Hoppers U13s 26 Lymm U13s 0.
With the snow and ice on Friday night, followed by the prediction of significant rain overnight on Saturday, it was somewhat of a minor miracle that the pitch was fit to play. In fact there was some sun shining as everyone gathered, though it was still bitterly cold and there was a near gale force wind blowing across the pitch. Lymm have for some time been seen as one of the best teams in the North in our age-group, and we were keen to benchmark ourselves against them. The Hoppers team were also raring to go after the cancellations of matches over the last few weeks.
Hoppers won the toss and chose to receive the kick off from Lymm, with the advantage of playing with the wind and down the slight slope. Lymm kicked off and Hoppers showed their intent to run the ball despite the conditions. Particularly down our left wing, Jake had several good runs after good continuity and rucking from the forwards – but each time the Lymm cover managed to stop the move.
The early exchanges up to half way through the first half were ‘evens steven’s’ with good attacking and strong defense from both sides. It was clear that Lymm were a well drilled team and had very good skills and capabilities. Lymm looked particularly strong in the set scrums, but the mobility of the Hoppers’ forwards seems to give them the advantage in the loose. Hoppers’ backs were playing particularly well in moving the ball slickly in mid field, through Harvey, Callum and Jamie and were tackling very strongly and not giving the Lymm backs any chances. At this stage Lymm were keeping it tight in their forwards.
Eventually, the deadlock was broken with a try to Hoppers. After good rucking by the forwards in mid field, the ball was spun to the left where Jake did really well to put Kieran into space. Kieran used his great pace to go round his marker on the outside, and then stood the full back up with a feint inside, before powering on the outside line, finally touching down under the sticks. 5-0 with the kick missed.
This gave great confidence to Hoppers and a great take from the kick off in the difficult wind from Lewis and very powerful drive set the platform for another Hoppers attack. The ball was spun again to the left wing and after an excellent interchange in mid field with Kieran joining the line from full back, Jake made yet another run into space, only to be stopped by a great tackle from the Lymm winger.
The Hoppers’ forwards were now competing very well and Lymm, despite having the majority of possession in the Hoppers’ half, mostly this was not in the red zone, and they had not really looked like scoring. Lymm also had kicked a fair amount of possession away, not being effective due to good play by Kieran at full back, but also Charlie and Jake on the wings. On several occasions Lymm looked dangerous in our half and were often getting ‘stacked’ on one side in attack with extra numbers in the backs. On each occasion though the covering tackling was great by Hoppers, including a spectacular one by Kieran on our left hand side, driving their winger a couple of metres into touch. Eventually, Hoppers cleared the lines to get some territory in the Lymm half following a great kick from Kieran making about 50m, using the strong wind across the pitch to his advantage.
Hoppers had started to ‘win’ the half after a very tight opening, but still Lymm still pressed hard. Good defense from all of the team kept the score to 5-0, notably in the backs and Harvey who pressured Lymm from stand off, and Sam M, Duggy and Owen in the forwards who competed at every breakdown ensuring that they never had clean ball. Hoppers were also still attacking hard and good interchanges between Tom and Kieran threatened and, after good work by Charlie receiving a Lymm kick, the ball was pumped up for a high ‘Gary Owen’ by Kieran. Their full back did amazingly well, taking the high kick on the run at full pace in the windy conditions to stifle the attack. Half time came with the score still 5-0, with Hoppers supporters wondering if we had made enough of the first half advantage of the wind and slope.
The second half started with a Hoppers’ kick off after a quick turn around due to the very cold conditions. As expected, Lymm ran the ball back strongly and looked dangerous, but the Hoppers’ defense continued to hold out well and our forwards looked the fitter and more mobile, as some of the Lymm tight forwards seemed to be slowing in the heavy conditions. Kieran also showed great tactical kicking, low into the wind to make significant territory on several occasions.
The game was still very close and Hoppers really needed to get another score to try and get a grip of the game. We nearly got this score following a barnstorming run from Duggy: he took the ball from a line out catch and powered down the left hand wing, beating the whole of their forward cover. He was only stopped by a good last ditch tackle from Lymm.
They then attacked us down our left bringing a great tackle from Harvey in defense.
Both sides were now feeling the intensity of the game, but we seemed to be slightly fitter. We were penalized on a few occasions around the rucks as they pressured, but we organized very well to repel them, James G making a wonderfully committed tackle as he flew across their line to bring down one of their big forwards. This pressure was building and Lymm were getting possession but also territory, threatening the Hoppers’ line. The Hoppers’ forwards, though, managed to break up the Lymm continuity by forcing a number of turn-overs in crucial positions. At key times they stopped Lymm getting that next phase where it appeared they would threaten our line.
A turning point in the game followed when Lymm were camped on the Hoppers line for several minutes and we feared the worst if they managed to cross the line and get the conversion to go ahead. Only excellent defense had stopped them going over in our left hand side in the original attack, and we then successfully defended the line out. It was difficult to clear our lines as we tried to drive it out through the forwards, a clearing kick proving impossible into the driving wind. Eventually, they had a scrum and span the ball out along their line – looking like this was it. However, all the team kept tackling and working hard to keep them out and with their player in possession getting isolated, Sam M won a penalty he competed for the ball as their player holding on too long and was ‘pinged’ for not releasing.
Great relief all round as Kieran again used the cross wind cleverly to make excellent ground with the penalty, just clearing the despairing effort from the Lymm winger, to put the ball on their 10m line. It was clear, though, that we needed another score to be sure of winning. Hoppers now had a period of possession in the Lymm half following a couple of penalties against Lymm for off side and infringement in the ruck, and eventually this told. After a great turn over by the forwards, Duggy got the ball on the left hand side and powered down the short side, knocking off several forwards. With only the full back to beat he cut inside to score under the posts to make the score 12-0 after a successful conversion by Kieran.
With about 10 minutes to go this gave Hoppers the confidence that they had the match secured and although we had to guard against a quick reply by Lymm, they had not looked like they could get two converted tries in the time remaining. In fact, Hoppers then did put the game well beyond Lymm with a third try. Lymm won the ball from a scum in mid field and their backs ran the ball at the Hoppers defense, however Kieran caught their back in possession, stripping the ball. He cleverly kicked the ball on, before flicking the ball out to Jake in space on our left. Jake backed his pace, pinned his ears back and ran clear from the cover on the left wing, before touching down under the posts. Conversion made by Kieran to make the score 19-0.
With the win secured, Kieran continued to press them back with some excellent tactical kicking, and Duggy continued his ‘one man army’ display. We rounded the scoring off with a brilliant try on the last play of the game. Lymm kicked to our left hand wing to clear their lines and the ball went behind our defense, though it failed to make touch. Kieran judged the ball to perfection as he picked up on the run at full pace and hit the gap in their tiring defense. As he was about to be stopped, he timed a perfect pass inside to Duggy who ran the ball down the wing, then under the posts to make the final score 26-0 after another successful conversion by Kieran.
An excellent game, with really top class play and skills from both sides, and both sets of lads were a credit to their clubs with their discipline and attitude. Although Lymm never really looked like scoring often against a strong Hoppers performance, the final score was not really a true reflection of the closeness of the game. Until half way through the second half the game could have gone both ways, and I am sure we are all looking forward to our next fixture against them.