Vale of Lune U12s 7 Hoppers U12s 14
It is official, Christmas is coming. Again this lengthy introduction has been written just 24 hours after the “narrow” (Depending if you follow the conventional 2 half game as oppose to American football quarters approach) loss to Warrington. I don’t like to even consider the potential of the white bearded chap doing his usual breaking and entering my home; swapping the accidentally left mince pie and glass of sherry for his usual array of battery operated gifts that will inject my ears with a cacophony of utterly dire musical and sonic annoyance.
If you are part of the 5% of the population that begin the Christmas festivities considering the planning of their future yuletide celebrations sometime in January, I am due to join your insane club.
“Have you been good this year young man?” will be answered with the “Of course I have father Christmas!”
“and what do you want this year young man?” the cola fuelled, bearded aviator would reply.”
“Well I have these friends that come out with me every Sunday (Normally) and they spend lots of time in the freezing cold; some running around and others stood watching their children play sports and stuff (See I’m so down with the kids I have ended a sentence with “and stuff”!!). I’d like them to see ………………..Well these kids of theirs getting back to back wins against teams like Warrington, Fylde and waterloo.”
“Are you sure this is all you want?” would be the reply from Saint Nick.
“Well……….Yes of course it is, thanks for asking.”
“………………………………………………………………………….but if you find one of those new PlayStation thingy’s, or an Xbox ¼ past one or whatever it is called; I wouldn’t complain.”
OK, as is clear I’m slightly less medicated than recently, but I stand by these selfless requests from the king of the red suit! The pride of last week’s performance and presence of positive coaching and polite parental encouragement; remain at the forefront of my mind. I also am mindful of some comments from the opposition players which appeared to try and incite a response from the lads. Young men – Well done in playing on and through such poor presentation on the pitch. It is one thing to push for a win; another thing to win well, with pride and responsibility. Regardless of score line we have a group of players that win/lose/or draw that leave the pitch as proud inspiring players. If there are any readers of this outside of the club, looking for a new extra-curricular activity in a fantastic sport, this is why you should come and see the teams at Lightfoot Lane and join a club with a great history, a good moral code of conduct/play and playing for the love of the game as opposed to just the winning of the game.
Rant, or ramble over we fast forward to today’s meeting in Lancaster. Following a very sharp warm up session that showed that we could add consistent quality to our play (Certainly from what I saw in the distance from the forwards and up-close with the backs) we opened the proceedings with a brief historical reflection on the life of Nelson Mandela which was followed by a minutes appreciation of his life and the pivotal position that he created for this love for freedom and change. This mark of respect was further illustrated by the tenacity of the two matches played; but perhaps more for the sportsmanlike behaviour shown in both the players and the supporters of both teams. In contrast to recent fixtures the passion in participation for both the games was not shadowed by the blind vision towards victory that created both an uneasy playing arena as well as what could only be described as animal like behaviour from coaches and supporters. For this Vale we would like to thank-you for your (as usual) courtesy and fantastic support for the game we share a love of.
Vale have already put Waterloo to the sword and we knew we were in for a massive game and boy, that’s exactly what we got. Two good teams going at it hammer and tongs.
What I will say is what a performance! Great result to win. Great endeavour from the forwards and the backs didn’t miss a tackle the whole game.
I believe that would just about summate the games as we all saw it……However in the spirit of always saying too much…….
It was clear from the off that this was going to be a bruising affair. Two teams of a very similar size and stature showing 100% effort 100% of the time. The Vale pack quickly set the standard in the scrums. For the first time in a long time it looked as if the Hoppers pack was for the first time this year going to be scrummed off the park. No doubt a pleasure for all to watch; surely painful to participate in this tussle was one of the more memorable forward encounters for some time. For each scrimmage and line out falling to our hosts, the hoppers came back with a rolling maul, speedy ruck and decisive tackling. The parity seemed so great that there was going to be little to truly decide between the two. Whilst the Vale boys feared the prospect of the quick ruck ball, we feared the prospect of setting for another tussle in the scrum. Despite this both teams showed that hard graft and ferocious tackling didn’t have to come accompanied by whispered insult or over aggressive posturing and less than sportsmanlike “encouragement” from the masters of the training pitch (or coaches as most of us know them by). As so rightly stated by Justin in his short prose the persistent and controlled tackling from the boys was absolutely fantastic and I cannot recall a single tackle being missed.
For the back line it was evident that, as a follow on from the earlier warm up drills, the lads were forced to reorganise from each attacking wave of the opposition quickly; this leading to very few breaks through the gain line and showing an even pair of heels from both teams. Today was a day where poor tackling would be rewarded with plenty of points on the board – with the final score of 0 – 0 indicating just how effective the result of a well-timed, well positioned tackle can be. Today the lads played without fear of their opponents and that led to one of the most exciting games we have seen for some time.
There were few negatives to take from first exchange. The occasional misplaced kick; or the inevitable slowing down of play from the forward exchanges gave our opponents some easily won opportunities to attack. However the ultimate defence of our try line was at times incredible. Similarly the rolling maul on the opponents line (Seen this weekend for perhaps the first time consistently) was both exhilarating as well as bruising. Again to suggest any individual player of the game would have been very difficult with all contributing in equal measure. A draw seemed to be the most appropriate result.
Ding ding, Round two (See the sardonic shift of focus from the header):
This for both teams was a must win game. It was clear that no one would be willing to accept the shared glory for this deciding fixture. Again the quality of play from both sides was absolutely fantastic. The forwards again showed their resolve in the set plays (with considerable pressure at times from their strong front 3). The prospect of rolling mauls and actually rucking without the temptation to clear the ball from the base of the ruck was rewarded with just that. At the moments their forwards appeared to have the upper hand following winning the line out against the head; was eliminated by the ferocity in tackling particularity from those back row boys.
For the backs there would be opportunity to score from quick ball and it was this that led to the first try from Cian to equal the scores at 1 try a piece. The backs seemed to have a bit more spring in their step and with the tackling creating opportunities to allow our play in the loose enter the arena Louis’ try to bring a 2-1 try score line and win the match outright.
Today we saw two evenly matched teams play like ……… Two evenly matched teams. The pendulum of possession, ball in hand, defensive accuracy and attitude, was evenly dispensed by both sides and as happy as the boys were for their win our hosts must share in the manner of their defeat. I am sure we will again look forward to seeing these guys again at the various tournaments that scatter their way through the latter part of the season; but again with performances like that (remembering these guys put the sword to our friends at Waterloo) a cup final would be great showpiece for these two sides to meet again.
Finally, in a week that has raised the worlds focus to the heart of Africa, we are left with a review of the day. The Vale coaching team have often earmarked a great deal of respect for our club. They have been as supportive of our players on countless engagements and share very much the same philosophy for the game as we have. Today was a very cold and damp physical environment, but I can certainly affirm that not one of the boys or us Hopperites felt the cold until the final whistle. Today win or lose was a great testimony to rugby and its grass roots (in particular the amateur philosophy of late that was embodied historically by old hoppers players such as Beaumont, Healy and Dooley). This fixture not only do we look forward to each year to but we accept as being the more tactile of encounters on our rugby calendar.
Regardless of our spiritual, political and social avocation, in the week that we wave goodbye to a hero of our time; we salute the same game that gave us the motivation to stand/run/shout about in the midst of the cold dark winter. This week the game of RUGBY UNION