Welcome to Southport ………!!
Well, WHAT a weekend that was!
We had all the preparations necessary for an end of season Tour: a near-full squad, a sound game plan, all the logistics in place, a great hotel happy and willing (we think!) to accept an excited group of Salford kids, a fantastic weather forecast, eager parents, nervous coaches …….. and a Tour monkey!!
Now, to the match reports!
Here’s the format and the teams entered:
Six teams playing each other twice over two days = 10 games, 7 mins each way, played 5th and 6th May.
- Eccles RFC.
- Ramsey RFC (Isle of Man)
- South Leicester RFC
- Old Laurentians RFC ‘Warriors’ (Warwickshire)
- Old Laurentians RFC ‘Gladiators’
- Southport RFC
Rather than trying to report on each game, at which point I’m sure you’d be bored to tears!……….. The following match reports are from the most exciting and exhilarating games.
Eccles 2 v Southport 3
We were first up against the hosts on a sun baked surfaced with a watching home crowd, which under ‘normal’ circumstances, would be an intimidating environment….. don’t forget these are 11 year old boys…… but, here’s where we differ! These boys are fearless! With a squad devoid of extra cover and fresh legs, we had 13 players against opponents with constant fresh legs!
The opening exchanges set the tone for an absolute toe-to-toe bout over two games which was a whole lot more appealing than the pay-per-view Bellew -v- Haye.
From the first whistle, Ollie sent a wonderful drop-out that landed on a postage stamp sized area for our flyers to threaten the receiver. James was first to the melee and hit it at pace closely followed by Evan and Lucas.
The Southport attack looked hungry and aggressive in the contact zone as the ball was presented neatly for their early surge into the Eccles half.
With Lucas and Heath forming a solid defensive unit in the centre, the Southport attack was halted as Matt came in low to steal possession for the first of many times over the series of games.
Joe hit the open side with his trademark hip shift before a neat pass to Fletcher on the right hand side. As Fletch looked for a gap to snake through, the Southport defender dipped low to upend Fletch, planting him from an unforgiving height, hard into the ground. It was clear that the home tactics were to take to an offensive game to pound the Eccles boys into submission.
The Eccles boys soaked up the onslaught before returning some of their own aggression into the attacks with some superb ball carrying.
Southport took an early lead before Matt burst through the gain line with a hand-off to leave his defender on his knees as the intensity rose with the noise levels of the watching home supporters ….which further galvanised the Eccles boys!! 1-1
The half time interval approached, ‘Port then took the lead following some good work out wide. 1-2
As the second period kicked off, Heath gathered the ball and crashed through a gap only he saw. With Joe and Lucas in support, Adam came on a fantastic line to blast into open space. It was only thanks to some clinical Southport defending that the scores weren’t even. From the restart, the home team secured the ball as they hit the gain line to set up an important score to stretch their lead. 1-3
Back came Eccles after a fantastic counter-drive from Ollie turned the ball over. Evan carried the ball hard into contact to set up a wonderful drive that had ‘Port retreating. From the back of the maul, Joe popped it to James who took it at a pace that was way too powerful to be stopped. 2-3
With the clock running down, the appetite from the Gorton Street boys was infectious as their supporters urged the boys on with a sense that they possessed the heart and desire, and more importantly, the intelligence to turn the game. However, with tournament games played in a shortened format, the clock was against the boys as the hosts ran out as winners ….narrowly.
This was a magnificent ‘curtain raiser’ that would prove be only a taster of what was in store in the following games.
Eccles 2 v 2 Southport
In a rather strange victim of circumstances, the next game for the boys was against the same opponents! However, it was the Gorton street boys whose desire for the re-match would very nearly give them the victory they so deserved. The passion and intensity they showed was a real benchmark that resulted in some complimentary comments from the hosts’ coaching team that their boys had not been pressed so hard in a long time!
From the moment Ollie hoisted the ball high once more, the charge up field from Eccles was a flavour of what would be in store.
Again Matt slammed his opposite number down with a magnificent tackle that was followed up by some aggressive rucking to clear out the ‘Port defenders. Joe gathered the ball and shipped it to Lucas who straightened the attack before putting Fletcher away on the left. As he stepped back inside, he was met with a less than legal attempt at a tackle that saw him prostrate on the ground resulting in the ‘Port defender being sent from the field.
The Eccles boys could taste the fight now!
A loose ball in contact was claimed by the Southport prop who set up the ruck from which came the opening score ….against the run of play.
From the restart, Evan once again took a catch to ‘turn and set’ despite some ‘close attention’ from the opposition! The ball was fed back to Ollie who linked with Heath and Carter who showed some lovely hands to pop it back to Heath. With a strong leg drive, Heath powered by adrenalin, surged deep into the ‘Port half of the field. With still some work to do, Heath showed his determination to get his team mates on the score board 1-1
Eccles were elected to kick off which worked to their advantage as Southport were showing the early signs of battle tiredness. The follow-up on the kick off applied some great pressure on the Southport receiver and the loose ball was claimed by James who managed to remain on his feet long enough for his support to reach him. Max, back on the filed after some treatment, drove hard with Finn in assistance. The ball was put on a plate for Joe who spun it out to the right for Ollie. With the line coming closer, Ollie pulled in the ‘Port defence to time his pass to perfection to Lewis. With his coaches words still ringing soundly in his ears, he gripped the ball tightly as if his life depended on it as he knew the contact was coming. He angled his body perfectly to score a vitally important try amidst some ecstatic celebrations from the Eccles supporters (ok, and the coaches, Sorry!!) 2-1 Eccles.
Then the turn in the game: With Eccles in the ascendancy, a Southport attack was defended hard on the halfway line with Ollie, Heath and Lucas all in attendance.
The referee then spotted an infringement he deemed punishable with a period of rest, much to Lucas’ confusion. But, such is the professional attitude shown by the Captain and despite the intensity of the game, Lucas never questioned the decision. Remarkable and a real example to others which sets him apart as a Captain.
This now meant no replacements for the Eccles boys who were now involved in a real rugby fight of epic proportions…….. just what this wonderful game is all about!
Southport then launched an attack just beyond the halfway line. They were chasing the game now and were struggling to get any momentum as they tired as Eccles constantly met them with powerful defending. A Southport attack was then held up and as the referee called the first drive ‘once’ it was obvious the maul was going to be held on the shout of ‘twice.’
Somehow, the decision was made before the second shout, and, just as Matt ripped the ball back for Eccles with seconds to go, a scrum to Southport was called. A clean hook saw the ball swept right and a last attempt at a match saving tackle wasn’t enough to stop the speedy winger scoring in the corner. Cue wild celebrations from one team and despair form the other. 2-2 final score.
- Played 05
- Won 01
- Drawn 01
- Lost 03
This [Southport game] was probably the hardest contest these boys have ever been involved in! Both sets of players were absolutely out on their feet as their next games, respectively, showed just how much they had given.
The feeling of commitment and desire and passion was evident and everybody should be rightly proud of what this set of boys did out there. Eccles never lost focus on the job they had to do, and with no fresh legs at their disposal, their task was all the more harder. They thundered into contact, played intelligently with ball in hand, never took a backward step and remained cool under pressure yet aggressive in the contact zone.
Both teams gave it everything!
To come third in the competition after two days of rugby was an absolute compliment to the boys……. well done!
Heath, Ollie, Finn, Lucas, Matt, Max, Lewis, Fletcher, James, Evan, Joe, Adam, Shayne, Carter, (and Liam).
- Lucas: played himself to standstill till he could play no more… and a more complete Captain you couldn’t wish to have in the team. Awesome in the tackle.
- Ollie: Our Full back with a love of tackling and sticky hands under the high ball and good for the occasional important try….. as he did in his tournament!
- Heath: A real gem in our midst with a natural charm yet an ability to demolish opponents with his powerful runs and vision for the try line! Scorer of the all important opening try in the second test game v Southport.
- Evan: A true second row in the making and finished his tournament with a smart black eye (one for the girls he tells me!).
- Max: A powerful prop with a great pass who always requires at least two opponents to bring him down.
- Matt: Had a wonderful tour and arguably, player of tour. Scored some vital tries as well as stopping a number of heavy attacks.
- Finn: Unsung hero as our hooker. Methodically and clinically hooked clean ball time and again, and never complained despite playing in one of the hardest positions on the field (for all you backs!).
- Joe: Live-wire scrum half always capable of scoring that match winning try and then providing the vital pass to put a team mate in.
- Adam: Electricity in his boots and constantly kept his teams spirits high. Scored some great tries on tour.
- Fletcher: Another flier and good for a certain try with open grass in front of him and….. a try scorer on Tour!
- Carter: At last found his soft hands in the pass with some wonderfully timed short passes at that vital moment. Also incredibly powerful in the tackle.
- Shayne: Made such an important contribution on Day 2 of tournament with two (TWO!) CHARGE DOWNS on his opponents try line …….. from a prop! Again, another power house in the ruck.
- Lewis: New to the game this season and scored a wonderful try in the most physical game the boys have ever played against Southport! Well done!
- James: A capture from rugby league and steadily becoming a solid important player in the Eccles tight 5. His work at the ruck in the Tour games was vital and thoroughly deserved his Tour scores!
With another five games on the Sunday and some tired aching bodies, the coaches would have been content with a single win on the day….. however, they once again stepped forward and proved just what a unit they have become.
- Played 5
- Won 03
- Drawn 01
- Lost 01
The one game conceded on Sunday was against the Tournament winners Ramsey, so no shame here!
This was a real roller coaster for the nerves and as the games finally wrapped up on the Sunday afternoon, it was important that parents, players, coaches and staff took part in understanding and appreciating just how far the team has come and how they finally proved they CAN play for each other and compete with some real good quality opponents.
Each and every player stood up and took their game to the opposition. They found their inner belief built on hard work, concentration and a determination that they would NOT be a pushover.
Indeed, if it hadn’t have been for the epic toe-to-toe ‘series’ with Southport, (and this applied to both teams I have to say) it may well have been an Eccles v Southport final. The shear physicality shown by both teams left them out on their feet.
I cant, and won’t, nominate a player of Tournament as this will be an award bestowed by the majority come awards night in June! But to finish this off, each player knew they had played to their best of their ability……….. and that’s all we ask!
Well done boys. Proud of you all!!
That’s it this season. We will be reconvening earlier this year to begin fitness training in preparation for playing on the big pitch next season.
The ‘Tour Report’ will be posted at a later date.
Thank you to……..
Paula without whom the Tour would not have happened and for making sure we are compliant with all the relevant rules, laws, addendums etc etc… as well as the fund raising….. a real star!
Andy for the whistle all season! If you’ve never refereed a game, you have no idea how hard it is! Thanks Andy.
Mark: For all his wisdom and energy with the backs and the team as a whole.
Big Dave: We all know Dave! A tremendous assistant in everything we do and another reason the team goes from strength to strength.
Vicky: Our regular statistician and source of info for the match reports so I don’t embellish everything!! Also a big thanks for the half time oranges giving the boys that additional boost!!
Liam: Absolute No: 01 supporter!
Lastly: All you parents……. it does not, and will not, happen without your help, support and understanding! Brilliant……. all of you!