Such is the atmosphere of family amongst the players, coaches and parents of the Under 15s, it is with a sense of vicarious pride that I look back on the 2015/16 season; as though I have been the one who has put my body on the line in and amongst the ferocious battles with Bolton, Ashton, Northwich etc. However nothing could be further from the truth as I retreat to he pen and pad whist the U15 squad of lads stand strong and together in the face of their fierce foes and rivals.
After all it wasn’t me who was folded in half like a deckchair by the Rochdale pack, it was Joe R; my nose remained intact unlike that of Max R; as for the finger of Ed H, well, lets just say he reaches notes on the piano that no other can reach.
The season had some fantastic highs such as the opening away win at Rochdale with Joe R and particularly Max R shining in a game that put away some demons and also saw the introduction of Harry C and Cameron B to a squad that was growing in both strength and numbers. The win against Rochdale was a great achievement against a very well drilled side who we had previously struggled to compete with and should have served as a platform for more victories during the coming weeks.
Harry C nonchalantly pops one over the sticks
Unfortunately for the lads it wasn’t to happen as the lads went on a streak of closely fought defeats to some excellent sides including Stockport, Heaton Moor and Bolton; games which were decided by no more than a couple of scores. This was followed by our first heavy loss away to the battling Northwich. A game that saw the Louis Vuitton’s brandished on a number of occasions forcing Chris’tle to hand out the rouge to a lad from each side.
All this was soon forgotten as we welcomed visitors from the far end of the East Lanc’s Road to Gorton Rd in an end of 2015 Blacksticks belter. Eccles had in the past struggled with the physicality of Sefton but in the absence of Coach Kevin, Coach James opened the gimp box. Supported by Brom, James the lads fired up and ready; the lads didn’t disappoint and ran in 29 – 15 victors with Ed H, Joe R and Brad P all collecting MoM awards. This was the first time, but not the last that we would find ourselves disadvantaged by the uncontested scrum rule.
Tigers on the end of a Valentines Day Massacre
‘Outclassed for the first time in a while’ were my thoughts about the next game we played as a brilliant Huddersfield team made the trip over from ‘the dark side’ to God’s little acre for the 1st game of 2016. Trailing 24 – 0 at half time the lads showed pride and dignity as they battled to stay in the game, always striving but unfortunately failing to close the gap as Huddersfield went on to win by 31-5 in a game that saw injuries to Harry C, Cameron B & Joe R as Matt W, Brad P and Rob J took the MoM accolades.
A brace of draws came next for Eccles; firstly in the final Blacksticks group fixture where the crowd (who all know much much more than Chris’tle about rugby) demanded a late penalty try be awarded for the blatant trip. This would have sealed victory and passage through to the next round for Eccles, but we were to have our hopes dashed when Chris’tle only offered up a cheese slice ☹️. Nevertheless this only took a tiny bit of gloss from what was a terrific team performance with Joe R and James W just pipping Brad P, Jack W, Ellis P and Rob J to the MoM. This game also saw Ed H go all Vulcan with his dislocated finger and those ruffian parents from the U14’s entertain us with a display of the very finest Marquess of Queensberry rules sparring.
Our second consecutive draw came on the day our nice shiny new kits arrived along with some apocalyptic weather. The pitch would have been deemed unplayable for football, lacrosse, hockey and probably trench warfare however the lads dug deep and battled to a 5-5 draw against West Leeds in our third roses fixture of the season. This is a game that saw Alex H play some of his best rugby of the season as he collected all MoM awards, tying with David S for the parents vote.
New Kits give John ‘the suds’ a proper challenge
A heavy defeat to Ashton was not the best preparation for the Blacksticks playoff against local rivals Sedgley Park. Joe R stood in as captain as Eccles lined up with a much weakened squad with regular captain and vice captains Matt W & Josh G away and Alex T and Max R both carrying injuries. However this would prove to be one of the finest moments of the season for this group of lads as they thoroughly thrashed the Tigers to the point that the game could only be reported as *30-0, but we all know the real scoreline was almost double that with Harry C taking over and excelling at kicking duties, Ellis P, Brad P, Chea C, Shea S all scoring tries, Rob S helping himself to a brace of tries and MoM Ed H settling for a hat trick of tries. The whole team played exceptionally well with MoM awards being given to Ed H, Harry C and Dan A.
In an unwelcome case of Deja Vu, just like earlier in the season following the win against Rochdale the lads game stuttered and despite playing some excellent rugby, further victories were to prove elusive.
Despite dominating for long periods of the game we would eventually lose our Blacksticks Quarter Final to Ormskirk, playing some amazing rugby whist down to 14 players and scoring two well deserved tries would be enough.
The loss to Bolton the following week was difficult for the lads as they know that they are man for man equal to, if not better than their opponents; but Eccles found themselves drawn into a bit of Morris Dancing that had been fuelled by prematch Social Media banter. I know the lads are already looking forward to playing Bolton and sharing a coffee with them next season.
The season was closed out with a couple of invitational fixtures, firstly away at Colne where the rugby (which was first class) seemed to take second billing to the antics of the parents with Benedictine, Bromance, lost jackets and Fosters all took centre stage.
Nice touch from our hosts at Colne
The second fixture was the lads first taste of foreign rugby (if you don’t count Yorkshire) as we were schooled by the Naves Seilhac Lagrauliere rugby School. When Ellis P asks ‘what the heck was that?’ following a French attack, you know that you are in a spot of bother or le myther as they say in France.
As close as Joe R managed to get to the French Captain
Now I love my country (but I wouldn’t choose to holiday here) as much as the next man, but I do also appreciate the uplifting anthem of Le Marseillaise, even if its lyrics are a little barbaric. I also get as ‘whatever the opposite of uplifted is’ as most when I hear God Save The Queen mumbled along to. Little did I know that this directly translated into junior rugby but I was to find out as our lads retorted the French lads rousing burst of their club anthem with a bit of ‘we love you Eccles, we do’ – brought a tear to my eye it did
It was a great season of rugby for the lads that saw old foes vanquished, new friends made (Alan) and new teams and nations played.
Next season is undoubtably going to be a tough one and the lads have much to learn and improve upon in readiness. Training restarts on the 7th June which gives the lads a good three months to improve their fitness and get their minds and bodies in shape for their final year in the Junior & mini’s
I have put links to a couple of match reports that seemed to be popular with the parents and FaceBookers amongst you
Ellis P on the charge
Matt W goes over for a try
Ellis P secures possession