U14’s – “a credit to their club”

A great turn out from the Eccles lads with just Joel absent for todays fixture away at Rochdale RUFC. We have had a great few weeks since our loss at home to Ashton with some stunning performances against top quality opposition. It was difficult to know what to expect from todays game having not played Rochdale since they visited Eccles last October when we were well and truly beaten by a powerful Rochdale side, the final score being 0 – 73

Rochdale got the game underway on the bitterly cold day with a kick deep in to the Eccles half which rolled out of play and gave Eccles the scrum on the centre spot. Good scrummaging from Eccles and the ball finds its way to the hands of Alex Thornton who drives forward forcing Rochdale back into their own half. The Eccles backs collect the ball from the ruck and are immediately on the attack through the centre of the field, but a loose pass gifts the ball to Rochdale who move the ball out to their right flank. A series of Rochdale attacks culminated in Eccles being pinned inside their own 22 and despite some excellent defending from Eccles, Rochdale opened the scoring on 5 minutes with a try in the corner. 5 – 0

Eccles restarted with a short kick from Matthew Walker; the Rochdale centre collected the ball and Albert Tonoyan collected the Rochdale centre with a typically robust tackle. Great pressure from Eccles led to a scrum inside the Rochdale half but unlike last week the Eccles scrum found itself being forced back and it wasn’t long before Eccles were again defending deep inside their own half. I think Rochdale forwards may have been singing a lullaby at this point as the Eccles lads seemed to fall asleep allowing Rochdale to coast over for a second try on 13 minutes.

12 – 0

The pitch was beginning to feel the pain of both the weather and the rugby, cutting up and looking more like the fields of Passchendaele in November 1917 rather than Rochdale in 2014. Fortunately for Eccles Chea Copues had borrowed a pair of size 15 boots giving him the ability to glide across mud whilst others just sank in. Coach Kevin on the other hand had opted for dry weather slicks and as he struggled for balance, the Eccles crowd were wondering what they would spend their You’ve Been Framed £250 on.

Seventeen minutes in and despite Eccles showing their organised defence with well timed tackles from Brad Palmer, Max Riley and Joe Rapinett, Rochdale extended their lead to 17-0 with their third try of the game which came from a loose pass following a successful Eccles scrum.

Eccles best chance of the first half came from one of the few scrums where Eccles showed the power and determination that had been displayed away at Sedgley last week. The ball was collected from the scrum by Dan Aspinall then via passes from Matthew and Brad Palmer the ball eventually found its way in to the hands of Rob Strickland who showed his blistering pace, flying down the Rochdale right flank. Rob looked certain to score but a fine tap tackle from the Rochdale full back when all others had given up the chase thwarted the Eccles winger just yards from the try line.

Eccles displayed some great forward play in the first half with powerful drives from the Wright Brothers, Josh and particularly David Smith who on a number of occasions found himself carrying the ball forward at the point of an Eccles drive. Matthew Walker made his presence felt late in the first half with an Albert-like tackle on the Rochdale prop who was proving to be one of their best players.

Half time and Eccles are trailing 17 – 0, three good tries from a Rochdale perspective but the Eccles lads will feel that they should have prevented at least one, if not all of them.

Within 5 minutes of Matthew getting the second half started the referee suspended play due to the horizontal hail that had started to pepper the players and spectators.

Within ten minutes the skys had cleared and the players were back on the field, but unfortunately for Eccles, Rochdale were the more alive of the two sides and scored straight from the restart to make the score 22 – 0

Twenty minutes into the second half and Eccles are piling on the pressure as they look to get some points on the board against a solid Rochdale defence. A crunching tackle from Albert forces the Rochdale flanker to spill the ball which is quickly gathered up by Brad Palmer who shows his strength to hold off numerous Rochdale tackles as he breaks down the Eccles right wing. Brad shows good speed but is caught by yet another last gasp tap tackle from the Rochdale full back who for the second time in the game prevented a certain Eccles try.

A real difference that Coaches James & Kevin have brought to the lads this season is an new and positive attitude that means no matter what the score is Eccles will not roll over and let you tickle their belly. Last season 22 – 0 would have quickly turned in to 52 – 0 but this year its easy to see that the lads have a new level of pride thanks to the hard work of the coaches and the players themselves.

This pride was soon demonstrated with a try from Matthew Walker right under the posts. The try came from another good scrum but instead of fast hands it was fancy footwork that Lionel Messi (more likely Lionel Blair) would have been proud of as Chea, Brad and eventually Matthew took turns to kick the ball along the boggy pitch until the ball settled under the posts to be dropped on by Matthew to bring the scores to 22 – 5.

Rochdale went on to score three further tries, one of which came from a pass more forward than Leslie Phillips in Carry on Nurse and another that I missed completely (ref had 37 – 5, I had 32 – 5) to leave the full time score at 37 – 5.

Eccles played reasonably well but struggled at times to cope with the passing and movement of the Rochdale players who until this point had failed to play to their potential, winning only one other fixture this season.

We have another friendly fixture next week to Ormskirk RUFC who have had some indifferent results losing five of their nine fixtures this season, however their last win was away to todays opponents Rochdale whom they beat convincingly 37 – 7, so expect a very difficult game!

Eccles U14 Vital Statistics

Todays Eccles Squad

Daniel Aspinall, Chea Copues, Dan Goddard, Joshua Green, Alex Hardman, Elliott Hemming, Lewis Kenny, Matthew Lee, Brad Palmer, Joe Rapinett, Max Riley, David Smith, Robert Strickland, Alex Thornton, Albert Tonoyan, Matthew Walker, Jack Williams, James Wright, Oliver Wright

Half Time Score 17-0

Full Time Score 37-5

Eccles Men of the Match

Players Choice – Albert Tonoyan

Coach Choice – Brad Palmer

Parents Choice – Albert Tonoyan

Try Scorer – Matthew Walker

Notable Mentions

Coach Kevin for finding my umbrella

The Rochdale catering staff for those amazing Turkey Sandwiches

Special mention should be made to todays match referee who was extremely complementary about the attitude, manners and temperament of our players today, describing them as ‘a credit to their club’ who didn’t allow their heads to drop at any point during a very tough game. What a fantastic complement for the lads!

Naughty Step

The Rochdale weather for being apocalyptic during the early part of the second half