Under 13s v Manchester

Date: 03 March 2013

Hoppers U13s  37   Manchester U13s  14

3rd March 2013
Blacksticks Blue Lancashire Cup quarter-final.

The weather was perfect: mild, still and dry and just right for the running rugby that Hoppers try to play. Having topped their group,  Hoppers welcomed Manchester to Lightfoot Green who were runners up to West Park in their’s. However, Manchester were unlucky not to have also won their group, remaining unbeaten having dispatched West Park in their head-to-head match. They ended up second because of the number of matches postponed in the awful conditions before Xmas – sharing the points with teams they probably would have beaten.

Hoppers kicked off through Teo, down the slight slope to Manchester in their red strips, Hoppers in their usual white match shirts. Hoppers got into the groove very early on, helped by a knock on from the kick off by Manchester. Immediately we got the upper hand in the scrum and Duggy make an immediate run down our left from a No8 pick up, followed by a good backs move to the right, stopped by good Manchester defense.

The good start led very quickly to the first try for Hoppers. The backs had a couple of attacks, spinning the ball well through the hands in mid field with good continuity between backs and forwards. This got Hoppers to within about 15 metres and Duggy picked up from the back of a ruck after quick ball and drove over to score. 5-0 conversion missed.

Hoppers continued to play really well both in the backs and forwards and the link between then giving fast ball. After several good phases Hoppers scored their second try. Strong runs by Duggy and Owen stretched the Manchester defense and finally we span the ball to the left and excellent hands by Callum and Jamie put Teo away on the left who scored in the corner. 10-0 conversion missed.

Hoppers were dominating at this stage, and had a number of strong attacks by the backs repelled only by very resolute Manchester defense in the mid field. Hoppers were playing a dangerously attacking flat line that required real precision and, fed well by Ollie and Harvey, Callum set up several moves in the backs with slick handling and good timing: this pattern was noticeable all day as our backs threatened again and again, supported by the forwards winning quick ball and going through phase after phase. Jamie had a really great run down our right, but was just caught and Jake nearly got away on the left. Manchester, were threatening though, and Lewis tided up a dangerous kick through and ‘swatting off’ the chasing back, he ran ball to safety, making a good 30m.

Hoppers really should have added to the score on at least two occasions, but it was Manchester who scored next, somewhat against the run of play.  They nearly scored after an interception in mid field, but Jake showed excellent pace to run the breakaway down just inside our 22m line, and the forwards scrabbled well to slow the ball down – Manchester were unlucky to have a player injured that then halted play. Manchester were rallying well after the strong start by Hoppers and there was more great defense by Harvey who saved a try on our right, tackling a player into touch as he nearly got free to score. Finally, after a period of Manchester pressure, they got their deserved reward as Tom W the strong Manchester centre,  jinked inside the cover as they moved the ball along their backs, and cut back to our right. Weak defense, (or a very strong run!) saw him straighten up past several attempted tackles and great second effort got him over near to the posts. Game on as they converted the try to make it just 10-7 to Hoppers.

Hoppers, though, then raised their game to another level and they immediately responded with a third try. The forwards held up the maul that followed our kick off, winning the put in to the scrum. The tight scrum for Hoppers was solid all day and having won the scrum and an excellent break by Harvey, we won quick ball from a ruck. Duggy picked up again from the base and stretched over to score his second, and Hoppers third to make the score 15-7, extended to 17-7 with a good conversion by Duggy.

The game then entered a phase where both sides worked really hard in defense, Manchester repelling some good attacks by the Hoppers backs and Jamie and Callum combining very well to contain the main attacking threat from Manchester in the centre. Aggressive defense in the backs put pressure on Manchester and they were making little ground. Eventually, Hoppers extended their lead with another try from Duggy who ran the ball down the blind side to the right to make the score 22-7 at half time, conversion missed.

Manchester kicked off the second half, but Hoppers make an excellent start, getting immediately back into the Manchester half. However, Manchester realized that they need to get back into the game, and kept on trying to attack. Good defense by Duggy and Harvey repelled their attacks and we held out.

Finally Hoppers cleared their lines and ran in the first try of the second half. After a good drive by Ross, Duggy ran half the length of the pitch, outpacing their over to run the ball in under the posts. 27-7. Conversion missed. Following this there was a period of close play between the sides. Lewis put an incredibly fast run down our left wing, only to get stopped by a great Manchester covering tackle by their full back Aiden — Lewis’ break was too fast for a prop!

The game was seeing some excellent play from both sides, Hoppers were cruising by now, though, as they realized that the game was now secured. Good runs by Jamie and Callum, and Ollie was distributing really well from scrum half, and Jake had a good run but was unable to make a clean break. Ollie unfortunately, had to go off after bravely getting the ball away, and hurting his ankle in taking the hit. Hoppers then ran in another try to make the score 32-7. After a drive to the line by Duggy from a tap penalty, and after several forward drives, the ball was moved to our right to the wing. Matty C was stopped just before the line, but recycled well with the back row getting there quicker than the Manchester cover, for Jake (over from the left wing) to take the ball and run in the try. Conversion missed.

Hoppers scored their final try as Jake ran in his second of the day. Good play and continuity between forwards and backs set him into space on the left, and he did his trademark arcing run, outpacing the defense to left, before cutting in to score under the posts. 37-7 conversion missed.

Manchester had tried hard all day, never giving up and made a number of very brave tackles on Duggy in full flight, including Will C, who unfortunately had to come off injured. A very dangerous break from the Manchester centre, Tom W on our left was stopped as Duggy covered and he offloaded inside to avoid the contact. Unfortunately, Duggy was penalized  for playing the player without the ball, not able to stop his momentum.  Manchester got their reward with the last play of game, despite a great tackle by Alastair earlier in the move, and a desperate attempt by Sam M to prevent the grounding, they got over on our right flank. Having made a good conversion, they made the final score 37-14.

Hoppers progressed to the semi final, playing Fleetwood at home in two weeks time. The game today was again played in a great spirit, with excellent skills and commitment shown on both sides, giving an entertaining game. Thanks to the ref who officiated really well and who helped the game flow, and both sets of parents and supporters who made for a great atmosphere.

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