The U6s started the season as a motley mix of 10 enthusiastic wannabe players at the start of September. As the season has progressed the team has progressed in all ways, beyond even the most optimistic of the coaches expectations, while the numbers have swelled up to an average of 25 players and beyond 30 on occasions!
Many thanks to all the parents who have helped out over the season which have allowed us to provide each child with the support they need to develop.
What a season it's been for the under 7s!
They've gone from a team who weren't always confident to pass, catch, tag or run forward, to a free flowing rugby machine!
In all seriousness though, the development every single one of them has made this year has been a pleasure to watch. They've learnt new skills, an understanding of the game and most of all they've each grown in that most precious of attributes - confidence.
The under 7 ranks have swelled from 8 to 18 since last season, we've got a healthy mixture of girls and boys and they all play the game fairly, with respect for both the opposition and the referee and most of all do it all with a smile on their faces.
It would be unfair to pick any individuals out because everyone has come on so much.
Highlights of the season include our First competitive home and away fixtures (we started with a trip to Burnley); Forming the guard of honour at Sale Sharks; Leading out the Eccles 1st team; The team's first tournament at Sale; and the team’s first official Eccles Kit - thanks to Redstone Rail for the sponsorship!
Roll on next season!
Andy, Ian, Dave and Dan, Coaches.
The season started with three registered U9 players who played with the under 10’s to make a full team of 8 players. It was a steep learning curve for these U9’s as they had get to grips playing ‘contact’ for the very first time as well as learn the skills involved in the ‘break down’. Zac Traynor hit the floor running and performed brilliantly in the tackle and around the ruck.
The season finished prematurely for circumstances out of our control but we began to recruit a few more U9’s and were able to put out a 7-a-side team. In fact, on Friday 13th March we played a tournament at Rochdale RUFC where our U9’s team beat Wigan A and Rochdale A but lost to Bury and Wigan B side. This was their very first outing playing with a full team and they performed heroically in defense and were able to find players with good passes.
We hope by the start of next season to have succeeded in recruiting more players.
The U10’s season started with a couple of players deciding to leave the team and therefore we only had 5 registered players who first started playing together at U6’s. We played the first few matches with a mixed U9’s and 10’s team. Considering we had the bare bones of a squad we put in some positive performances. By the start of October more and more new players were arriving to training and keen to get involved in the team. The success story for season were the number of players we recruited. We moved from 5 registered to 16 in the space of a month or so!
Although results of games are not generally recorded, I feel the U10’s team won most of their matches. They have benefited immensely from regular training and their development during the season has been really good. We have been able to give equal minutes to all members of the squad and every player has contributed positively in training and matches. We are not the biggest of teams but have very determined and effective players. Lots of team members were new to playing rugby and they have been able to develop at a quicker rate by having many role models within the team that have played for Eccles for a number of years, as well as a few players with Rugby League experience that have joined this year and integrated themselves exceptionally well.
First of all a big thanks to Seward Refrigeration for sponsoring the U11’s and allowing us to get our first proper team kit for the 2019/20 season.
Pre-season training starting in August and we welcomed some new players and former players back to the team along with the coaching staff being bolstered by Mr Cahill, former Eccles first team captain. We were also blessed with one of the player’s parents, Kris, stepping up to take on the referee’s position – an invaluable asset to have not just on match days but for training too, ensuring the coaches were up to speed on rules and regulations.
Our first game in October saw us away to Burnley and after a tentative start, the team really got stuck in for a convincing victory with some spectacular running and tries from our budding wingers.
The squad received a huge boost when we were joined by our friends from rugby league in their off season, with two teams sending players to join us at training and a few games. We were grateful that around five chose to remain for as long as they could through til February and this brought a new dynamic to the team, upping the speed and enthusiasm of the players (and parents!). We also saw the number of girls in the squad rise to four which is fantastic for both them, our team and the club. Sadly we lost a small number of players, some who’d been with the club for a number of years and we wish them well with their new teams, in both league and union, and look forward to playing them next season when possible.
The season saw some highs and lows in terms of match results and whilst winning isn’t everything, it’s still great to see it means something to the players. We also suffered somewhat with the weather, with a number of games called off before Christmas but it didn’t dampen the spirits of the players. We took some heavy defeats, including what would be (unknowingly due to COVID-19) our last game of the season at Sedgley Park.
We also saw some spectacular performances against teams much more experienced and physically bigger than ours. Highlights being the matches against well established teams like Leigh, Preston Grasshoppers and Vale of Lune where, undeterred, the Eccles players put gutsy performances, particularly against Leigh where the play in the last of the three mini-matches was a nail-biting, emotional roller coaster which saw us surprise Leigh by beating them. It was good to see the opposition parents acknowledge the Eccles performance too, with compliments coming from their parents and coaches, highlighting key performances on our team. We also always enjoy the local fixture against Tyldesley – they’re great hosts, their coaching staff give good constructive feedback to both teams and the matches are always played fairly and competitively.
So what about next season? The coaches had began to focus on fitness in particular this season and it was beginning to pay dividends. As the players get bigger, faster and stronger and team size increases, this will continue to be an important aspect of training and the team have (begrudgingly!) accepted it as part of their weekly sessions, with an emphasis on fun during the drills they do. With the season being cut short with bad weather and the pandemic restrictions, we’re sure we’ll see everyone bounce back in 2020/21.
A massive thank you to the coaches and the parents too for their patience and support throughout the season. We wouldn’t have a team without them!
Dan, Team Manager.
Eccles under 12’s season was one of success and lessons, their first season in the Junior section!
After a waterlogged start, the team entered their first ever competitive game, the waterfall tournament, facing Broughton Park at Leigh. We were victorious, a great all-round display. Followed the week after with more competitive action, home to Leigh where in defeat, the boys gave a good account of themselves against the team widely regarded as the best in the region.
Winter moved in, the team travelled to Sedgley Park, a friendly, where the opposition used the weather to their advantage and started on a small pitch, their big pack of forwards took control. However, the pitch thawed, and when we reverted to a standard size pitch, the Eccles boys mounted a comeback which included an end to end try finished by Flynn. His first ever try, after being with us since Under 7’s but definitely worth waiting for!
Next took us to the other side of Christmas when the boys travelled to face an Ormskirk team featuring the son of a heavyweight world champion. The team produced one of their best displays of the season, defeating their opposition as easily as the champion defeated his foe a few weeks later.
A further Waterfall victory followed against Didsbury but then a close defeat to Heaton Moor on the same day. However, this defeat was avenged within a few weeks where the best game of the season saw an undermanned Eccles travel to defeat the opposition 10-9, the victorious try coming with the last play of the game! A great team display, one the boys can be proud of and hopefully build on when we get back to playing rugby!
Mark Thorpe, Coach.
I think we can all agree that it hasn’t been your average season and it’s a shame that we’ve had to cut things short.
I think it’s safe to say that the size of the U13s squad and fluctuating numbers each week has really caught up with us this season and been magnified by the fact that a lot of our opposition are quickly transitioning towards the full game. To make matters more difficult, many of the opposition players are physically resembling young men who are big, strong and fast. I have to admit that I probably wouldn’t relish the prospect of having to tackle any of them myself.
Despite the difficulties with numbers, we’ve still managed to put out a team most weeks. Granted, we’ve often had to borrow a couple of players, but I think that is where rugby sets itself apart from other sports. Except for Sedgley Park, most other teams have welcomed the opportunity to play against us, either splitting their squad into two smaller teams or, in most cases, have leant us some players, who have nearly always put in a good shift. The rugby family just wants to the boys to keep playing and enjoying the game, and I absolutely love that about the sport.
It has been heart-breaking seeing the team lose most games this season. I think what makes it harder is that we’ve known most of these boys since they were seven, and it doesn’t seem that long ago that they were running around like whippets, on the AstroTurf, with tag belts on. So when we see their heads go down on the pitch, we feel every bit of their pain and frustration, especially in the knowledge that it hasn’t always been this way. I don’t have to think that far back to remember seasons where we’ve won an admirable chunk of our fixtures and the boys were flying high.
And throughout the good times and difficult times, there has always been Martin, who, in my mind, is the hero of our team’s story. He’s coached these boys exclusively since Darren left, and dedicated so much of his time to training and games. I believe it takes a special kind of person to give this sort of commitment and I don’t think there is anything that I can say or do that will truly show the level of gratitude that I share with the players and parents for what Martin has done and committed to the team. Thankyou Martin – you’re a legend.
I know it’s always nice to give players a specific mention in a report like this, but in many ways, this isn’t your usual end of season summary. We’ve been caught off-guard by the current situation which has perhaps cruelly taken away any remaining hope we have of recruiting the ambitious number of players to allow us to continue next season. Rest assured, we will do everything we can to keep the boys together, but if this is to be the end our team’s story, I’m certain that all these boys will continue to develop into fine young men - shaped so positively by their Eccles rugby journey.
Gavin White, Team Manager.
The U14s have enjoyed their best season to date with highlights far outweighing the low-lights:
After getting beaten in early November away at Preston Grasshoppers, they then put together a run of 11 consecutive wins! This included a back to back vicotries against Bolton as well as beating a very good Widnes side. Scoring over 320 points in nine games, (over 400 points across 11 games including the fixtures against Liverpool Colligate and Ormskirk which were not recorded in GMS) and conceding 105 points.
We reached the quarter finals of the Lancashire Plate before losing to Littleborough: We had 13 players unavailable on the day!
The U14s have enjoyed tremendous recruitment this season with an influx of new players from Rugby League briefly swellling our squad to 28 and had 5 players selected and training with Sale DPP (before the COVID outbreak!).
The players have been active off the pitch too, with some commencing Senior match day volunterring duties as part of their Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. The team worked hard to raise funds for thier summer Tour to Worcester, which had to be cancelled due to Covid-19, but we still intend to go ahead with next season. And to cap it off we have a brand new kit sponsor confirmed for next season. The growing lads are looking forward to the new shirts!
All in all… a very good season.
Paul Fleming, Coach.
We had a very positive start to the season with several great new recruits, giving us a squad of 26 players going into our first fixtures. Those first couple of matches really showed what this team could achieve, with strong wins over Bolton, Altrincham Kearsal and PGH.
The only blot on our copybook was a poor showing in some of our early Lanc’s Cup matches, where we gave away some soft victories to LSH and Rossendale. But the cup improved, with us receiving a home seeding in the Plate. We comfortably won our QF, and were looking forward to taking the Plate, with no teams we feared left in the draw.
It’s a shame we couldn’t manage to fit more fixtures in, as this squad could be one of the most formidable in the area, just a bit more match practice is needed to gel some of the individual talents into a slicker machine. But the combination of weather, COVID-19 and low opposition numbers cost us half our season.
My overall highlights were the great win against Vale of Lune (our first in many years) and the narrow victory against Old Rishworth, who are regular Yorkshire Cup champions. On a personal note, It was great to welcome the fantastic new players who wore an Eccles strip for the first time this year: Jack Huang, Josh Higgins, Josh Wagstaffe, Louis Lord, Tom Anderton & Tom Unsworth. It was also a pleasure to see a Lancashire team regularly starting two Eccles Lads: Sam Crowther and Louis Lord.
Roll on next year’s Junior Colts campaign!
Scoresheet: Won 12, Lost 3 (unbeaten at home) Points for 487, Points against 247
Andy Connell, Team Manager.
U18 Senior Colts
League campaign: The 2019/20 season was challenging in NW Colts Senior Division D, which was competitive and many fixtures were close contests. The pool was won by Birkenhead Park who beat us at the start of the season 16 – 12, close enough to gain a bonus point. The most spirited performance was 28-28 away at Bury, fighting back from 0-28 down at HT. A 22-29 victory in November with a late try away at Preston Grasshoppers was memorable. A narrow 17-22 defeat to Makos (who beat Eccles in last year's Lancs trophy final) was also a highlight performance, with 14 man Eccles ahead 12-0 at HT but ultimately tiring and loosing their grip after 60 minutes, despite fighting back to 17-17 with a late try, a frailty at restarts cost us the game. Kendal dished out a heavy defeat for us at home but we gave a better account of ourselves up in lakeland with the score tied at 12-12 approaching the break before the hosts big squad overcame our 14 men in the second half. Despite the hard defeats, inconsistent line up and a decline in committed numbers the core of the team was resilient and kept going. Although the Colts had a registered combined squad of 28 (10 x U18s 18 x U17s) we found ourselves unable to field a full front row in all but a handful of games and struggled in many fixtures to field 15! The reasons for these availability issues being consistent with previous colts seasons (education, employment, loss of enthusiasm, conflict with Rugby League). Played 12 W3 D1 L8.
Cup campaign: The Colts once again reached the Semi Final of the Lancashire U18 Colts Trophy in 2019/20 but were defeated 14-41 by Aldwinians who secured the victory with four successive first half tries (again a failure to deal with restarts). Eccles fought back to dominate the second half but alas too late to change the outcome. The best performance of the season was an emphatic seven try 43-7 home victory over Rossendale in February’s first round of the Senior Colts Plate, illustrating the benefits of a full team, a pair of replacements and a decent pitch in bad weather! The Colts reached the Quarter Final of the Senior Plate which was unplayed due the RFU curtailment of the season, so as we were the winners last season, perhaps this means we retain the Silverware?!
Development: The aim of the colts at Eccles is to provide an enjoyable experience, that encourages, develops and prepares youth players for adult rugby, retaining as many as possible to play attacking rugby in a Senior Eccles shirt. Training for the colts this season has continued to be combined with the Seniors. The U17s adjusted well to the physicality of a competitive U18s division, where many opponents also had mixed age squads. Belief in what we could achieve with a bare 15 (or less) players grew as our games (and season) progressed. The last 15 minutes of many contests saw the team applying tremendous pressure and, although fitness could have been better, we often finished stronger than our opponents. Team discipline was excellent with just 1 yellow and 1 red awarded (the Captain leading by example in a friendly!) No concussions were encountered, although shoulder and knee injuries were again common. Several players were introduced to unfamilair positions broadening their understanding of the game as they progress their transition into adult rugby. Winger/Fullback Tallis Keeler was selected to represent Lancashire U17s and four senior colts made their Eccles RFC senior debuts this season. Overall, the team displayed great spirit, character and determination to the end. Well done lads for sticking together and sticking at it through a tough season.
Chris Gaffey, Coach.
After a turbulent 2018/19 season which resulted in the Ladies team being relegated from the second tier of women’s rugby, it was clear that a rebuild was required. A new captain, new leadership team and a lot of new faces went into preseason slightly understocked in terms of numbers but with a clear long term plan. We would need to utilise the loaning system whilst we got back on our feet and we would need to adapt our ethos to match our current situation and playing squad.
It would be season where lots of lessons needed to be learnt not only by the players but by the coaching staff. We needed to rediscover what it meant to be an Eccles lady the camaraderie and resilience that had propelled this team to the second tier of the game must be instilled in a new crop.
Step 1 find the enjoyment for playing again. This was sadly lost for large parts of the previous season due to our situation. We were keen as a leadership group to bring that back in a big way and our emphasis all season was on enjoyment of the game. SMILES ON FACES.
Step 2 was to reengage the players. This was aided by an injection of youth. I don’t exaggerate when I say that without the work of the junior coaches that have developed these young players the ladies section would have struggled to field a side. They have brought energy, enthusiasm, and a winning mentality to everything they have done so far, and I am very excited to see the players that they become.
Step 3 was to upskill our new recruits. In the previous season we had worked tirelessly to develop our core skills to a level that allowed us to play the style we wanted. Aided by new coach Andy Stimpson (a fantastic addition to the team) and returning former captain and all-round Eccles Lady Shelley Maddocks the players went about building a game plan and a team that we believed could compete.
The results that followed were a mixture; flashes of brilliance and moments of madness, but this is not what the measure of this team’s success would be. We would measure success much more simply, we have fulfilled every fixture and been competitive in every fixture. Most importantly we have given opportunity for in excess of 15 female players to play the game. Whether that be there first ever senior fixture or there return to the game they had a home at Eccles. This is testament to the group that we are building and I am sure that successes on the field are just a matter of time.
We are by no means a finished article and this journey will take much more than a season, but I believe that a revival of the winning teams of the past is coming. This Ladies side possess all of the traits of a great Eccles team; a solid set piece, dogged defence and most importantly a deep-rooted love for playing their rugby in Navy and White.
James Wright, Ladies Head Coach.
On Saturday 7th September, after a successful start in the cup, the 1XV lead by DoR Sam travelled to Southport for the opening fixture in the 19/20 season. A strong side selected in preparation for what we were sure would be a real test. Messages pre-match were simple, we belong here let’s go and show them why. Whilst there was a cautious level of expectation inside the camp, and most certainly within the leadership team, nobody was ready for the performance that was to follow. Our 1XV scored an impressive 69 points giving the 1XV their first win in this new league, a statement sent to the rest of the league that we were not here to make up the numbers. In a post-match interview Sam Simpson praised the platform created by a dominant pack and the efficiency of how the backs were able to translate this dominance into points.
The 1XV would continue through 2019 with mixed levels of success, strong results at home to Tarleton and Aspatria were punctuated with disappointing away results against Winnington Park and Bolton. A season highlight must be the home win against fellow league new boys and bitter rivals Aspull, a fantastic team performance lead by a core of #homegrown players followed by a great social at the Super League Grand final.
At Christmas, the 1XV were in a respectable position and looking to cut out errors that had restricted their progression. The messages were clear- if we can get our best team on the field playing our brand of rugby then we were a match for any side in this league. These targets would prove to be difficult to achieve. What would follow would be a tough stretch of games where Eccles would struggle for find form and the standard we have come to expect.
Whilst to the onlooker it can appear that the performance showed a lack of heart and desire to win, I can assure you that the pride in the shirt still runs very deep in the core of this side. A change of tact brought a series of very tough sessions that would make us more competitive physically and provide crucial league points. With the unfortunate premature ending to the season we find ourselves in the relegation spots and heading back out of Level 7. Although not the outcome we were expecting on that sunny afternoon in Southport we must now begin to look forward. We must take the lessons we can from defeat and the confidence from victories to carve a new path for the advancement of this team. We are fortunate to have several young players who have had the opportunity to cut their teeth at this level blended with a collection of vastly experienced home-grown players coming into their best years. This is but a bend in the road not a step backwards we will return with newfound ambition and drive to be better prepared for our return to level 7.
Our 2XVs season would somewhat echo the 1XV. As is the case with a club of our size, if there is struggle at the top, this struggle percolates into all senior teams. This symmetry with the 1XV would show not only in the availability of players but in their results. The 2XV would win their first two fixtures of the season convincingly against stern opposition in Leyland and Littleborough. However they would go on to struggle in the remainder of their fixtures due to availability of players. A real shame as there is great potential in this side.
Changes in line up are inevitable in 2XVs rugby and a settled stable core of 6 or 7 players, used to playing with each other, is invaluable. When reviewing the results from the season it is clear to see when this core was playing, the result would more that likely go in favour of Eccles. This core also allows the development of younger talent, and a fundamental pillar of all of Eccles success in every senior team is our faith in youth.
In years gone by the Eccles 2XV has provided the perfect environment for our Colts and young players to develop their skills in a less pressured situation. This season would be no different as several Senior Colts bolstered the ranks of the 2XV and at times lead from the front. Whilst the results may not have always reflected the ambition and effort that these young players have put in, it will serve them well in their careers, whether they move up the teams or become a leader in the 2’s.
Special mention must be paid to the senior group that has supported and driven the 2XV this year through a difficult campaign. Fin Cox and Anthony Dutta have turned injury into inspiration, transferring their energies from playing to a coaching role. This selfless act of support has ensured that there has very rarely been a game where the players have not had a designated coach which is paramount to the lads' success and enjoyment of their Saturday rugby.
Coach Dutta ( 100% win record) reflects on some season highlights: Ross Eaton’s impression of a Brazilian football star at Littleborough away where he dribbled the ball 80m before dotting down ( As a member of the front row I can neither confirm or deny that this is entirely fabricated). Coach Dutta, before a brutal finger injury cut his season short, did show the boys how it’s done with a barnstorming run at Southport. Spectators on the day said that it was reminiscent of a prima ballerina the way he gracefully floated up the field. At least I assume this was the aspect of his game that they were referring to. The premature ending of the season has not impacted the 2XV they will continue to play their rugby in the same league next season. Lessons have been learnt and experience gained on and off the field, the 20/21 season fills me with optimism for the 2XV.
Casuals & Vets
Our causal and vets’ side and walking rugby contingent is in my opinion the jewel in the crown of Eccles RFC. We are a community rugby club, a place for people to come and enjoy the sport they love. This philosophy has developed into a mantra amongst the leadership teams and coaches we are so lucky to have; Rugby for everyone.
Whilst the accolades will always be focussed on those teams fighting for league titles and county honours, I think that there is a real cause for celebration that we are able to facilitate pensioners and youths alike in the enjoyment of playing Rugby.
Our Vet’s side have played a number of fixtures throughout the season travelling within the M60 circle to local clubs for the fun of Friday night lights. Each game is a celebration of the enjoyment that rugby can bring, when the competitive aspect is removed ( I say that with a touch of sarcasm for those who have watched boo play I can assure you this is not just a run around). A game a month has served as plenty to quench the thirst with players from multiple generations lacing up their boots and sporting the famed Navy and White hoops again with no less passion and enthusiasm than the first time, if at a slightly slower pace.
A huge thanks to DoR Sam Simpson for his efforts this season both on and off the field. I am sure I speak on behalf of the entire playing squad when I say that his input is not unnoticed and always appreciated. Honourable mentions must go to those who have supported the leadership team especially in the later part of the season. Nick Spooner, Mark Greenhalgh, Sam Long, Simon Donovan, Glen Cahill, Chris Gaffey, Fin Cox, Anthony Dutta and Tommo to name a few. Each have provided inspiration, leadership and organisation when it was fleeting from myself, so a personal thankyou to you.
And to our wider club volunteers; your work is not unnoticed and is appreciated by all. Whether you are helping on a Thursday, supporting a senior or junior team or just something as simple as coming for a pint on a weekend, a sincere thank you.
Looking to the future, our current situation is out of our control. Rugby like all our lives has been put on hold. It may be cliché, but I have found it true that distance does make the heart grow fonder. We will come through these challenges and the club doors will open again. I hope that you return with a newfound appreciation of what we offer at Eccles RFC, we are a rugby club for everyone.
The 20/21 season will provide an opportunity for us all to reengage with our local rugby club. It is my hope that this absence will give us a greater understanding of how lucky we are at Eccles. I hope that it will inspire past and current players to commit their time and effort to the improvement of our club. But mostly I hope to see you safe, healthy and happy when I great you at the bar, whenever that may be.
James Wright, Mens Captain.
Eccles RFC were one of the first clubs in the region to embrace Walking Rugby and our group remain the largest to date. WR has gathered momentum this season. Some of our more seasoned members, with a love of the game and a refusal to soley observe from the balcony, have dusted off their Woolworth’s boots and taken almost year round residence of the new 3G pitch on Monday evenings. Walking-ish rugby has similar rules to Touch where the contact element is removed. As the name suggests there is no running (but some players appear to have a competitve interpretation of 'walking'!) With a crack promotional team of Bent, Nicholls and Holland there was no way it could be anything but a success, drawing players from all sections of the club (Marie and the girls are reputably a force to be reckoned with) Long may it continue to walk/jog on.
Mr Bent offers this report on the past season:
Walking Rugby at Eccles is approaching its 2nd year and has no "Off Season" as such until now.
Our challenge over the last 12 months was to maintain the interest within the group which proved quite difficult during summer 2019 with the resurfacing of our 3G artifical pitch taking longer than predicted and the cutting of the long grass on the pitches also being delayed. However, we overcame these diffiulties and the Club still has a strong set of hard-core guys and gals who turn up regularly and play very enthusiastically every Monday evening at 7.00pm despite the varied weather conditions.
The group have a strong bond and keep in touch through their own What's-app group and their skills and fitness levels have gradually increased since the start of the walking rugby sessions. New players from within the club are always welcome so why not give a try! We have players who have joined from other clubs and locations however, we are finding it difficult to recruit further a field, as the growing popularity of the game has now seen it taken up by other local clubs in our area.
Covid-19 restrictions has brought a halt to our Walkign Rugby activites. Our biggest challenge now is for everyone at the club is to get through this situation safely and then rebuild on the great foundations of our club which I know we can achieve. To ALL players at Eccles please STAY SAFE and KEEP WELL.
Alan Bent, Walker.