Pre-Season Warm-Up -23/09/12
Eccles 54 Bolton 10
Eccles under 15’s have had a mixed pre-season. A pre-season that’s involved saying goodbye to old faces (both players and coaches) and yet a great influx of new players and new ideas. Coaches Lewis, Paul and Dan were glad to see the back of the Summer, as back to school business meant building a team.
With just 11 players on the team sheet a fortnight ago, BIG shout outs go to all of the lads, especially the Albion and Moorside lot, though everyone played their part in scraping together an eventual 17 players for a first test against Bolton! A blend of ex-rugby league-ers, complete beginners and even an MMA fighter turned up at Gorton Street to try their hand at ruggers the Eccles way.
A curious crowd, an eager coaching staff and a balcony full of kids turned up to find out what the under 15’s were all about this season. Safe to say they weren’t disappointed. If the Eccles 1st team can replicate the start these lads made on their very pitch on Sunday, then they won’t be doing much wrong this season.
Bolton arrived in confident mood and with sizeable players, but from the very first whistle, Eccles were amongst them. From Wilkes tactical chipping to ‘SCHALKE’ Goslin’s (I explain this on Sunday!) ferocious rucking, Eccles did little wrong in the opening exchanges. Fierce tackling from front row-ers Smith and Wignall led to an almost immediate turnover for the home team and the game came to life almost instantly; as impressive offloading from second-row Taylor and ‘BIG BOB’ led to a forward drive, resulting in powerhouse ‘SMITTY’ Smitham smashing the ball down. First blood to Eccles.
The first ten minutes of this game summed up everything Lewis, Paul and Dan have been trying to coach across the last 6 weeks: Fast, high-pressure, ‘keeping the ball alive’ game-play. And nothing was more pleasing than to watch 15 individuals come together and buy into this mouth-watering style of running rugby.
A cool and collected Wilkes fired over the first of 8 conversions – some from tricky angles – and Eccles were in their stride. Bolton were rabbits in our fast-approaching headlights and strong running from debutant number 8, Dean ‘PADDY’ Mongan, led to great field position for the hosts. This culminated in a deft chip from Captain Wilkes, for lightning quick Encarncao to scurry onto the end of and score under the posts.
At the first break the coaching team were struggling to find any holes in Eccles’ first 20 minute performance. A perfect start. This quickly changed though as Bolton responded to their coaches’ comments and stray kicks into the wind from both Eccles half-backs led to a surprise Bolton score. Despite some strong running from Omar ‘MISSED THE BUS’ Salih, Eccles found themselves up against it and Bolton’s big men started to make some inroads. This could have proven costly for the hosts, but they have Ryan ‘THE UNIT’ Thornley to thank at full back, as he repeatedly mopped up any missed tackles by the men in front of him and secured his position as 15 for the upcoming season. Some good organisation from sparky, scrum half Smith led to quick tries from Mongan and Salih again and Eccles were home and dry.
Lewis rang the changes in the final third and the ‘STEAMTRAIN’ Sheldon punctured Bolton’s defence with some unbelievable solo charges into the opposition 22. After much encouragement from the sideline, PADDY learnt how to pass in the latter stages of the game and this led to a fantastic breakaway try from Encarncao and Paddy secured a well-deserved hatrick of tries himself. This finished Bolton off and you could see the Eccles boys really relax and enjoy the victory.
Other special mentions go to Dean ‘VERSATILE’ Fellows for stepping up at back row this season; he was smart and physical at the breakdown and one of the hardest workers on the park. Dion Wallis impressed on his very first game of union and the team was led triumphantly by Wilkes as skipper.
Big thanks for Bolton for the game and for reversing their shirts!! We’ll see them again in the Blacksticks before long. I’m going to finish by summing up the game in reference to the wingers. Callum Johnson played through an injury and didn’t put a foot wrong all day, both in defence and going forward. And finally (I can’t believe I’ve not mentioned him yet) Liam ‘KARATE KID’ Chester enjoyed an unbelievable debut and I think players and coaches alike will be urging him to swap UFC for ERFC – you know it makes sense Liam.