Rossendale Tournament Sunday 11th Oct 2015.
If only the England national team would have shown the same committment, passion, desire and emotion as the Eccles U10s to overcome the challenges that stood in their way, the rugby world may be speaking of them for all the right reasons!
Following a full day of outdoor activities on Saturday, the coaches and supporting parents were conscious of the late night endured by the boys at Rossendale RFC the previous evening. So, after the DoR’s full English breakfast, a few dozen cakes and more e-numbers than a chemists’ bag of treatments, the boys were hyper and primed!
Game 01 Eccles 4 – 3 Sale
The only other time we have taken Sale in a fixture was last season and that was a closely fought affair. This was to be no different!
Sale had everything going for them it seemed: a dynamic bunch of players, big lads, bigger lads, fast lads, faster lads and the opening score to set this game afire. What they didn’t posess was a set of lads with such belief in themselves, that for every try they conceded, they just knew they would score more in reply!
With Maxwell, Jack, Matthew and Bailey securing the center field of a huge playing suface, the gaps would eventually come where we could get our strike runners through. Danniel was pin-point accurate with this delivery from the base of the rucks. All those mid-week sessions ‘passing’ to a marker on the goal post were to prove invaluable. Ollie stood-off waiting for the ‘pill’ on his plate to set off on a wonderful angle before putting in an outrageous step-back inside, flat-footing the Sale defence. With the watching crowd urging him on, the scores were levelled.
Matthew then took his cue, again from great handling from Danniel, to crash the ball up taking two Sale defenders to try and halt his progress. They could only manage this as Matt crossed the line to put us into a lead.
Sale came back straight from the re-start using their own huge crash-ball centre. What these Eccles lads had in abundance was fearlessness (not sure if thats a word, but you get the meaning!!). Jack and Ollie ‘double tapped’ him Springbok style to stop a sure try. This boosted the desire within the Eccles ranks into taking what would be a major scalp against such eloquent and illustrious opponents.
Sale bounced back to level the scores.
Eccles re-started with a swift move heading towards the right wing with Johnny loitering in anticipation. As soon as the oportunity came, he set off parrallel to the touch line with the Sale defence chasing. Shayne had come on by now and was first to the breakdown as Johnny set the ball just short of the line.
With the ball back cleanly, Danniel fed Maxwell…. only one winner at this point: 4-3 to Eccles at the final whistle. What a display and what a great win in our opening game!
Game 02; Eccles 4 v 3 Littleborough
It was with more than a little trepidation that we faced upto our second opponents evoking memories of the same fixture at the same tournament last year, in which we came second….. by a long way. However: fast track 12 months forward and our boys are becomming stronger, wiser and smarter! Despite these atributes, it was ‘borough who took an early lead. This did no more than galvanise the Gorton St boys into some stinging power-play! Matthew picked up on a great run by Maxwell to take possesion some yards from the opponents try line. This had the ‘borough defence on the back-foot and it was a matter of time before the line was breached. Again Matthew stood strong into contact, showing great upper body strength before shaking the attentions of the last line of defence to swallow DIVE over the line! This caught the attention of the refferee resulting in a word of ‘advice’ and a bit of fine tuning for Matt (with a well done sandwiched in the middle somewhere!)
Ollie was not to be outdone and linked with Danniel to make the most of the wide playing surface. Coach’s instructions were to play towards our flying wingers to generate the scoring opportunities. Ollie made for Ethans wing but took the chance to-go-it alone. Eccles took the lead and the supporting crowd got behind their boys! Could an ‘upset’ be on the cards?
Up came Jack with his own strong runs complimented by some great passing to set Matthew up for his second of the game. Back came ‘borough at the start of the second period to pull a score back. Finn, and his soft hands, plugged the middle only to have to leave the pitch after taking a heavy blow in his back. Bailey looked dangerous as he made the most of his opportunities.
Eccles brought on Scott on the wing and Evan in the centre. Both boys adding fresh legs and some extra dimension in attack. Maxwell took the most of a free pass after a ‘borough infringement. In typical fashion he set off on a slight angle to breach the ‘borough defence before setting up the ruck close to the try line. Danniel popped the ball to Jack who crashed in only to be held up again by some stout defence. The alarm bells were chiming loudly for ‘borough as Eccles sensed a potential second straight win. Matthew timed his run onto the ball well to prove unstoppable over the line again!
Game 03 Semi Final: Eccles 2-1 Lymm
After some waiting around, the boys disappeared into the Rossendale undergrowth in true Bear Grylls fashion, whilst the other teams and coaches pondered as to what the next round of the competition was! It was declared that Eccles were now in the Semi final!
A strong Lymm side awaited them and with the Eccles legs tiring, they had to dig so deep. The caoching team and parents looked for words of wisdom and encouragement. Every team member was brought into the ‘penguin huddle’ and the boys were bonded by the previous 24 hours they’d spent together team building.
It was a very nervous opening 4 minutes to the game as Eccles had to defend wave on wave from Lymm. Then the opening appeared with Ethan far out wide. Up to this point, Ethan had had very few chances and constantly received the ball late having to negotiate his opponents and looking after the ball. He broke wide with the crowd urging him on, he was tackled into touch. Lymm then knocked-on from the free pass on the side line. The scrum tied in Jack, Mathew and Ollie. Dannniel fed the ball (straight!) to off-load to Shayne who set off with the ball tucked in tightly. His direction sucked in the Lymm defenders to create a gap for Ollie to sneak in. 1-0. Carter put in one of the best try saving tackles I think I’ve ever seen! I’m not so sure he knew much about the significance of it, but it was a diving beauty that had the crowd applauding! Bailey made some typical strong forrays deep into the heart of the Lymm defence which time and again took two defenders to bring him to a stop.
Lymm re-grouped, but they too were starting to suffer with heavy legs after some tough games. This was going down to the wire! At the turn-around, Lymm scored more or less immediately. Level scores = nervous crowd! The noise levels were increasing at each Eccles attack. Was another fabulous win on the cards? Matthew took posession following some smart work from Johnny. His body angle saw him swerve into contact and the surge to the line meant Eccles were into an historical final as 90 seconds later, the final whiste blew! Scenes of jubilation!
Grand Final: Eccles 2-5 Warrington.
So it was, to their first and unexpected final after upsetting the odds against some strong teams.
Warrington had been here before, last year. Eccles then had come 2nd and the omens were not so good from the opening exchanges. Their big centre had done much of the damage with some lovely lines of running and a hat-trick of tries.
It wasn’t completely all their own way however, as Johnny scored with a wonderful finish and thoroughly deserved it was as well. Ethan very nearly scored a try to keep us in the game, but a fantastic last ditch tackle saw the ball having to be recycled as Lymm set up their defence to foil any chance of a truly fairytale end to the weekend.
Eccles were burnt out, and beaten by a Warrington team whose game was well orgainsied, and built on pure rugby ability. A delight to watch really.
The whole journey proved so emotional at the final whistle, (and yes… from the coaches also!) but all praise must go to these group of boys who built up such a tremendous understanding and support of each other, it was soul renderring and I am absolutely proud of each of them.
In all of this, the greatest and most humble moment came from our very own Jake.
Jake was one of three boys who did not get onto the pitch to experience the intensity of the competition. It was sooo difficult to explain to these boys the logic behind the decision to remain with the team battling against the odds. Sohan and Adam were the other two boys who’s support proved so important.
Jake, so upset and carried along on the emotional tide, understood the sentiments and wished his team-mates all the best as they went out for the final. What a gesture.
All the boys took it on themselves to do it for Jake. Each one of them took little Jake under their arms and reassured him that they would give it their all.
And this they did.
If you have never experienced what this sport offers and what it means, (and what it should mean!) it was here to be witnessed and respected. But, considering it was delievered by such young pups is an elixir that stirs the emotions of the most hardened souls. All these boys did the name of Eccles RFC so proud, but most of all, did themeselves so proud. The epitomy of what a team should be. Stunning spirit and attitude and you all should applaud them.
Well done Jake, Sohan, Adam and their boys!
The squad: Ollie. Danniel. Finn. Sohan. Ethan. Matthew. Johnny. Carter. Jake. Maxwell. Evan. Shayne. Scott. Jack. Adam. Bailey.