Very close, but no cigar for U16s at home to Bolton

A cursory flick through the archives sets the scene for todays fixture. Eccles have historically struggled to compete with todays visitors losing their last three games since April 2015 on each occasion by between twelve and sixteen points. With our squad on the one hand depleted by injuries to regulars in key positions, new players still bedding in and the unfortunate absence of figurehead and Coach Kevin Walker, this game was surely only going to end in humiliation for the lads.

I was smart enough to recognise a long time ago that for me, gambling is a mugs game. No matter what the statistics say or what knowledge of the event and teams I may have, what history tells me is never ever put a bet on because I’ll probably lose. Today was no exception to this; The stats said the game would be wholly one sided with Bolton running in between four and six tries and Eccles possibly sneaking a consolation try.

However, what ensued was a tense, evenly contested and sometimes attritional battle between two sides who neither asked for, nor gave any quarter. The game wasn’t blessed with our usual high quality rugby but there were a number of great performances from those noted as Eccles MoM together with the likes of Ross A who is making a great impression in his early days at Eccles with his ferocious tackling; Joey Eccles who was imperious again in the line out; Brad P who is without doubt the best last line of defence since the Red Army at the Battle of Kursk, collecting the ball deep in his own twenty-two before launching counter-attacks on either side of the Bolton lines.

The first thirty five minutes passed without either side looking like they were going to score; the play was predominantly in the centre third of the pitch with each team occasionally making a break but steadfast defending from initially the forwards and latterly the backs would snub out any hope of a try.

The deadlock was eventually broken early in the second half when despite Eccles making four changes, they were beginning to impose their attacking play on the game, but a lapse in concentration allowed the Bolton player to skip past the Eccles defence and score almost beneath the posts. A disappointing time and manner to concede a try but there would be plenty of time following a poor conversion attempt to reverse the score and Eccles were in the ascendency playing solid but by no means expansive rugby.

Unfortunately for the Eccles lads their endeavours would be in vane as our visitors defence remained strong throughout the second half as Eccles pressed for the win. Such was the relief of the Bolton lads that in the last play a wild hack to put the ball in to touch and close out the game almost came to grief as the sliced ball only just drifted in to touch as the Bolton players, parents and coaches celebrated their win

Full Time 0 – 5

The lads had hoped to be on the First Team pitch today but this wasn’t possible as the Senior Colts had a game later in the day. Under the tunnel of love the pitch seems tighter than the First Team pitch and this without doubt contributed to making it difficult for the Eccles lads to express themselves on the pitch, continually encouraging the play down the middle rather than making it possible for the fast passing and wing-play that we would have hoped to bring to todays fixture

Next weekend sees the lads back in cup action at home this time to Ashton-Under-Lyne. With the Senior Colts at home it’s likely that we’ll be under the tunnel again

Eccles U16’s Vital Statistics

Todays Eccles Squad

Starting XV

  1. Alex H – Loose Head Prop
  2. David S – Hooker
  3. Ellis P – Tight-Head Prop
  4. James F– Second Row
  5. James W – Second Row
  6. Joe R – Blind-Side Flanker
  7. Oliver W– Open-Side Flanker
  8. Kieron R – Number Eight
  9. Harry C – Scrum-Half
  10. Matt W – Fly Half (Captain)
  11. Robert S– Left Wing
  12. Ed H– Inside Centre
  13. Shea S – Outside Centre
  14. Ross A – Right Wing
  15. Brad P – Full-Back

Replacements – Matt L, Liam W, Max R, Jack W

MIA

  • Albert T – Hungover
  • Tanny K – probably hungover
  • Alex T – Injured
  • Josh G – Injured
  • Dan A – AWOL
  • Archie H – AWOL
  • Coach Kevin – AWOL
  • Coach James – AWOL

Scores on the Doors

Half Time 0 – 0

Full Time 0 – 5

Eccles Men of the Match

Players Choice – Kieron R

Kieron clearly picked up where he left off last week with another solid performance at Number 8, a position that Alex H, who played in the front row today, made his own a few years ago. If we ever get to have a fully fit squad I’m certain that Kieron will be challenging Alex for the big shirt

Coach Choice – Harry C

Massive game for Harry C today who firstly showed his adaptability by filling in for the absent Dan Gogh at Scrum-Half, then went on to show his rugby presence by putting in another Man of the Match performance.

Parents Choice – David S & Shea S

David and Shea made as much ground as anyone today with their penetrating runs through the centre of the park. Despite almost every player receiving at least one vote today David & Shea were the two stand out names on the final list. Their relentless driving at the Bolton lines and their tireless application for the full 70 minutes drew their vote from many of the knowledgeable parents and Sonia P

Notable Mentions

Not really an ‘unsung’ hero due to his countless mentions within match reports but its important to recognise Chris ‘the whistle’ Lee for his continued support of the U16s in his refereeing duties. Another splendid lemon-yellow outfit was capped with a fine performance today. Well done and thanks to Chris’tle for again officiating todays match. I do believe he may, in a similar way to the daaag in Snatch, have swallowed his whistle at some point in the first 5 minutes though – did he ever exhale without tooting?

In the absence of Coach Kevin we were delighted to have first team regular Matt Parkinson and his glamorous assistant Martin looking after the lads today. Martin took on the role of sideline motivator, barking out the instructions to the lads in his own Wheeltappers and Shunters Social Club compare style, while Matt took on the wild stare, swearing under the breath mantle. Many thanks M&M for standing in and sharing the joys and frustrations of Eccles U16 rugby with us

Welcome back from injury to Matt L. Another sterling performance from a key member of a talented group of Forwards. If I were a betting man (and I’m not), I’d have had a punt on Matt L getting a try today. He always seems to thrive in games like this but unfortunately we never got in a position close enough to the Bolton try line for him to mole his way through and score

Thanks to the Josh G, Danielle, Big Paul & Lil Paul for again coming down to lend their support to the lads despite Josh still being out with his injured shoulder. Its quite incredible how close and strong the U16 rugby family are

A nasty clash of heads saw Ellis P retire from the game prematurely. Ever the warrior, Ellis was keen to get back in the action straight away, 10 minutes later and in fact was still asking to go back on while we were all in the bar having a post match pint. Get well soon Ellis.

In the absence of John the Suds, I managed to pick up the washing duties today.

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Yes – a different kettle of fish indeed and the fish was off!

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Nearly dark – still going!

I have been asked by my good lady to point out that the kit washing was done me and not her, suggesting it might not be up to the usual standard of Suds

I’ve saved my last note for Matt W who back from injury was clearly fired up for todays game. Matt sets the standard for himself and his team mates and he put in another fantastic first half performance with his game was only being curtailed as he suffered a knock to the head late in the first half and had to be brought off as a precaution as he is only recently back in the side following the concussion he sustained in the fixture away to Bolton. Stay strong Matt

And Finally

It’s been a difficult week for some close friends

If I should go tomorrow

It would never be goodbye,

For I have left my heart with you,

So don’t you ever cry.

The love that’s deep within me,

Shall reach you from the stars,

You’ll feel it from the heavens,

And it will heal the scars.