Sunday 5th May (Heaton Moor RUFC) Colts League Senior Plate Final. Eccles Senior Colts 37- 7 Ormskirk Senior Colts
The Eccles Senior colts capped off a strong end to their season by lifting the silverware in the Colts Senior Plate Final yesterday afternoon.
Ormskirk and Eccles have been regular opponents this season in more than one competition and a hard fought Eccles victory in an epic 30-29 Lancs Trophy semi-final suggested the Plate Final between the teams would be an exiting encounter. Defeat in the recent Lancashire U18 Colts Trophy Final to Makos was a hard lesson in the vital importance of making an aggressive competitive start, and this time Eccles came out all guns blazing right from the kick off.
The opening exchanges were brutal with both packs determined to dominate their opposite number. Although the ball was spilled in contact by both sides, Eccles made more ground with their possession and ensured play remained inside the Ormskirk half. With 6 minutes on the clock, Eccles forwards snatched possession at an Ormskirk 10m line out in the left corner, the backs shifted the attack swiftly across the field, with fullback Josh Stafford breaking through the line and offloading for winger Rory Molthatlhedi to finish in the right corner for the opening try; converted by Alex Speakman [7-0]. Flanker Max Mulligan suffered an impact to his shoulder and was replaced by Cameron Smollett. Ormskirk attempted a response from the restart, but Eccles soaked up everything thrown at them. Play remained in the middle of the pitch for 10 minutes as Eccles probed for gaps in the defiant Ormskirk defence. Sustained attacking pressure down the left wing led to two close efforts for a second try, one such attempt resulting in a 5m scrum for Eccles who were clinical. Forwards graft and backs craft combined to create the best move of the game, with a lovely half backs’ loop in the centre, the ball zipped across the back line to be finished once again by Rory in the right corner at 21′ [12-0]. The winger was unfortunate not to claim an audacious hat-trick when, at full speed, he almost collected in one hand the bouncing ball from a superb deep kick from Alex. Nevertheless, Eccles momentum continued with a 20m penalty from Alex shortly after [30′ 15-0] and at 34′ Eccles completed the first half with a third try in the right corner with a drive from number-eight Keiron [HT 20-0]. Although all the attacking endeavour had come from Eccles and the scoreline suggested a comfortable advantage, the first half was in fact a very competitive, physical contest; Ormskirk had threatened to break several times, only for outstanding work rate and a few notable big hits to drive back their progress. Eccles Centre Harry Candland in particular lead by example with his Lion-hearted defensive work and earned a man of the match accolade from his coaches.
Eccles began the second half brimming with confidence and took only 5 minutes to create an opening to increase the score, exploited and finished by the skills and footwork of Fly-Half Alex Speakman, who swerved through the tacklers to cross the goal line to the side of the posts and convert his try. [40’ 27-0]. Fresh legs entered the fray and Eccles continued to be dominant in scrum and line out. Around 50′ Ormskirk rallied to put Eccles under pressure and for the first time in game the colts defence was breached, with Captain Dan Aspinall given a yellow card for his attempts to prevent an Ormskirk score, and the resulting chaos leading to a converted try [27-7]. Eccles coped with the numerical disadvantage without loss of further points. Mulligan and Aspinall returned to the field and Max was in the right place to complete another fine attacking move, dabbing down in the right corner for Eccles’ 5th try of the afternoon [65′ 32-7]. Both teams continued their tenacious attacking work rate; a high tackle on flying Eccles winger Brad Palmer threatened to erupt into a brawl as players charged in to defend teammates but once the officials calmed the situation, the game, which had been played in a good spirit, was able to conclude without further incident or score. [FT 37-7]
All credit to Ormskirk for their sportsmanship and perseverance. A BIG THANK YOU to all the Eccles travelling support and thanks once again to Marie and the bar team for putting up with the colts on their return to the club! A very memorable day and evening of celebrations.
What a season! League winners, Colts League Senior Plate Winners, Lancashire U18 Trophy finalists, and 11 out of 22 players making their Senior debuts for the club.
There was little sign of that kind of success back in the early autumn when the colts lost 5 of their opening 8 league games as they struggled to bond and find their feet as a new squad formed from U17s and U18s. But it’s not how you start it’s how you finish that counts. The determination of the team was forged in those disappointments, difficulties and defeats. Injuries to older players provided opportunities for younger players to step up, develop their skills and generate competition for places. Through the winter and spring, the colts commitment, hard work and mischief saw them storm on to win 15 from 17 games, consistent form that would ultimately secure them league and plate titles.