Colts trudge into stable for winter break


Across the Colts League Empire it was decreed that every club complete their fixtures regardless of injuries, employments or Lancashire county commitments and so it came to pass that the Eccles Colts assembled 15 players and set off on 2 litre Donkeys laden with supplies, along the M62 rocky pass into the bleak South Pennines, where they followed a star in the East to the little town of Rochdalehem.

Upon arrival some of the Colts wandered the town, searching for their teammates who had been made comfortable in the warm shelter of a humble stable, provided by the kindly RRUFC Inn keeper who had taken pity on the Colts and offered them a room around the back where they could rest and change.  Meanwhile, three kings who had travelled from afar following the same star and bearing gifts of WaterBottle, DeepHeat and BallBag gathered outside speaking ‘tactics’ a foreign tongue that the Colts did not understand.  President Brunt the Great arrived demanding that the Eccles Colts be presented to him so he too could pay homage, but the three wise Kings believed that he secretly wanted to do unto them much harm and distracted the President with tall tales as the Colts trotted out, where upon they found that the surrounding hills and touchlines were populated with lowing cattle and many Shepherds who had flocked here to worship, having been foretold in a message from the Herald Angel EE.  And so it came to pass, with the blowing of the whistle, that the fixture was fulfilled…

The first half was played almost entirely in Eccles territory with the home team enjoying the majority of possession. Fumbles and knock ons from both sides were regular features of the opening 10 minutes. A succession of scrums and Rochdale pressure resulted in a penalty with the kick striking the post.  A few minutes later the deadlock was broken by the flying Rochdale right winger who out-paced the Eccles defence; converted try: 0-7. Eccles made a poor restart loosing possession straight away and play returned to the wrong end of the field and yet more scrums.

It took 20 minutes for Eccles to mount their first sustained attack with good passing down the right flank between Mike Shaw, playing at Fly-Half, and winger Damola, who charged through challenges before returning the ball to Shaw who was felled short of the line. Fullback Matt Hope, attempted quick support from the breakdown but momentum is halted. Scrum-half Washy switches the attack across the park to Cami Higgi who drives towards the left corner with support. After a number of phases the Rochdale defence remains intact and Eccles switch direction back through centres Chris Thomas and Kyle Dowarka but the attack is smothered. The movement and collective effort deserved a try but the opportunity was squandered. Although the game appeared evenly balanced at this point, this was to be Eccles only serious threat on the opposition try line.

Verbal disputes with play and decisions cost Eccles territory and penalties. Pinned back into their own half by poor discipline the colts are punished by Rochdale, this time with their right winger offloading inside for a try at 30 mins. Eccles make another poor restart and fail to respond before the break. HT 0-14

The opening 10 minutes of the second half are an even contest with Eccles enjoying good possession and sustained pressure but we fail to move play much beyond the central area of the park. At 45 minutes Rochdale kick over the advanced Eccles back line and an outnumbered defence is unable to prevent the score. Mike Shaw is injured in the process of tackling and Eccles are reduced to 14 players: 0-21.

Colts chaos ensues. Another poor restart, Rochdale run the ball straight up the other end for an instant try between the sticks. 0-28. Frustrations boil over. A Yellow Card for dissent adds to Eccles troubles. With 13 players now on the pitch, 12 of them forwards, the Colts acquit themselves well to re-organising and competing. Rochdale enjoy long periods of possession but tenacious tackling from all and the unrelenting back row work rate from Adam Christey, Joe Gaffey and Matt Small keeps the scoreline unchanged.  At 65 minutes, as Eccles press for consolation points, Rochdale kick over the advancing line, the ball takes an unexpected sideways bounce away from chasing defensive cover and directly into the hands of an attacker for an unopposed try under the sticks. The joy of this good fortune doesn’t help Eccles’ temperament. Off the ball abuse and dangerous play ignites the last few minutes into aggressive confrontation and the match is brought to a conclusion by the official. FT 35-0.

Our congratulations to our hosts Rochdale who thoroughly deserved their victory and once again made us very welcome in their club house after the game, awarding number 6 Joe Gaffey man of the match, leading to festive drinking contests and the traditional smashed glasses. Good will to all men resumed.

With our stretched resources finally reaching their limits; more than half of the squad unavailable; more than half of the team playing out of position and poor discipline making an unwelcome return the Colts wearily trudge back into the Christmas stable for a few weeks of sleep in heavenly peace.

Our appreciation to all the parents who have supported the lad’s efforts, home and away, through what has been a testing season so far. Our sincere thanks also to the club President for his continued encouragement. Let’s hope the winter break reinvigorates commitment and enthusiasm and the New Year brings the Colts better fortune.  Happy Christmas to all.

Eccles Colts next training session is Wednesday 4th January. Next fixture is HOME v Birkenhead Park, 8th January 2017, KO 2pm.