“THIS IS A POLITICAL PARTY BROADCAST ON BEHALF OF THE GRASSHOPPER APPRECIATION SOCIETY!
Have you ever been frustrated by the youth of society not listening to your experienced opinions?
Have you ever found yourself susceptible to headaches, sore throat or restless legs?
Do you find yourself pacing up and down on the grassy fields of Lancashire, Merseyside or your back garden?
YES? – Well then we are the party for you.
For the last 4 years we have been supporting people like you. People who always try to see the good in the bad, the light from the dark.
You could be eligible for compensation from a little known government grant scheme.
The “why should I freeze my bottom off on a winters morning” fund has allocated the princely sum of 26p (That’s one pence per head) that you may be entitled to.
All you have to do is spend 2 hours watching either a feast of rugby brilliance or a melee of missed opportunities and this money could be yours.
To apply just send a self-addressed envelope with the heading “I hate winter mornings” to: Uncle Neil, Preston grasshoppers, not heavy foot lane, Preston, PR something, whatever, such and such, Lancashire “
OK OK, Joking aside; this weekend saw (arguably) the most difficult fixture of our season to date. The travel down to our neighbours saw a return of the dreaded physical confrontations with one of the regions “better” physical sides. Long email trails laid in the wake of the coaches’ inboxes as the Hoppers and development sides were discussed. With those deliberations ended we arrived for a good Sunday jaunt to Waterloo.
With Justin, Scott and Mark with the Hoppers side, myself and Matt settled for 3 15 minute matches with the Fireflies. For the purposes of this report we have separated the two teams for a more detailed look (This is in no way a reflection of my complete ignorance of whatever happened across the field with the Hoppers side! – so thanks Justin for your write up).
Waterloo are the only club in the North West to have a squad bigger than ours. Since U7’s Waterloo along with Warrington have dominated our age group. Whilst Warrington field a team full or runners and line breakers (for me) Waterloo are the best “rugby” team we play against. My only complaint is that we don’t play them enough.
So far this season has proven to be one of our most successful, qualifying for the Lancashire Finals day without conceding a point as well as beating Vale of Lune home and away. In recent weeks however we have been hit by a number of injuries and absences that have knocked us out of our stride a little. In recent weeks we have had to play fixtures without Max C, Max G, Louis, Tom W Charlie and Sam (There’s half a future Lancs U13’s team right there). Fortunately this weekend saw the return of both Max’s and Sam. It also saw the full debut Alex and Isaac in a new back line.
Straight from the start of the first game the commitment showed by both teams was staggering. Neither team were prepared to let the other pass and the standard of tackling was something to behold. Jak probed his opposite ten and his man stood up to the task tackling Jak with the type of tackle that we see week in and week out from Jak and when his ten had the ball Jak was only too happy to respond in kind. This early exchange in the middle of the park set the tone for a magnificent morning’s rugby. Both teams showed strength, power and buckets of courage. It was clear that in the first game both teams were trying to go right through the middle. On the defensive ball both Hoppers and Waterloo showed great line speed. It was here that Hoppers scored the first try of the morning. Waterloo won some good ball only for Jak to rush his man and intercept the pass from the fly half and when Jak gets a sniff of a try there are very few players (if any) that can catch him let alone bring him down. They say a lion is at its most dangerous when injured and this turned out to be the case. Jak’s try seemed to galvanise the Waterloo forwards who bounced straight back in to Hoppers and eventually they scored a well worked and well deserved equaliser. First game 1-1
Waterloo really took the game to Hoppers in the second game. Their backs were slick, well drilled and intelligent and their forwards were committed and combative. Our forwards seemed a little surprised and the combative Waterloo capitalised on our hesitancy. Waterloo won good ball and our backs showed their lack of experience, getting caught ball watching a couple after some well worked moves from our hosts. The result was two slick back move tries scored in either corner by a Waterloo side that was growing in confidence. The second part of this game our forwards started to come more and more in to the game and slowly Hoppers were dominating the ruck and maul. The forwards did everything in the last five minutes other than score the tries their dominance deserved. Twice tries were prevented by Waterloo preventing the grounding of the ball. 2-0
The third game was one of frustration, joy and opportunity. Frustration – Waterloo scoring at the very start of each half whilst half our team were still picking their noses and dreaming of Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire puds. Joy – Jak scoring another interception try
Opportunity – Watching the forwards starting to gaining 20 meters at every ruck and maul. Not bad for a unit missing three of its biggest and strongest players. 2-1 Waterloo.
So what did we learn about ourselves?
We are a very good side but are not yet the “finished article”. Our forwards are starting to look almost unstoppable (when they are not picking noses or thinking about Aunt Bessie’s). Our backs will get better and will learn from this experience. We have the talent, the courage and the commitment but we need all the backs to push up hard and fast when defending and we need to work harder at opening up solid defences. We can’t expect to beat the best by hoping that they will miss tackles because they won’t.
I thought we were excellent on Sunday and I am incredibly proud of every single one of our boys. Not one stood back from the challenge of very good Waterloo side. We’ve shown again that our forwards can on occasion be almost unplayable and when at full strength any team will struggle to compete. Our backs showed a little bit of inexperience and occasionally switched off but that is no complaint against a well drilled and very slick set of Waterloo backs who deservedly ran out winners on the day.
Don’t be disappointed you were magnificent and will only get better.
GAME ONE – 6 tries to 1 – Waterloo Win
Immediately a chance to the squad was imposed in only having 11 players on the field. Our gracious hosts agreed to loan 2 players of each of the games restoring the parity. The first match was always going to be hard and once again the slow start for the boys would be evident from the off. This match saw many missing tackles from our side, and a somewhat eerie fear of our opponents that proved difficult to shake. The tries against us were almost identically mimicked on the missing of tackles. Despite the hard practice pre match to ensure that the boys tackled low and hard we saw the familiar flapping of arms at the upper torso as opposed to the shoulder and hold the legs style as shown in the practice.
When pressure attacking was shown it was often marred by sideways running or loose passing that allowed the hosts to reclaim the ball and swiftly pass the ball to the wings and get point on the board. The one try came in the first piece of controlled aggressive play by the forwards which trundled a ruck towards the opponents’ try line and Luca to burrow under for the points. Prior to that the lads showed some strength in the scrum and won twice against the put in. However the terms too little too late were pursed on all the coaches and spectators lips. At the end that slow burning idea of quick, controlled ball would win games was repeated to the team by the team captain for the day Daniel and the coaches. We would need to try harder and follow the simple game plan of run, tackle pass in the next game.
GAME TWO – 5 tries to 0 – Waterloo Win
The reversal of fortunes was never going to come from this match as the Waterloo substitutions game more forward dominance and less fear in the tackle. Again missed tackles were the culprit once more, but more worryingly the sight of player stood upright staring at the loose ball, as opposed to picking/ricking over the ball was going to cost us dearly.
Somewhat against the score line was the commitment in the scrum and positional play that was staring to show. Two scrums against the head and in the latter stages the placement of a winger to the scrum changed the fortunes of the team dramatically. Aaron in at 8, Luca second row and Michael in the centre (All 3 out of position) saw rolling mauls on our opponents lines. Richard on the wing showed great initiative when given the ball and the team saw swathes of defensive opponents holding on for dear life as he inched towards the line.
Waterloo were simply great at protecting their own line and countering that saw the majority of the point scored following promising Preston attacks. The boys lived up to their name as development players. They had undoubtedly developed in their attitude and approach and showed signs of promise in committing to the tackle and playing an active part in the rucks and mauls; as opposed to being a spectator or ball watcher. Brady stood out in his tussles in the maul; with James playing a far more controlled game and making his opposite number look “not quite as good” by applying pressure and passion to his game. The end of the game was again met with a reflection on what could have been and whether they would show the initiative to act on the promising play seen in the previous 15 minute exchange.
GAME THREE – 2 tries to 1 – Waterloo Win
OK. We were never going to win this one with a number of injuries, fatigue and two opposing forward players playing in our back line. However, as a coach and lover of the game the work rate and commitment of the boys was immense in this game. We often ask ourselves “Who are we?” at the end of each game. This time the reply was not in name but in performance. Whereas historically we would find ourselves wanting a quick shower and rest at home, the boys came back with a BANG. With the rally cry of skipper Daniel still ringing in our ears, the boys kicked off to a confident Waterloo side. As opposed to the other games the returning kicker and his team of 13 put real pressure on the opposition attack. The defensive line kept its shape and discipline making firm tackles well into the opponents half. Joe, the newest recruit to the outfit in his first competitive match, despite fatigue played the rucks and mauls like a seasoned professional. The other forwards followed suit forcing ball after ball into rolling mauls than covered “feet” in range as opposed to inches previously. This had to lead to something, and it did. Repeated pressure in their final ¼ meant that the boys had room to move the ball. The positive aspect in their play was finally drawn upon. Waterloo had to tackle after tackle as the forwards recycled ruck ball and the backs moved swiftly down the line. The decision to keep the ball wide allowed the wingers to take possession with Luca and Richard receiving ball with space. This space was rewarded with a try in the far left corner which left the opposition reeling. Waterloo were meticulous in their resulting possession and were rewarded with 2 tries late into the last ¼ giving them the win ultimately, but this was always going to be a tale of two halves. Light into dark, slow to fast, bad play to good play.
For the first time it was the Fireflies whom took the plaudits simply for their consistent improvement over the 3 games and the “bottle” to muster a hard, hard effort from their opponents in the final game. For this alone we should be immensely proud of the lads.
Have the boys developed? – YES – They showed that no matter how hard the obstacle they will have a go and try their best.
Do they have work to do?– YES – At times the tackling was shocking and equally the back running was somewhat lateral at best; and the forwards were often found in static wonderment of the ball as they watched their opponents ruck over the ball with no meaningful opposition.
Would we do better next time? – YES – This was eventually a progressive display from a progressive team. With one player on debut and several with only limited game experience (Particularly against top sides!) it was a triumph of resilience and grit. There is much work to do on the training pitch; but myself, Matt and the watching parents saw there is plenty to be excited about in the future should the boys continue on this rugby journey.
“AND SO ENDS THIS POLITICAL BROADCAST FROM THE GRASSHOPPER APPRECIATION SOCIETY.
AND REMEMBER GREAT VICTORIES REQUIRE GREAT LEADERSHIP, GREAT EFFORT AND A TRUTHFUL CRITIQUE.
AND FOR EVERTHING ELSE…….THERE’S MASTERCARD!”