4th January 2015 – U20’s- Cheshire (18) v Northumbria ( 21)

On route to this fixture the Tynedale pitch, was declared unfit. Last minute officiating relocated to a nearby University. Although a disruptive impact to the travelling contingent both playing and supporting the game, it did not deter a brisk start by the young Cestrian’s whose forward play controlled the game. There were some excellent performances in the scrum winning 3 challenges against the head, anchored by Venables, Byrne and Wilkinson. The lock pairing of Joseph and Neill made significant line breaks and support play. Their performance alongside a solid back row with Weir, Green and Olyott at 8 ensured total forward dominance and control of the game.

Ten phases of play from this solid base released Wise in the corner for a scything run and the first Cheshire try, followed by a later forwards drive over the line and a similarly drive with a well timed release out of the side for the third try.

However, players must make good decisions ‘all the time’ .These need to be ‘the right decisions’. Unfortunately the advantage was lost with some wrong decisions. When a player receives a ball, it triggers a number of immediate calculations and decisions; there is an instant, a moment, a fraction of a second to do the right thing. The consequence when you get it wrong moves tactics away from the game plan and leaves winning points on the pitch as occurred here. Players develop to make good decisions ‘all the time’. On another day with more ‘team-time’ such actions become second nature. Resultantly some shape was lost with over running in open play, alongside missed kicks.

The Northumbria team sheet identified  a high proportion of players coming from the local universities’. Although permitted, in effect club representation was very low compared to the spirit in which Cheshire clubs had supported this year’s release of its players.

Individual errors cost Cheshire dearly allowing Northumbria to exist on scraps and draw even. This was not assisted by some of the officiating decisions along the way particularly the last one gifting Northumbria their winning penalty award.

Although an improvement in the Cheshire performance, this was a weaker Northumbria team to that encountered last year and they will need their own improvement when facing Yorkshire.  Team Manager Ian Stanton stated “From dominating possession and forward play, too many errors lost this fixture. As a team these guys are learning, but its a disappointing position to be in , I know the team are keen to make amends ”

Cheshire are now left to play for pride against Lancashire. This is not the position or place expected from this year’s team. From the investment of players, coaches and resources, belief from within was more, and the harsh reality of the young Cestrian’s current predicament leaves not only a bitter taste of disappointment but a scalding reminder of the brutal nature of higher level competition. But ………there is still a point to prove. The young unbowed Cestrian’s are now keen to face their final fixture in this year’s National championship.