I cannot recollect how many of these match reports I have done now, but its a good amount. There are games when it can be difficult to find an abundance of positives to write about. Then there are games where it is so one sided that the report becomes an unnecessary distraction. But there are also games where, no matter what is written, the words will struggle to express how well the lads played, the commitment they showed and the courage they displayed. Even with its lack of brevity this report will fail on this count because although defeated it is difficult to articulate how well Eccles played and what a fine game of rugby both teams treated us all to today.
Despite the Siberian gales that whipped across the pitch and threatened to turn supporters and players alike in to ice-lollies, the game was packed full of quality rugby which belies weather conditions and temperatures that would see a Geordie racing to put his shirt back on. The impressively slick passing of the Backs, the crunching tackles of the Forwards and the crashing runs of the Eccles Centres all contributed to an exhilarating Cup Tie.
The first half was immense with Eccles on the front foot from the start. Every single player in the Blue & White stood tall and put in a full shift as the Eccles lads took control of the ball in all areas of the pitch.
The Eccles scrum held firm against a huge Rochdale pack, the two Locks, Matty L and James W at second row keeping the scrum stable as Eccles managed to secure possession from all of their own and 2 out of 5 of the Rochdale scrums.
Halfway through the first half and the Eccles line is broken by a crashing run from the Rochdale Forward who opens up the scoring for our visitors, not necessarily against the run of play but certainly at a time when Eccles were in control.
0 – 7
What Eccles needed now was a swift and decisive retort. This came and was orchestrated by Matt W with a restart kicked high and deep; the ball tumbling through the icy air towards the Rochdale lines. Eccles were lightning quick in their pursuit of the ball, crashing in to the receiver as he collected, holding him up and eventually forcing the penalty some 30 metres out.
Matt W stepped up and as the wind dropped, nonchalantly poked the ball over the posts to reduce the deficit to four points.
3 – 7
Eccles were back in the ascendancy and a series of high tackles from our visitors saw the first glimpse of a Craft cheese slice as the Rochdale lad was sent to the touch line for fifteen (or so) minutes.
Although down to fourteen players our visitors spirits lifted and a fantastic series of passes saw space open up and Rochdale extended their lead with a try worthy of the professional game – sometimes you have to hold your hands up and say of your opponent “that was pretty good” – this was one of those occasions!
3 – 14
Quick thinking from Matt W saw him kick from the back of the Eccles scrum. It as an intelligent kick that saw the Rochdale Full Back scampering after the ball, hotly pursued by Rob S. There was no chance of the Rochdale player getting hands on the ball so he gambled and kicked the ball back towards his own posts, the ball eventually bouncing up in to his outstretched and grateful arms as he touched down behind the posts to prevent a certain try from Rob.
Sin Bin time was up but no sooner had the Rochdale player returned to the field than a second cheese slice was brandished for more foul play; again it would be for a high tackle however this time there appeared to be something of a decision to be made by the referee. It looked suspiciously like an intentionally high arm that caught Rob S under the chin but Chris’tle gave the benefit of the doubt to the tackler, suggesting through his own interpretation of the Village Peoples YMCA that the tackler slipped prior to impact.
Back down to fourteen players Rochdale rallied and had Eccles under pressure once again with a kick over the advancing Eccles lines, the race was on but the bounce of the ball favoured Eccles on this occasion and a third Rochdale try was averted.
The usually reliable Eccles Line Out found it difficult today as the ball refused to maintain a straight line from Hooker to hands leaving both Joey Eccles and James W bending and flapping in mid-air like a pair of giant CB aerials atop of a Buzzy-Bee Taxi as the wind took the ball completely off line.
A short throw from the Line Out seemed to catch Rochdale off guard, fast hands from Josh G as he finds Dan A on the crash run. Eccles pressure is building as the ball is repeatedly taken in, rucked and recycled until a glimpse of an opening is spotted and seized upon. The ball is passed from hand to hand until it lands in to the palms of Rob S. Rob has lots of work to do as he makes a left to right diagonal run past three Rochdale players to score right in the corner.
8 – 14
The depth of squad that Eccles have affords the Coaches the opportunity to make changes to on-field personnel in order to control fatigue, manage injuries or to change game strategies. The introduction of Ross A in the second half swung the balance of power back in Eccles favour as he brought his strength and powerful running to impact on the game. Likewise when Kieron R entered the field, his first action was to go chest to chest with the formidable Rochdale Front Row, tussling for the ball like a pair of behemoths, hungry for a giant leather egg.
Google it – Did you know that rugby balls are actually laid by massive leather chickens?
On at least two occasions Rochdale had the ball beyond the Eccles try line but the phenomenal strength, spirit and fight of the Eccles lads served to prevent the ball being grounded. Eccles U16’s can be hugely proud of their defensive display today, it had the mark of the defence of the Pass of Thermopylae in 480BC by 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians (ladies in comfortable shoes).
Rochdale went on to extend their lead with a further try and bring the game to a close – meh!
8 – 21
So the Lancashire Cup competition has been flushed down the old Council Gritter but the lads can be proud of their performance today and are able to look forward to being tested in the second tier competition, The Plate. A competition that everyone who plays for, watches or coaches the Under 16’s truly believes the Eccles Under 16’s are capable of going all the way in.
Eccles U16’s Vital Statistics
Todays Eccles Squad
- Starting XV
- Josh G– Loose Head Prop
- Dan A – Hooker
- Ellis P – Tight-Head Prop
- Matty L – Second Row
- James W – Second Row
- Joe R – Blind-Side Flanker
- Albert T– Open-Side Flanker
- Alex H – Number Eight
- Tanny K – Scrum-Half
- Matt W– Fly Half (Captain)
- Max R– Left Wing
- Shea S– Outside Centre
- Harry C – Inside Centre
- Rob S – Right Wing
- Brad P – Full-Back
- Bench Strength
Upfh upfh – spot for me will ya, because today the lads were benching at around 380Kgs.
- Ross A
- David S
- Kieron R
- Jack W
- Oliver W
- James F
AWOL – Ed H & Alex T
Über-Jibber – Liam W
Scores on the Doors
Eccles 8 – 21 Rochdale
Rob S – Try
Matt W – Penalty
Eccles Men of the Match
Players Choice – Dan A
Dan Gogh is unflappable, like a chess Grand Master who thinks 15 or 20 moves ahead. Today he put in another fantastic performance which sees him receive the EMoM award from his peers. Relentless at taking the game to the opponent, quick thinking and clever decision making are the hall marks of one of our most consistent performers.
Coach Choice – Alex H
Coaches James and Kevin plumped for Alex H as their EMoM today. A huge day for the Eccles Forwards against some of the strongest in the Region, Alex worked tirelessly for his team mates from the 1st whistle right through to the 867th.
Parents Choice – Matt W
A Captain’s performance today from Matt W who was at the heart of everything that Eccles did well. Never shirking the responsibility of a leader but often throwing a deaf ear towards Coach Kevin. Matt had to leave the club house early today in order to crack on with his window cleaning round. #Sinbad
There were some big hits in todays game from both sides with the likes of Kieron R, Ellis P, Albert T and Ross A all receiving and dispatching some mammoth tackles.
But it wasn’t just the forwards who were getting involved, Jack W, Harry C, Max R and the other Backs stood tall when needed to.
The knock to the head that earned the Rochdale lad a cheese slice clearly affected the internal compass of Rob S as he set off first left, then backwards and then right before eventually driving forward to his original starting point only to be tackled by the Rochdale Centre
The speed of the Rochdale Flanker from the scrum caught Eccles out on a few occasions leaving Tanny K exposed and on the receiving end of a couple of huge hits. To his credit Tanny never failed to bounce back up and immediately get involved.
Best wishes for a speedy recovery for the Rochdale lad who injured his shoulder today. I was stood close by when it happened and it was clear to all that he was in some discomfort.
Today’s match official Chris’tle had some difficult decisions to make today. Even for the likes of me it is very easy to referee a game from the touchline, when your decisions have no bearing on the outcome of the game or the safety of the players. Bringing the game to a halt at a point when a player is clearly injured; making the call as to whether a high tackle was carried out with intent to injure were just two of the big calls that Chris made today. Well done Chris.
That whistle got some hammer today didn’t it. I was about to call for a paramedic at one point as I thought he’d swallowed it!
The wind, embarrassing Coach (56bpm) Kevin when he went to catch the ball “I’ve got it, straight in the old bread bask……oops”
The wind today robbed Matt W of the additional two points following the try that Rob S ran in.
A bit of unnecessary backchat at the end of the game saw Chris’tle accenting the cheeks of Ellis P with his trusty rouge as the frustration of a game lost put the bleep machine in to overdrive.
Under the tunnel for what is essentially a Cup knock-out match was a right kick in the noodle for the lads but they knuckled down and got on with the job of representing Eccles.
Three cards in todays game and it isn’t even Valentines day yet!
Roses are Red
My name’s Dave
I’m a proper good poet
And finally, in other news…
Don’t forget that it’s Ladies Night at Eccles RFC on 24th February. There will be lots of fun, games, raffles and with a visit from Miss Summers I’m sure the whole place will be buzzing!