Lancashire RFU U12 Waterfall Festival
The U12 team rounded of a packed season with a trip to Heaton Moor, to compete in the Lancs RFU Waterfall Festival. The skies were blue and the sun promised a warm day of rugby. 12 teams playing 5 games each in a pool and play-off format.
I am sorry if I've missed anyone or anything out below - like everyone else, by the end of the day, I couldn't recall who had done what. But that's because all 10 players played their part and I am equally proud of each and every one of them. So, here goes...
First up was the pool section, where we had be drawn against Fylde and Heaton Moor - easily two of the strongest teams in the competition, as was bourn out later in the day when these two were competing for overall festival honours. To say it was a tough draw was an understatement, but we just asked the lads to go out and enjoy themselves. They've come a long way this season and while not winning many games, the boys have got better and better. To be honest, if we got to half time without conceding the 6-try maximum, I would have been a happy coach!
Our first game was against Heaton Moor and what a performance! After a bit of a timid start, the lads threw everything they had into this game against an experienced, highly competent group of lads. After 15 minutes of rugby Clitheroe had only conceded 3 tries, defended like trojans and just refused to give up. Two of these were to a "man mountain" of a lad who simply juggernauted his way through teams all day long.. 3-0 was a truly honourable result and I couldn't ask for more of a collective effort.
Next up were Fylde and the lads proved that the opener wasn't a flash in the pan. Unlike earlier matches, every lad was motivated, every lad competed for every ball. We conceded just 2 tries and both were really good efforts from the Fylde boys, in the first half. In the second half we kept a clean sheet, which is truly remarkable. The highlight of this game for me was seeing Connor Brocklehurst finally find his confidence on the ball and take it crashing into contact - well done big man! The other player who deserves mention is Reece, who playing at tight head prop seems to be relishing a combative, aggressive role. All day long he was right up in the faces of the opposition, harrying and scrapping for every ball.
And so, into the play-offs and next up were Widnes / Liverpool SH. A few too many sausage rolls in the break led to a sluggish start by our boys, conceding 3 quick tries in the opening half. Once we'd woken the beast again, we played out a much better 2nd half, nicking it 3-2 but losing 5-3 in total. The main highlight had to be the poacher's try scored by Ollie B. Widnes had conceded a penalty some 5 metres out from their line and while they were arguing with the ref, with backs turned, a quick thinking tap and go so Ollie burst through the middle and over the line. The point for all the boys to take away here is that half the Widnes side were actually offside and Ollie knew that, had he been stopped, we would have had a another penalty - so it was actually a punt to nothing. Great decision making, on the hoof!
Match 4 saw us up against our old friends/foes from Fleetwood. If we achieve nothing next season, we must beat these boys! Its always a good fixture against a team just a bit better than us, but we are getting ever closer. They are becoming our bogey team, for no good reason. Matty went agonisingly close to scoring but to be fair, we were outplayed and we under-performed. The main highlight was that Toby finally managed to stop Fred!
And finally, match 5 against Eccles. Another team we have got used to playing. By this time in the day, everyone was getting tired. Neither team had subs and the boys had therefore all played well over an hour of rugby. You simply wouldn't have known. What a match! After conceding a poor try to "big Nick" from the opening kick off, the boys settled back into the style of play from the morning matches - they tackled everything, in ones, twos and threes and never gave Eccles an inch. Matty and Connor F. ran in 3 tries to take a half-time lead at 3-1, but to be honest we were by now in the ascendency, giving Eccles absolutely no space to play.
At half time we talked about trying to make better use of the wings, as the Eccles boys were showing signs of flagging. What impressed me most was that the boys, as a team, adjusted their own positions - Charlie and Ollie moved into the centre of the back-line with Connor, Jack, Reece et al. plugging the hole in the forwards they left behind. The link up play between the forwards, with Seb putting in a mature performance at 9, allowed Charlie and Ollie to attack the Eccles back line. Good handling off forward runs released our very own phantom winger to cruise down the left for to push us into a comfortable 6-3 win. And the crowd went wild!
I reckon over 90 minutes of rugby we conceded about 17 tries and scored 11, which is just a massive step forward and great way to round off the season.
If you want to summarise how this team have improved over the 2016/17 season, one only has to look at our 3 matches against Eccles. We started the season with a 17-3 defeat (and were happy to get some points on the board!) We then played a slightly weakened Eccles team a few weeks ago and came away with a 5-5 draw, which at the time felt like a victory. On Sunday we really controlled the game and dictated play for over 80% of the match and, in all honesty, never really looked like losing.
Well done boys and thank you parents for all your efforts on Sunday and across the season.