Conditions – Costa del Sol’ish
As ever Liverpool made us very welcome and even turned the temperature up for us.
A glorious day had a glorious start – Lenny caught the kick-off from Liverpool – could we keep this up?
The referee set the standards high but unfortunately the initial kicking from both sides was poor and the trees on the side lines saw more ball than the forwards.
Joe Wisdom was welcomed back to play after a short break with a split lip, but apart from that the first five minutes were a bit scrappy. Contrary to urban myth, the line judge on the far side managed to juggle spares balls, a phone and the flag, fair play sir.
Steve Mather tried to put the opposition off with a Clint Eastwood impression and Eccles only just missed a superb try as the last long pass was fumbled.
Try? – almost. Curt was adjudged not to have controlled the ball and injured himself in the process – enter Simon from stage left. However, Eccles continued to take advantage of their unusual bright start to a match, they even seemed to be getting their fair share of marginal decisions and although after 10 minutes play and no score the signs were promising.
Did we hope too soon, Lewis has steel chin and an iron heart but his bone china nose let go and claret flowed. But hold on – he quickly stems the flow and continues on unseen but for a few trained eyes.
Aaron changed tack and try an up and under that come December would have had the clichéd snow on it, but in bright sunlight it was as a dry as a bone, and was marked almost nonchalantly.
Never had Eccles had so many penalties so early, but as none were elected for kicking, the game remain nil all. So don’t take this bias report on face value – Liverpool were not spectators – they’d had their moments and Eccles needed to defend well.
On 15 minutes Jim Barker took a wayward kick into touch almost subconsciously and noted that Aaron could have kicked us three pens by now – “points on the board, points on the board” I seemed to remember being told.
Again, almost a try but during the big push under the posts one of the opposition was fouled – so, so close.
The frustration was beginning to affect the crowd – well Martin and David H anyway – Martin gave Matt Pass the benefit of his experience vis-à-vis which “ordinary” direction to run. (I think he said “ordinary” as opposed to any other adjective you can think of) and David’s use of stating the obvious to spur the lads on was sublime. But for all the sarcasm it worked – TRY! Connor Bates got it, far corner, but what a team move excellent. Still the way Aaron has shied away from kicking the penalties earlier it was obvious to all of us on the touch line he didn’t stand a chance kicking from that angle – great conversation Aaron! – 0-7 and points on the board – which I seem to remember is essential in a game of rugby.
The elephant had left the room – or is it two birds and a bush – no no – the monkey was off their backs – that’s it and now they became even brighter – I’m sure they are usually only just waking up by at this stage of a game.
There seemed to be a game plan whereas the forwards gave they’re all for three or four rucks, I saw a great carry from Simon that instead of tired bodies trying to ruck again was passed to the forwards and only a penalty against saw a move sure to make 40-50 if not the try. Same again three rucks – 25 yards gained and this the penalty was offered to Aaron – to be fair, it was a little straight and close for him – very tricky, he likes much wider than this – still he scored it so it’s 0-10 and this is up hill!
Almost from the kick-off a few fast hands sees Parky sprint like a cheetah in heat and score like he’d just remembered what to do – a truly special diagonal run that Martin will no doubt be speaking to him about! So with the conversation virtually on the touch-line Aaron was in his element – converted with aplomb (I looked that up). 0-17
Parky tries another run but is pulled or pushed into touched just on half time.
The second half starts like the first – some technical fouls but this time going against Eccles but fortunately the kick ends up in the trusty hands of Billy. Eccles return the ball 20 yards via a rolling maul but when rucked Martin got stamped on – stupidly he swung his handbag before the referee had chance to caution just the Liverpool player so they both saw yellow.
The game settled into attack/counterattack and albeit Eccles were 0-17 ahead Liverpool never looked out of it, there was some sterling defence from both sides and this could easily have been a dead rubber second half with Eccles happy to soak up pressure and protect their lead.
So much for the expert analysis and predictions – Harry and Aaron reminded everyone what the game was all about – passing, supporting, passing and scoring! TRY! Unfortunately for Aaron – Harry stuck it under the post leaving it straight and close again – no chance –wrong again! It was converted with ease. – 0-24.
Despite having nothing left in his tank – seeing Harry running sparked a distant memory for Tom W and he runs in a great try this time remembering to put it in the corner leaving Aaron a simple 45 yarder from 45 degrees – 0-31.
And just to rub salt in the wounds of all the experts on the side-lines Matt Pass scores in the corner from a mazey almost sideways runs BUT the work was all done by Danny in the build-up. Great try but somehow Aaron missed the conversion – personally I think he wanted to stay at 11 points for the day – but what do I know. 0-36
Finally just when it was nearly all over, Lenny and Joe link up for foray down the right – Matt supports and switches left, TRY from Harry through a tired defence and a conversion from Aaron just to prove me wrong for once. 0-43
The final whistle gives way to true sportsmanship as Liverpool applaud Eccles’ victory and Eccles respond accordingly as the score line, avoiding clichés like the plague, didn’t reflect the true closeness of the game. For what it’s worth, this was the best game I’ve seen Eccles play since I’ve been watching – some players had great moments today, but the team spirit, lack of back chat to officials and most importantly the complete effort from the start was truly fantastic to see.
Match Report Rob Holt.