Wigan RUFC, sits in the heart of League country and celebrates its centenary year leading to Lancs RFU holding the fixture at this historic ground. The hospitality was accommodating and in the true spirit of the game, which was some consolation for the drizzling rain and grey skies, but Cheshire were determined to make a clear mark and spoil any opposition celebrations’.
Immediately from the kick off the young Cestrian’s demonstrated skilful rugby, strong confident carrying and swift movement of the ball with clear intent, firmly pinning Lancashire back in their own half, wearing down their defences with uncompromising determination. The baton was now to be passed at the end of these 80 minutes, as the senior Cheshire players competed with pride in their last game in county colours and the junior players came of age. Lancashire escaped over the ½ way line on all but a handful of occasions, but a solid Cheshire defence and good communication ensured the opposition never encroached into their well protected 22m line.
Forward possession following a scrum awarded for offside close to the Lancs 10m line, set up the platform for a well executed rolling maul at the 15minutes stage followed by a firm grounding of the ball by flanker Chris Burrows (Wirral),the conversion was not made, and neither was the penalty for further offside offence immediately after the try. The teams entered the changing rooms at 1/2 time with a 0-7 score in favour of the visitors.
The second half was opened at 43 minutes with a scything run from scrum half Sam Stelmaskek (Sale) receiving fast ball from ‘quick hands’ in turn generated from a firm forwards platform. The grounding was not converted, but from the restart the young Cestrian’s remained encamped in Lancashire territory. At 50 minutes inside centre Dafydd Jones (Northwich) ran a line from the wing breaching all defences, backing himself, when well supported by his team mates leading to a further converted try close by to the posts. Less than 5 minutes later Cheshire were camped on the Lancs 5m line and were judged by the referee to have then had Four tries upheld. Winger Rhodri Mayor (Sale) put an end to this phase of play receiving a pass from forward play breaking the gain line, finding plenty of space to touch down. This again was not converted. Frustration was beginning to set in and from the restart it was back to the Lancs 22m when a loose pass was collected by their winger for their only foray into the Cheshire 22m box and an easy converted score. No more points were to follow for the home team.
At further missed Cheshire penalty for offside was soon rectified when centre Luke Hulme (Lymm) made a 40m dash breaking 4 tackles and ‘laying off’ to Winger Matt Van Sertima on the wing for a further unconverted try. The physicality of the Cheshire ball carriers breaking tackle could not be met by anything in the opposition arsenal and on the 80 minute stage it was perhaps fitting that the Cheshire Lock and Captain for the day Mattie Dowler (Caldy) crashed over for a further unconverted try. A very physical performance leading to a 7-34 final score.
The frustrating point being this performance was always there, and form 4 disallowed try’s, 1 missed pen, 5 missed conversions Cheshire still left 33 points on the pitch……..for another day !!!
The immediate performance review has already commenced for next season, Coach Heagerty posed a simple question “ Why this performance now and not earlier ? We had the skills and the ability to play at this tempo from the beginning” Manager Ian Stanton reflected likewise adding “This competition was there for the taking, it’s happened and we now look forward to the future and next year’s campaign”
On behalf of the U20 Chairman Paul Langton; a special note of thanks should be made to the following-
• To all the Cheshire clubs who released players to participate in this significant National competition, developing individual players and the standard of rugby within our individual and county teams. It is never easy to release players when key league / club fixtures lie ahead, but with the benefit of a healthy capable squad with positional depth these issues can be forward planned and accommodated.
• The Cheshire President, Martin Wroe for his support to the U20 management team, and eagerness to ensure U20’s players can continue to develop their skills into senior rugby and the senior county squad.
• Although not identified in previous submissions; a number of Cheshire players are unfortunately suffering injury, some a particularly serious nature than others. Their contribution both this season and last are secured in history, but more importantly the whole team wish them the very best to ensure a recovery to full fitness can be made.
• Colin ‘Chopper’ McKevitt stepped into the breach mid season, at particularly short notice, to support the U20 management team and take control of forwards coaching. This commitment and his endeavours were beneficial as has been proved on Lancashire turf today.
• Particular thanks to Coach Giles Heagerty and Manager Ian Stanton, both provide more than time to this endeavour, it is a passion that cascades to the team itself, and additionally the backroom staff who continue to support this worthwhile cause.
• A special thanks must be made to the Players, who have committed time, effort, travel to build this team , take from it friendship, experience success and lay next seasons foundation
• The parents, friends and supporters who are there through thick and thin and without whom this would not be possible.
• Before the conclusion of this season, we are actively looking for U20’s eligible players to compete in next year’s competition. Players must be born ON or AFTER 1-9-94. If any of the Coaching / Management staff of The Cheshire RFU clubs have identified any High Performance Development U20 currently playing adult rugby to a high standard and are eligible by reason of age to play, then please can provide all relevant contact information to;
Ian Stanton: firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Jones: email@example.com