Eccles 57-12 Marple
With Old Bedians folding their U16 team due to a loss of players, the Eccles U16s were fortunate in finding replacement opponent at short notice (thanks Leeann) with Marple eager to take up the opportunity. The Eccles U16s began the season just 4 games ago with a robust squad of 25 players. However, since then, injuries to 5 players, Sale Sharks DPP assessments and commitments to the ongoing Rugby League season have badly depleted the team, resulting in a first defeat last weekend in the cup away at Widnes and a starting team of just 11 players at home this weekend! Marple were experiencing a very similar situation and both clubs decided, despite their mutual low numbers, getting a Game On was in the best interests of the players.
Eccles began the match missing their usual scrum-half, fly-half, fullback and both wingers! The team self-organised their nine forwards into unfamiliar positions and made a positive start, employing our brand of front foot running rugby. The desire to ruck over, offload, pick and go to build quick attacking momentum was evident in the opening minutes, with Jack C breaking the gain line and Eccles showing good desire to score early points. Taz showed his maverick spirit to strike up the blindside into the corner only for the ball to be spilled on the line. Marple took a ‘grubber’ style Drop Out and Harry P pounced on the rolling ball, collecting a kick to the ribs as reward for his alertness and courage, something he quickly recovered from as he went on to have a fine game as 'acting 9’.
Marple used their speedy backs and good passing to break up the pitch, forcing Eccles to defend several phases, ultimately earning themselves a scrum just outside the 22, from which their smart scrum-half took his opportunity to punish Eccles lack of alertness, breaking up the blindside from the base of the scrum to score the opening try in the right corner with 5 minutes played. 0-5. Eccles responded to this set back well, immediately taking the game to the visitors. Sustained attacking pressure saw a trademark line break from Jack, clearly relishing his new ‘flanker-centre’ role, tapping through to Heath who was stooped just shy of the goal line, Jake reacting quickest to PnG and score the equalising try. Straight from the restart, pressure from Jack on the ball reciever and a counter ruck from Jake and Josh inside the 22 resulted in a try under the posts for the ever alert Jack.
Eccles had now found a style of short-passing quick-supporting offloading play that suited the forwards on the pitch and they continued to grow in confidence. With such a high press Marple attempted to exploit the space behind the Eccles line with good kicking over the top and were prevented from a certain score by some desperate but effective defending. With adjustments made to combat this threat, the momentum returned to Eccles. With Evan commanding in the Line out, Taz, Harry, Josh, Blake, Abe and Jack causing line-breaking chaos and Ollie immense in the loose, a close sequnece of tries followed.
Good passing across the field set Lucas free on the left and with the space closing down in front of him, a neat step inside found Abraham arriving, the right player in the right place at the right time, using his power to drive over and score. Marple were now struggling to cope with the sustained pressure from Eccles who gave them little time or space on the ball . A flying break from Evan up the right was a joy to see. Marple recovered posession through a scrum, but the Eccles forwards had the bit between their teeth were able to drive the visitor's back and regain the ball with quick work form Harry; Several players attempted to break through the determined defensive line before Jack C eventually stepped his way through the tackles to score his 3rd try under the sticks. Ollie also scored a try in the first half but this reporter can't remember the details and the lads also appear to have collective amnesia!
The second half saw a highlight piece of runing rugby with a break out of defence featuring wonderful inter-passing up the left flank between Abe and Lucas, with our new prop selling not one but two sublime dummies to two defenders before releasing Lucas to run it in to score the try and add the extras with his assured kicking. Harry P was next to get his name on the sheet, darting in between the defenders from short range to dot down behind the sticks. Ollie’s outstanding, unrelenting work on the right flank was rewarded when his belief saw him charge, spin, maraude his way through the defence to claim a well earned try. Heath almost topped off his own determined performance with a terrific try under the posts only for it to be denied for a 'double movement'. Eccles continued to play with hunger and continually turned over possession at breakdowns, from one such counter ruck from Josh in midfield the ball was worked wide and Luke seized his opportunity to break up the right wing and was unlucky not to score in the corner, Abe continued the attack and prop Josh was there on hand to finish what he had started driving through for the try; Lucas striking the conversion kick in off the post!
Marple showed admirable tenacity in the final quarter to pin Eccles inside their 22, phase after phase, penalty after penalty, as they worked tirelessly to end the match on a positive note. It was an enjoyable watch to see the U16s proudly defend their goal line over a prolonged period with great determination and Marple put the same effort into their attack. Marple eventually succeeded from a line out move across the pitch with their Fullback able to find the space that the tired Eccles forwards were unable to cover and claimed a well deserved try under the posts, converted, as the last play. FT Eccles 53 - 12 Marple
With an extremely weakened squad it was pleasing to see, from a coaching perspective, how the players solved their own problems on the field, playing to their strengths and adapting to unfamiliar positions to find a way to win. The u16s showed they could play with intelligence today, understanding that Marple would try to expose our lack of backs and pace, and nullified the visitor's attacking game with fast line speed and deploying a makeshift fullback, mostly occupied by Lucas whose tackling was ferocioius and faultless. Lucas also stepped up as Captain to take responsibilty for the kicks, slotting home 5 conversions and a penalty. Lock Ollie took charge of the restarts which were very effective. Our two hookers also alternated at scrum half which also worked well and helped to maintain quick momentum and creativity to our game.
It was especially pleasing to see our new players and those players who usually provide a supporting role sieze the opportunity today to step up and contribute more, enjoying the space on the less congested pitch, to express themselves. Overall a confidence-boosting performance for Eccles. Well done lads. Well done also to Marple who did not loose heart and showed great character to play with belief until the end.
U16s NEWS: Following assessment, it was announced on Monday that 8 Eccles RFC U16 players have been selected to progress to the next stage of the Sale Sharks Developing Player Prgramme (DPP). Congratulations to Jack C, Sam D, James E, Matthew G, Matthew H, Harry P, Chayse Q, Leighton S. Further autumn sessions will narrow down the squad for Lancashire County fixtures in Dec & Feb. In total, Eccles RFC had 13 DPP nominated U16 players, with 3 not making the cut on this occasion, 1 player injured and unable to participate and 1 player deciding not to continue on the programme. In addition, the U16s have 1 player (Jack L) selected from the DPP for the Sharks Development Group (SDG), the first step on the player pathway towards professional rugby.