NLD U17’s Beat East Midlands

East Mids U17’s 5 v 21 NLD U17’s

The NLD U17’s squad travelled to Stewarts & Lloyds RFC last week in Corby to play the final warm-up game of the campaign.

Having won a very close game in the previous encounter at Newark, the NLD players were keen to finish the season on a high by making it two victories in succession.

A torrid rain storm prior to the match meant that the conditions underfoot would be slippery as would the ball, making handling more of a challenge. Faced by a strong and powerfully built East Mids squad determined to level the score, the evening was always going to present a hard physical challenge and the NLD players demonstrated they were more than up to the task.

Kicking downhill, NLD showed much improvement in their defensive organisation and denied East Midlands territory. Having experienced the effective breakdown work performed by the East Midlands team during the encounter at Newark, the forwards showed much greater awareness in this crucial area of contact.

Supporting the ball carrier much more effectively produced quicker ball which provided Harry Jenkins and Charlie Johnson the opportunity to stretch the home side’s defence. Playing on a wide pitch against much larger opposition in many cases, the NLD players were aware that shipping the ball into the wider channels was likely to bring greater reward than getting involved in an arm-wrestling contest in midfield and so it proved.

Following good defensive work and attacking pressure, NLD won a lineout and, after strong ball carrying from the pack, notably Ed Cox at 6, several phases resulted in quick ball from the ruck. Will Helliwell at 12 delayed the pass and, while Max Hubbard on the wing fixed the defender by staying in the wide channel, Josh Beavis was able to hit the gap at pace to finish near the posts.

The try was converted by Will Helliwell.

The following few minutes saw East Mids enjoy good possession only for the well organised NLD defence to force handling errors with good line speed and strong tackling. Pressure on the East Mids ball carrier in the home 22 led to the ball being spilled and Will Leech at 10 made a sniping run towards the line.

A fine tackle brought the NLD player up short, however, Matt Mallinson following up was able to hack the ball through and dot down for the second try.

Will Leech converted.

Despite numerous changes during the second and third period, NLD maintained their continuity and concentration making it increasingly difficult for the East Mids ball carriers to make significant inroads into NLD territory. Strong tackling and great work in the breakdown imposed pressure on the East Mids possession and was rewarded with a number of knock-ons.

Distribution from the base of the scrum and ruck continued to provide quality ball in midfield and both Harry Jenkins and Findlay Tweedie showed a range of skills instructing the pack and organising defence.

Into the third period, East Mids enjoyed their longest period of possession and only organised and tight defensive work by NLD prevented them making territorial inroads. Following multiple phases from the East Mids pack, the ball went wide and a strong tackle from Jasper Nilsson resulted in turnover ball and, ultimately, a knock-on by East Mids.

From the ensuing scrum, Will Leech made to pass into midfield before stepping  inside and accelerating through the defensive dogleg. Intelligent support from Nilsson gave Leech an easy offload for the centre to score under the posts.

Will Leech converted.

East Mids showed great character and resilience despite being on the wrong end of the scoreline and were rewarded for their unstinting efforts with a try following a spilt ball in the final minutes.

All in all a compelling game of rugby which was a pleasure for the large crowd of supporters to witness.

Will Ellison and Joe Fitzsimons in the Second Row were willing ball carriers all evening along with the hard working Will Peakman playing at Open Side. Ed Cox and Warwick Waudby provided plenty of ‘go forward’ and that momentum continued with the introduction of Ben Henson and Ben Jackson.

Special mention should go to the Front Row players who worked tirelessly despite having little in the way of replacements. Hookers Conor White and Lewis Booth impressed with their lineout throwing in difficult conditions while Logan Watt and Josh Peters continually defended the breakdown and spoiled East Mids possession.

Changes in the midfield saw Richard Norfolk and Jasper Nilsson replace the strong running and effective partnership of Will Helliwell and Will Harding-Terry. The line breaking ability of Richard Norfolk enabled the NLD to get beyond the gain line on multiple occasions and this inevitably caused problems for the East Mids defence.

Not an easy night for wingers but all NLD wide players showed a willingness to offer options in attack and were resolute in defence.

All in all, a satisfying conclusion to the U17’s programme and this performance demonstrated the potential within the squad to challenge competitively in the Midlands campaign later this year.

Following the Summer break, the Squad will reconvene, probably in September, and the U18’s programme will begin in earnest.

Lee Slack