilty of blocking him. Hoppers took the penalty kick to clear the lines, but when it did not make touch Sam M chased hard with Charles and, running out of options, the Boro full back was tackled by Sam M, who got to his feet and contested the ruck. The Hoppers backs hit the ruck getting quick ball and Sam W powered down the blind side on the left towards the line before unselfishly feeding the ball inside to Matty C to score his second of the tour from close in. 5-5 conversion missed. Owen was putting in some good hits to counter their big strong, blonde forward, but the strength in their pack told with the next score – conversion made to make the score 12-5 to Boro at half time.
The second half started with Hoppers kicking off and immediately we put ourselves under pressure, with poor tackling letting their big centre run 50 metres to score. 19-5, conversion made. A poor period of play by us saw Boro score again: despite really good defense just beforehand by Hoppers culminating in a 22 drop out, they drove in several times and went over to make the score 26-5. Hoppers could have caved in at this stage, with several players off with injury and many playing out of position, but they are made of sterner stuff and the momentum swung again.
Pressure on Boro led to several penalties and Hoppers drives for the line, but Hoppers got the next score as Sam W took the ball at real pace to demonstrate how difficult it is to stop someone with the right technique and commitment. 26-10 as the conversion was missed. Harvey and Jamie showed real grit to return despite injuries and we got the next score to make it 26-17 and to get within 9 points of Boro and a sniff of victory. Great work by Harvey, who was really influential now, eventually had led to Teo going over for his first of the tour.
Just as it seemed that we were getting back in with a chance and working hard, we seemed to finally run out of gas! Boro went over to seal the victory and make the final score 33-17 having made the conversion. A great competitive match, played in great spirit and, despite more hard work by Hoppers, the match ended with no further score.
An excellent tour, good competitive matches and great hospitality by Wharfedale and Middlesbrough clubs. Many thanks to all involved and to Andy for organizing such a successful weekend. The icing on the cake was the award of the Juniors’ Team of the Year for the U13s at the Awards Evening. Here’s to next year!