With a break in the winter rains and a glimmer of sunshine up the M62, it was off to Littleborough for the under 10s of Gorton St.
With a good squad of players to select from, this fixture always promised to be one of our toughest of the season, especially after we knocked them out of the Rossendale Tournament at the beginning of the season.
The playing surface looked inviting as we turned up amidst the quintessential surroundings of Hollingworth Lake. However, once we’d warmed up, the turf quickly morphed into a heavy laden mud bath! This was not going to deter either of these sides who were intent on playing some good competitive rugby.
From the kick off, ‘Borough piled on the pressure and the Eccles defence looked a little shaky. It was only down to some fantastic tackling and great counter-rucking to regain possession that kept the hosts out. Carter led the defensive line with Ollie and Jack tucked in on his shoulder. Joe supported his forwards into the rucks as he looked to supply Adam and Ethan on the wings, but the usual Eccles game plan was always going to be a challenge in the heavy conditions, with the wingers under instruction to come inside and look for the ball where possible.
After 8 minutes, there was still no score even though it was ‘Borough who went closest. Maxwell then took the ball into the maul. The ball was ripped by Ollie and popped to Joe. With limited options available, Joe side stepped a tackler before squeezing the ball to Matthew who created a gap from nothing to set off to the line. 1-0 Eccles at the end of the first period.
The game was well balanced going into the next play and a few tired legs were rested to bring on some fresh runners especially as we were now going uphill! Anni and Finn constantly switched wings to create confusion in the ‘Borough defence. Jake slotted into his hookers role and used his low centre of gravity to great effect into contact. Adam C looked to support his wingers just on their shoulders and Shayne took it up middle time and again to get us on the ‘front foot’ but, a resurgence from ‘Borough and some great power play, saw them score 3 unanswered tries. 1-3.
The next period introduced a few more changes to the line-up with the coaches instructions to look after the ball at ruck time ringing loudly! A superb piece of play from Ollie turned defence into attack as the ‘Borough player was about to plant the ball for a try, Ollie latched onto the ball, ripped it from his possession and set off back up the pitch towards Ethan’s wing. From the touchline, Ethan took the pill from Ollie and fizzed across the mud to leave the defenders floundering… 2-3 ‘Borough. Ollie then grabbed a try for himself in similar circumstances: again ripping the ball from his opponent, only this time on THEIR line, leaving him to spin and drop over the white wash, 3-3.
‘Borough pulled another score back as the intensity cranked up. The tackle zone was being keenly contested as both teams enjoyed the contest. Ollie, in fine form put a tremendous tackle in to slow an attack down. Anni punched above her weight with a wonderful, text-book tackle on the winger. Lucas, time and again stayed strong in defence and attack. Ethan linked well with Johnnie from the right hand side, and again he managed to shuffle his quick feet before hitting a gap. Adam P put a lovely solid tackle in on his opposite number before claiming the loose ball on the floor to pop it up to Lucas. A surge forward provided the opportunity for Ethan to nail his second score.
In the last quarter of play, the teams were running on reserves of energy. Ollie came under pressure deep in the Eccles half and evaded the tackler by ducking neatly under his arm. Matthew came back on for Jack and some good strong runs and the odd dummy bought him some space. It was the turn of the Eccles boys to attack up hill. With both teams digging deep, an attempted interception saw the advantage handed to ‘Borough. Their big centre set off before Anni caught him, but the recycled ball was shipped out where the winger scored in the corner.
In the end, a great game deserved a great result and 7-5 to ‘Borough just about proved fair. Each and every player gave all they had,and the evidence of this was witnessed by the emotions at the final whistle. Tremendous commitment and a huge well done!
Eccles Squad: Finn, Lucas, Ollie, Matthew, Maxwell, Joe, Adam C, Anni, Adam P, Jake (Tas), Shayne, Ethan, Johnnie, Carter, Jack
Thanks to Paul from Littleborough for their hospitality and to Terry for officiating.
Considering the lack of rugby over the winter, it was a fantastic effort to enjoy some real good game-time.
Training this Weds 27th Jan (weather dependant that is!). All welcome including new players to the game! 6.30pm
Sunday 31st Jan: HOME v Fylde. 11.00am KO Meet @ 10.15am