Hoppers U13s 41 vs Warrington 5
Sunday 21 October.
After two frustrating weeks of teams crying off, it looked as though Hoppers would have another missed week when Bolton forfeited the points in the Blacksticks Blue Cup.
Many thanks to Warrington who stepped in at the last moment to provide the first fixture of the season by traveling up to Preston. We know from our encounters in festivals that the fixture would be competitive and we would have to be at our best to win.
The weather was also kind, being sunny and dry and probably the most pleasant Sunday so far of the season. The squad, around 25 in number, was also well turned out, looking very professional in their shirts and ties and made a good impression coming out together from the changing rooms.
Hoppers received the kicked off and, after Matty set up the ball, they went through several phases, with some good defense from Warrington. Both the backs and forwards were playing well, with excellent continuity and Hoppers moved the ball to the left, then right stretching the Warrington defence. The backs needed a bit more penetration if they were going to break some excellent tackling and pressure from ‘the Wire’. (This used to be Warrington Wolves nick name, but seemed to be Warrington RFU’s nick name as well).
After really good play down the right, blind side by Harvey, the forwards recycled the ball excellently, with the ball quickly spun out to the left. Jake received the ball for the first time in a little space – the previous run by Harvey having sucked in the defense, and he outpaced the Warrington cover in an arcing run to score. Just what was needed from the backs to pierce the Wire defense. The conversion was missed, 5-0 to Hoppers.
Warrington kicked off and unfortunately we knocked on, meaning that we lost momentum. There again followed a period of tight play, with both sides playing well. Notable runs came from Douggie and then Andrew on the wing, with Hoppers slowly re-establishing a level of dominance over a closely matched Wire team. A storming run down the right hand side by Douggie, offloading to Sam M and on to Andrew was only thwarted by great defence by the Warrington backs, pushing Andrew into touch. There were further strong drives by Douggie and Owen, but no more scores were forthcoming.
The excellent match showed the skills of both sets of players, and several good advantages were given as the ref entered the spirit of a flowing game, though not everyone in the crowd appreciated it! Refereeing is easy from the side line, but very hard when you are in the middle.
After a poor clearance by Wire from a penalty kick, Matty fielded the ball and offloaded to Douggie just at the right time. Warrington made a great attempt to keep him out, but his strength and power counted for him to drive over to score. 10-0 with the conversion missed again.
Hoppers we now controlling the game, with great runs from the backs and good forward play, just being let down by a few errors at crucial moments meaning no more scores came forth. Jake put in another brilliant run down the left hand side, with a try saving tackle from the Wire full back, just denying him a second try. This pattern continued to half time, with Hoppers dominating but lacking some punch in mid field, despite good straight runs from Callum and Harvey. Fair play to Warrington their defence, again was very strong putting good pressure on Hoppers. Continuity was good with Hoppers getting several phases in each attack, but not quite getting another score.
Just before half time Hoppers finally added another score that their play deserved. After winning their scrum ball and a couple of attacking phases, yet another great run by Douggie sucked in the defence and Hoppers had an overlap on the left. As the drifting defence moved to cover, Matty C straightened the angle with an inside run and Sam M switched the ball inside for him to power over- one for the back row! 15-0, conversion missed. Half time.
Hoppers made several changes at half time but the second half started with them dominating still and they scored again early on after the kick off with a very powerful run down the left by Douggie. His second of the match. 20-0 and another missed conversion. Hoppers were now winning lots of ball and Warrington had gone down to 14 with an injury. After good continuity and several phases, the ball reached Harvey in the right wing position who did his trademark direct run, with stunning pace and quick feet. Even when he was felled, he bounced up and second effort got him over for another try, 25-0. The conversion was successful making the score 27-0.
Warrington did not let their heads go down and Hoppers had to defend strongly for long periods in their own 25, down their right hand side. Wire kept attacking and attacking, but Hoppers held out. Notably some good defence from Aaron fielding the ball well and driving strongly got us going forward. After the forwards recycling the ball a couple of times, Jamie broke down the right with a mazy, jinking run being stopped short. Douggie, though, was on hand to take the ball and dive over to score his hat trick. Harvey converted to make it 34-0.
Warrington came again and were determined to get a score and not be nilled. Hoppers undid all of the great defence to keep them out, with an ill-judged pass on their own line that was intercepted for the Warrington player just to fall over the line to score. 34-5.
Hoppers made further changes to ensure all the squad were played, and Warrington were weakened further by injuries.
Hoppers were still looking the most dangerous with further good runs from Duggie, Jake, Adam. The forwards were also continuing to put pressure on the Wire and all day any kicks from them were done under severe pressure from the back row. This nearly led to another try when Sam M charged down a clearance kick that spiraled up just evading the hoppers backs who knocked on.
Harvey finished the scoring just before the end of the match, getting his second try with a sizzling run. Just as it was crying out for someone to straighten the attack in the backs, he drove straight and hard, scoring under the post, to make the score 41-5, having also got the conversion. A good start to the season with a hard fought, but convincing win, with strong performances from all of the lads.