A typically overcast Salford day welcomed our visitors from Merseyside who thus far this season have had a terrific run of results losing only twice since the season began, by a single point to Liverpool Collegiate and a single converted try to Blackburn. Moreover in competitive games in the Blacksticks tournament Sefton have gone all season undefeated racking up a staggering 151 points while only conceding 7 and progressing to the cup tournament at the top of our group. In the away fixture earlier this season a short sided Eccles were overran by a rampant Sefton team 36-0. The question is can Eccles do anything to prevent a similar scoreline given our recent dip in form resulting in last weeks defeat to Rochdale.
Both sides were down to a bare 15 man squad, Eccles missing Brad Palmer who was on a days Paintballing, long term absentee Joel, Lewis who was suffering from Ronaldo Ankle and Alex T who has undergone an elective procedure to improve his Xbox skills (he has had a third ‘Burnley’ thumb attached to his hand – good luck finding gloves).
The game kicked off and Eccles were immediately putting their defensive training to good use as a well drilled Sefton side pinned the Eccles lads deep inside their own half. Despite some great defensive play and a last ditch try saving tackle from Albert, it was the Eccles backs who eventually succumbed to the pressure when from an Eccles scrum the ball was worked wide and it looked like a counter-attack was on but a loose pass from Joe at the end of one of his trademark ‘right to left’ runs (FORWARD JOE) left James W exposed to the oncoming Sefton attack. The ball was turned over and a dummy pass saw Sefton in under the posts to score a try which was easily converted to leave Eccles trailing by seven points inside the first 10 minutes.
0 – 7 ‘and its now drizzling’
Matthew W got the game underway again with a good kick deep into the Sefton half but our visitors were quickly back inside Eccles territory pressing ever harder in an attempt to stretch their early lead. Wave after wave of Sefton attack was held up and driven back by a fabulous Eccles defence who flatly refused to allow Sefton the space or time to breakthrough and score.
The resilience of the Eccles defence clearly affected the discipline of the Sefton lads resulting in Jack taking a punch to the bean-bag outside the the sight lines of the eagle eyed referee. Jack was in a bit of discomfort, gasping for breath, stomach aching, eyes streaming as struggled to contain his laughter at what his opponent had tried to do in order to put him off his game. Once Jack has managed to bring his laughter under control the game was restarted and this time it was Eccles who were fastest out of the blocks pushing Sefton back into their own half with powerful runs from Matthew, Rob and Max who took it in turn to find Chea at just the right moment to cash through the Sefton lines and set up ruck after ruck which was capitalised on by the Eccles forwards David, Oliver, Elliot and Alex who was living up to his name by being a hard man to stop, a hard man to bring down and a hard man to get out of bed in a morning.
Twenty minutes in and tide had turned, Eccles were on the offensive pushing Sefton deep into their own 22, surely it was only a matter of time before Eccles would be on the scoresheet. The Eccles forwards were showing their dominance in the scrum, driving Sefton back and back towards their own try line. Eccles looked certain to score as first Chea broke through but failed to see the pass outside him and then Alex looked like he was going over but was held up are you desperate Sefton defence. A Sefton infringement gave Eccles the chance to score, Dan A took the quick tap penalty and look to have scored only to be thwarted by the base of the post. Another infringement by the Sefton defence brought first half to a close with Eccles on the cusp of scoring but still trailing by the solitary converted try.
Half time 0 – 7 and Coach Kevin kicks the ball back to todays referee
An encouraging first half performance with some steadfast defending and quality attach play towards the latter stages of the first half was echoed in the ‘lets go and win this’ half time team talk from coaches James and Kevin.
Uncharacteristically the Eccles boys took on board the instructions from James and Kevin at half time and were on the attack, putting Sefton under pressure immediately from the kick-off. Sefton find themselves exactly where they were at the end of the first half, defending deep inside their own 22 as the Eccles forwards press further and further towards Sefton try line. Eventually the Sefton Dam is breached as the Eccles forwards receive the ball, form a maul and use their immense strength to drive towards the Sefton try line. The ball safely in the hands of Alex H who pushes over and places the ball over the line to open Eccles account but leaving a less than straightforward conversion for Matthew which he puts just wide of the upright.
5 – 7 ‘its raining properly now’
Buoyed from his try Alex collects the ball from the Sefton kickoff and charges towards the oncoming wall of Sefton players, Alex releases the ball to Joe who runs forward only to be clattered for a second time in the game by the rock-like Sefton prop sending in Joe reeling backwards like a crash test dummy. Credit to Joe he got straight up and carried on playing although I’m not sure he knew where he was playing or for who at this point. Matthew L collects the loose ball and pops it up to the oncoming Josh who drives forward knocking over a couple of Sefton players as he gains 20 metres before passing inside to David who is tackled well but an infringement by Sefton sees that scrum awarded to Eccles. Once again the Eccles scrum is strong and as the ball appears in view at the back of the scrum Dan sets up another Eccles attack as they move the ball quickly across the backs until the ball lands in the hands of Chea who uses his quick feet, strength and a sudden burst of speed to break through two tackles and score for Eccles in a perfect position for Matthew Walker to convert.
12 – 7 ‘and now it is snowing’
It looked like Eccles would be on for a hard fought and well earned victory but Sefton weren’t beaten yet and managed to score in the corner despite a well timed tackle from Max who used all his strength (more lager shandy than Kestrel Super) in his endeavour to halt the Sefton player short of the line.
12 – 12
The missed conversion left the scores all square but with Eccles feeling very frustrated as this was a game that they felt they could have won against what is clearly one of the strongest sides in the region. The fixture saw Sefton dominate much of the first half and Eccles take control for most of the second. The game had many similarities with our away fixture at Sedgley where we also drew in a game we weren’t supposed to do well in but in the end almost won.
We need to take heart from the performance and the result and ensure we take this fantastic form into our next fixture away at Bury RFC
Eccles U14 Vital Statistics
Todays Eccles Squad
Daniel A, Chea C, Joshua G, Alex H, Elliott H, Joe R, Max R, David S, Robert S, Albert T, Matthew W, Jack W, Matthew L, James W, Oliver W
Half Time Score 0-7
Full Time Score 12-12
Eccles Man of the Match
Players Choice – Chea
Coach Choice – Josh
Parents Choice – Chea & Josh
Eccles scrum for working so well together and winning 80% of the scrums
The team as a whole for carrying in to the game the hard work put in during training
Jack for containing his laughter and managing to not only carry on but to have an outstanding game
Joe for being the Sefton props personal rag-doll on a couple of occasions & getting back up
David for shaking of a knock to the neck and soldiering on
Rob for risking further injury to his ‘square, triangle, circle and cross’ thumb
One try each for Alex H & Chea
Matthew W 1 x Conversion
The Salford weather – miserable to say the least. Made a right mess of my notes
The bean-bag puncher