NLD U18’s Win Championship Opener





Wednesday evening witnessed the first Championship run out for this season’s NLD U18’s squad against a Leicestershire side at Syston RFC.

The mild evening weather promised good conditions for running rugby and the NLD squad warmed up with enthusiasm, each player keen for the first whistle to blow and the game commence.

The squad was missing a few players due to injuries and work commitments, however, the Coaching Team was happy that they were able to field a team they felt were more than capable of competing with their opponents.

From the first whistle, the NLD players exerted consistent pressure on the Leicestershire lads and the play was concentrated within the home side’s 22 from the off.

The NLD Coaches were a little frustrated that good early possession was squandered when passes did not go to hand and this was probably the result of early nerves with the starting 15 having 8 players making their NLD debut.

Unsurprisingly, considering the pressure on the Leics. side, only 10 minutes had elapsed when, from good work by the forwards producing clean ball from the ruck, NLD ran in the first try in the right hand corner; Connor Slack the scorer.

The try was converted from the touchline by Alex Scott.

The message from senior players to the debutants about patience and accuracy produced more structured rugby through the phases and the NLD team displayed a cohesion that belied the lack of experience in the squad.

Nathan Smith (Head Coach) had been keen to impress the team ethic within the NLD set up and spoke to the players before kick-off saying; ‘when you make those around you look good, you also make yourself look good.’

Taking that message on to the pitch, the NLD team dominated the first half demonstrating periods of control and precision which reaped benefits with further tries from Jordan Slack, George Woodman and James Newman.

The Coaches were pleased that each of these tries demonstrated different aspects of the game from good running lines and support to off-loading players as well as a classic line out drive and second row score.

All but one try was converted, giving a half time score of 26 v 0.

The second half began and the NLD dominance remained evident, albeit the away side were now playing a little uphill and against the wind.

Despite a few indifferent decisions and lack of precision in the ‘Red Zone’, NLD continued to play cohesively and with some invention.

Inevitably, the pressure on the Leics. defence took its toll and further tries were run in by Full Back, Callum Slack and by Wing, Adam Castle.

At 36 v 0, the NLD Coaches began making changes throughout the line-up, thus ensuring all 23 players experienced game time at Championship level and qualified for their NLD tie at the end of the evening – an important token of achievement for the boys.

Not surprisingly, the changes had an effect on the NLD structure and fluency and, with credit to the Leics. side, NLD began to struggle a little against the wind and in the face of significant pressure from the home side’s pack.

Following sustained pressure, Leics. scored from a driven maul showing good control. The home team clearly thought they could enjoy more success with this approach and, showing composure in the NLD 22, scored a further two tries.

Lack of discipline when under the increasing pressure from the Leics. pack led to two Yellow Cards in quick succession for NLD players and the lack of continuity brought about by numerous changes by both sides saw the match end in a scrappy fashion.

The final score of 36 v 17 did not really reflect the dominance enjoyed by NLD and Nathan Smith complimented the plyers on making the selection for the East Mids. game all the more difficult. Several players had stepped up to the occasion and missing players would find it all the more difficult to displace them following this performance.

As ever, no performance is complete this early in the campaign and the Coaches reminded the squad that there is plenty of room for improvement. The players departed for the changing rooms looking forward to the forthcoming training sessions and the next challenge against East Mids. at Newark on October 21.