Brilliant at Bolton, Subdued at Sale

In Under 13s by Rochdale Rugby

The Bolton Game

A bruising encounter

To be honest, I could never imagine a team that would have at least four players bigger than our biggest lads. They literally towered over our boys, one at least six foot two….ah well we saw, we got scared, can we go home now!!? That “go big or go home” feeling.

Well none of that to be honest… The lads, fed-up by having to wait far longer than expected,  got on the pitch and kicked into high gear. They far exceeded my initial expectation and knowing the damage that big lads (Bolton) can inflict on opponents, I was amazed at our swift ascension to glory. The first two quarters belonged to them without a question.

Freddie at flyhalf proved to be a very wise pick, having the respect of his peers, he quickly placed his stamp on the game feeding the ball down the line on many occasions resulting in continuous and relentless attack. Everyone got stuck in and the boys recycled quick ball sending their fellow players on the attack.

What I was most happy about, was the improvement from last week, and that our coaching session did not fall on deaf ears. Every single player gave the best account of their ability and clearly shook their opposition to the core. Will and Sam got stuck in at scrumhalf using their ability to get the ball and distribute it to their fellow teammates. Max Rawlinson’s support play was, as always, outstanding.

Both Olivers on their respective wings put in some serious defensive tackles and Oliver Husband had a few outstanding attacking runs. Noah Kershaw continues to be a revelation to our team, with very little match time in hand he has proved himself invaluable. Well done keep up the good work. Charlie scored a scintillating try early on in the game and his defensive work was great. He continued to impress with some great attacking runs.

Now to the creme de la creme of our team, no, not the forwards, Adam! For our fun activity, kicking at post, he proved to us all that he is a kicker to contend with. He slotted those kicks as if he had been kicking for many years, only missing one. As you may have noticed, I have not mentioned the titans of our game. Every forward past and future will agree that the game is won upfront and today that saying still stands. Their exploits are many so I will limit them to a few extraordinary acts of bravery. Isaac scored a try, literally from his own try line. What a pleasure to behold. Watch the video if you don’t believe me. Bailey grows in stature every year, it is good to see his progress. Damian gave a tremendous account of his ability and is quickly evolving into a force to be reckoned with.

Now for anyone causing trouble with our Drew, best be warned, Bolton’s best attacking player found out that dynamite surely exists in small packages. Single handed, Drew held and shoved him backwards securing possession.

Special mention to Hari and Jethro for quelling the tide of ongoing attack due to new constraints, stopping wave after wave of big Bolton boys. It was in one such attack that for a moment I saw a Bolton boy hesitate before getting shut down by Jethro and Hari. I wonder what was going through his mind, perhaps, ‘Ah not again!’ Sadly Hari had to leave the pitch due to his determined tackles. And a very well done to Jethro who scored a hattrick of tries today!

Now, strangely, I kept count of all the tries  and confirmed with some of the players that I know keep score on the pitch and we all concur that six tries were scored but not one of us can remember who scored it so to the ‘phantom’ who scored the sixth try, well done. A magnificent effort today, well done!

The Sale Game

Very pleasant weather conditions on Sales’s pristine turf, and we turned out to play 4x 15 minute quarters. We had the bare 13 players, no subs and had been warned this was going to be hard work!  The Sale coach told me that they been concentrating on their rucking, and it turned out to be the definition of the game.

The tale and pattern for the first 2 quarters was as follows:  Sale would send their 2 big units on a charging run, and then do a reasonable job of passing it down the line.  Our big problem was that whenever the ball went to ground, our support either wasn’t there, or fell victim to some very effective Sale counter-rucking.  Without possession we found ourselves on the defensive repeatedly and our tackling was occasionally found wanting.

Highlights for us included a great catch and run by Sam Davis who found daylight on the left and sprinted round the Sale pack to draw the scores level at 1-1.  George and Josh combined to put in a great last gasp tackle effort, with the player sadly having just enough forward momentum to make it over the line regardless.  Shortly after, George again combined with Mike to make a break down the right, only for the ball to get dislodged for a knock on just outside the 22.

Whilst Max’s work rate was immense, the other forwards were struggling to keep up in both fitness and intensity, although Andy managed to take some good forward runs through before being felled. Finally in the last 5 minutes of the 2nd quarter we upped our intensity and some great forwards play had us camped in the Sale half, with basic handling errors and a dropped ball proving our undoing.

For the remaining 2 quarters, Sale lent us 4 players.  Jake, Josh and Ben worked their socks off in the centre, Ben often to be found first into a ruck whilst our tiring forwards struggled to keep up.  Jake spread the play well when we had the ball, and Josh’s tackling went from strength to strength as the game went on, just a boot to the face seeing him leave the pitch with a bloodied nose.  Alfie and Leo did what they could with the ball when it got to them, marshalling the wings well which meant Sale tended to run their play through the centre more often than not.

A late flurry of 3 tries to Rochdale in the final quarter definitely lifted the spirits, and we concluded the game in the ascendency.  Previously our rucking has been really good, so I think we’ll put this one down to an off day, and we go ahead on Friday against Old Rishworthians!