NLD U18’s Kick Off with a win





Sunday heralded the first warm-up game for the new NLD U18’s Squad against a large Eastern Counties squad comprising two full sides.

The journey to Shelford proved challenging for many of the NLD squad and their families with numerous hold-ups, delays and accidents on the A14 and M11. This curtailed the preparation time available to the Coaching Team and the initial 15 players took to the pitch with their ears ringing after a sharp rebuke for their warm-up lethargy from Head Coach Nathan Smith.

During the opening phases, it was clear that there is still a feeling of unfamiliarity amongst the squad and games like this one are very useful in helping the players gel with their new team mates.

Coaches on both sides would have been hoping for a flowing game in order to assist with likely combinations and selections for the upcoming Championship games. Unfortunately, the early passages of play lacked any continuity and the regular interruption from the Referee’s whistle did little to help this scenario improve.

NLD did show resilience in defence and were able to prevent Eastern Counties making much territorial progress before Scrum Half, Jack Weedon, sneaked over from close range after a dummy pass which fooled the Eastern Counties defence.

That try went unconverted.

Further passage of play were punctuated by mistakes from both sides and the constant interruption by the Referee’s whistle resulting in the half drawing to a close with little of note to excite the enthusiastic crowd on what had turned into a great day for rugby.

Positional changes were made by NLD for the second session while Eastern Counties took to the field with a completely new set of 15 players.

From the Kick-Off it seemed that the home team were intent on showing their first half players that they had more to offer, however, inaccuracy and poor execution prevented any real chances being created.

For the NLD, Calum Donnelly made a powerful surge across the gain line and, displaying great speed, the Flanker drew the defender before passing out to Josh Watts on the Wing who ran in under the posts.

Jack Burrows duly converted.

Good defence work from the Forwards and Centres could not detract from the lack of overall continuity and quality although persistent play though the phases took the NLD into the Eastern Counties’s 22. From a well presented ruck, Jordan Slack took a short ball and, having bounced the first defender, was able to crash over the line for NLD’s third try.

Jack Burrows converted once more.

By this time, injuries were beginning to take their toll on the squad as NLD lost their Captain, Josh Hubbbard,  with an ear injury as well as Second Row, George Woodman and Centre, Aaron Walker who was also sidelined.

All in all, it was proving a busy day for Carole Sampson, the NLD Physio.

With further changes and the NLD squad tiring through lack of numbers, Eastern Counties began to enjoy better possession. Inevitably, this pressure brought some reward and the home side were able to run in two tries out wide behind the NLD defence.

The last word in scoring, though, went to the NLD when Jordan Slack burst through the Eastern Counties defence before drawing in the last Eastern Counties defender and delivering a well-timed pass to the supporting player outside, Connor Slack, who ran in the try.

This too was converted by Jack Burrows.

The final scoreline read Eastern Counties 15 v NLD 25.

The after match analysis from the Coaching Team revealed that the overall display was a great improvement over what was witnessed during  the warm up and a few players had perhaps put themselves forward as potential starters against Leicestershire on September 21.

An early season game which confirmed that the squad is still very much a work in progress but one which shows some pleasing potential for the Championship games ahead.

Lee Slack – Manager