The morning dragged and the build up to the first ever contact game for the Under 9s seemed to take an age! My own nerves were on edge, no fingernails left and a sickly feeling in my stomach. Would the boys cope with contact? Will they all come through unscathed? Will they enjoy the challenge and will they be at training next Wednesday? From the conversations I had with a number of parents these were all common questions and all had similar uneasy feelings as to what would unfold.
The new rules specified seven-a-side, a much larger pitch and obviously tackling. As Martin and I were to find out, the restart after a tackle … via a “free pass” was open to interpretation and I think this was ultimately to the cost of the team during the two matches played.
Before I start on the individual games I would like to welcome Jack to Eccles, on holiday from New Zealand and a get well soon to Mikey, missing the games through illness.
The opponents on the day were Trafford MV and as per usual, were blessed with numbers and could field two teams so two games were organised.
Eccles had a squad of 10: Archie, Ben, Charlie, Guy, Josh, Lewis, Lucas, Mitchel and Reece plus Jack filling our overseas quota.
Initially into bat for the first match were Archie, Ben, Charlie, Guy, Lewis, Lucas and Reece but with rolling subs everyone got plenty of game time.
The game kicked off with TMV racing into a 2-0 lead curtesy of uncharacteristic handling errors (based on training performance) showing the nervousness of the team. Ben took the ball from the restart and a trademark solo run barging through the TMV defence got Eccles on the scoresheet and our season off and running. An error from the restart saw Eccles regain the ball immediately and the team started to settle into some good running rugby, offloading out of the tackle and the awesome Guy crashing over for his first of three tries in the game.
The game was stop/start in attack as Eccles struggled with the “new restart” from a tackle and our attacks were slowed down considerably and any advantage was lost.
The other thing to report was a high tackle on Mitchel which was quickly and effectively dealt with by Seamus (TMV coach) but still looked painful!
The game ended with a TMV win by three tries, 5-8 but a clear man of the match in Guy!
The second match followed a similar format to the first. The Eccles attacking rugby brought back time and time again for “not restarting correctly”. Eccles had also developed another problem … too many times being tackled into touch resulting in turnover ball
With the amount of turnovers, Eccles certainly got to practice tackling and confidence across the whole squad grew. All the team put in a shift and some crunching tackles, one of note from Josh in text book low hit and upward drive taking the ball carrier backwards … perfect technique!!
This game saw Guy (again!!), Ben, Lucas and Jack get on the scoresheet and also a dubious disallowed try from Mitchel (it WAS as try!!!) and the game ended in a draw.
The memorable passage of play from this game was four tackles on the spin from Mitchel limiting the TMV attack to little or no gain in field position. And for this he gets my man of the match.
Looking back at the game we do have one, maybe two, negatives … running too close to the touchline being tackled into touch, not running straight and forward and a few too many handling errors to boot (I am putting this down to first game nerves)
Indicated during this report, the free pass restart enforced was something we have not coached. It was communicated (by TMV) as the tackled player places the ball back, a second player steps in to scrum half to pass the ball and continue the attack ala at a ruck. Whilst I understand this as a technical progression I have struggled to find a definitive answer as to if this is the correct way to restart. There is no single guidance document for U9 rugby and additional rules/skills are built on previous years rules ie U8s build on U7s, U9s built on U8s. Even the video clips provided show both the “ruck” type restart and the free pass we are used to. Something to work on!
On the positive side … everyone came through unscathed (even Mitchel kept his looks after the high tackle – yes I know this could also be a negative!!), everyone enjoyed both games, no complaints with being subbed off, raring to go when subbed on, everyone getting involved in tackling, everyone carrying the ball and being tackled … I could go on!
Training next week on Wednesday 18:30 -19:30 and we have another game on Sunday, at home, against Glossop. Ideally please be at Gorton Street for 10:10-10:15 if possible.
All in all, very well done and just one word from me to finish … PROUD!!