A crisp but misty dawn gave way to beautiful warming sunshine and the Eccles contingent, now playing at U10s, travelled down the M60 to play Ashton on Mersey in the first game of the season
With the transfer business over the summer completed Eccles gave debuts to new acquisitions, Mateusz and Harry. A big Eccles welcome to both. With a hand injury for Mitch and sickness for Mikey (how many times … No beer on the night before a match!!) Eccles had a squad of 12 to select from.
Whilst last year was the introduction of contact rugby, this year introduces the technical aspects of scrums, mauls and rucks plus the increase in team size from 7 to 8. After discussion with the AOM coaches, Si and Mike, it was decided that two games, the first of 15 mins each way and the second 10 mins each way, would give the near capacity crowd value for money and quench their thirst for rugby.
The teams took to the field with Si taking first unenviable stint as referee.
From the off, AOM seemed to be the most comfortable with the new rules. Eccles took the ball into contact only to lose the ensuing rucks turning ball over time and time again. On the plus side the tackling was immense forcing AOM to make mistakes and return the ball back. After losing the ball uncertainty in the AOM back line cause a loose pass to fall nicely to Ben and a clean pair of heels saw him scoot down the wing to score the first try of the season.
From the restart AOM demonstrated the rucking technique to perfection but could just not cross the line amid excellent tackling from Eccles. Per the new rules, a scrum to Eccles from a knock on had Josh at scrum half providing a reverse pass to Reece (where did that come from, not been done in training!) to sprint away down the touch line only to be caught and tackled into touch just short of the line.
More pressure on the AOM attack forced the mistake, the loose ball scooped up by Lewis and the rest was history. AOM were dominant in the rucks but Eccles were more than a match in defence and more purposeful with ball in hand. Whilst the Eccles rucking was almost none existent their scrums were very controlled with the ball each time placed to perfection and the striking clean. From one such scrum the ball passed quickly to Lucas to arc round a bunched defence to score in the corner.
Half Time : AOM 0 – 3 Eccles
AOM kicked off the second half and were switched on from the whistle. Eccles on the other hand were still on half time break. A quick pass gave Emma (star in the making!!) space to run at the Eccles defence swerving towards touch before a wicked sidestep wrong footed the sliding cover to cross for their first try.
With the coaches shouting “encouragement”, Charlie took the ball from the restart and jinked his way up the middle of the park to score and switch the momentum back towards Eccles. More defensive effort forced the mistake and Eccles had the ball again. A reverse of direction allowed Tommy to avoid contact and score in the corner.
Eccles stretched their lead further when for the first time in the game Eccles won a ruck! Ben charged down the middle before being tackled. Jack in support cleared out the attacker and Archie flicked the ball out to Mateusz to crash over for his first try in an Eccles shirt.
As the clock counted down Ben made the break from deep in his own half, threw an audacious dummy putting Jack in the clear down the wing. A fantastic tackle from an AOM player almost snuffed out the danger but Jack had the presence of mind to provide a neat pass inside to the supporting tommy for him to score the simplest but most impressive of team tries.
Full Time : AOM 1 – 7 Eccles (Tommy 2, Ben, Charlie, Lewis, Lucas, Mateusz)
Eccles started with a pass to Lewis the “Freight Train” with the inevitable result … a strong run through the heart of the AOM defence and with nobody able to stop him he opened the scoring. AOM were not going to lie down. The impressive Emma, a speedy and constant thorn in Eccles side out paced the Eccles defenders to level the score.
Pressure from the restart gave the ball back to AOM and the smallest player on the field scored from the half way line to take the lead. Eccles roared back with Jack taking the ball up the middle just to be held up short but quick thinking from Josh passed the ball for Lewis to barge over.
It was Lewis again to put Eccles back in front with Jack again the provider by offloading to a full speed Freight Train. To finish the half, Mateusz danced through the AOM team to touch down for his second try of the morning.
Half Time : AOM 2 – 4
As the second half got underway the greater numbers of the Eccles squad provided a huge advantage over a now tiring AOM team. Excellent defensive rucking turned the ball over to Eccles and the quick pass to Jack got him deservedly on the score sheet.
Ben took the ball and looked for the offload only for the would be tacklers to expect the same offload. A quick spin and the tackle was broken allowing him to score in the corner. Jack followed quickly with his second of the match in typical barging fashion.
AOM were now a spent force and a last gasp tackle stopped Tommy from scoring in the corner. In the dying seconds more excellent rucking popped the ball up to Ben to outpace the tired opposition to score the final try of the game.
Final Score : AOM 2 – 8 Eccles (Lewis 3, Ben 2, Jack 2, Matuesz)
A big thank-you and well done to Si and Martin for refereeing two very entertaining games. With the new rules and disciplines both playing and refereeing is all new and all I can say is rather them than me!
Congratulations should also go to Mateusz and Harry, with the former scoring twice, on their first game. I also think Archie should be commended on a controlled performance full of nice neat passing (only one “Hollywood” pass that did go to hands!) plus plenty of forward runs into contact.
Two very good and positive results for the first game of the season and this is a step towards finding our feet for the season. Tackling in both games was awesome and kept AOM at bay for most of the time. With ball in hand the running was strong and direct plus there was some excellent support play, off loads and passing along the line.
One thing to work on is rucking. Whilst the game was won by out tackling and open play we were definitely second best taking the ball into contact. AOM were excellent in placing the ball backwards after contact, getting the second man in and over and then getting the ball away. If our tackling game was not as good, then the results could have been totally different.
Well done all, onwards and upwards!