NLD U18’s Beat Warwickshire in Midlands Opener




In glorious Autumn conditions, the NLD Squad assembled for their first outing in the Midlands 2017 campaign at Hinckley RFC.

Playing in the last game of the day, NLD kicked off with the wind in their favour and made immediate yardage into Warwickshire territory. From a loose defensive clearance, NLD were able to work the ball to the left wing and then, following good work by the pack to drive into the Warwicks 22, Will Harding-Terry made a strong break on the right almost to the try line. With quick ball from the ruck by Harry Jenkins at Scrum Half, Alex Henderson scooped the ball off his toes and, with players still to beat, crashed over for the first score. Less than two minutes in, and NLD were 5-0 up.

The conversion was missed.

From the restart, good line speed from the NLD defence pushed Warwickshire back only for poor numbering up and tackling to allow the Warwicks Fly Half to step through the gap and feed his Centre partner for what looked like a walk in try.

Fortunately, the Referee had spotted a forward pass and NLD were momentarily reprieved. From the resulting scrum, the NLD pack showed strength and stability to produce quality ball for the Scrum Half and Oscar Malik at Fly Half was able to clear his lines with a good kick to touch.

NLD dominance in the scrum was a feature throughout the game with the Forwards giving notice that this dominance would continue in the set piece. Phase ball off the lineout saw NLD make forward progress until they were penalised for going off feet in a ruck.

Will Peakman demonstrated that he was to be a thorn in Warwicks side all afternoon when he executed the first of many steals at the set piece giving NLD the opportunity to clear their lines once more.

Failing to look after the ball, led to possession being gifted back by a poor kick through which was followed by a strong run from the big Warwicks Full Back. The NLD defence were slow to spot the numerical advantage on the Warwicks right and, despite their best efforts to spoil the opportunity, the opposition did find a way through to level the score at 5-5.

The try went unconverted.

Following a good catch from Will Peakman from the restart and a penalty, NLD kicked to the corner for another lineout. From the ensuing maul, the pack showed good strength and technique but were held up over the line.

Unfortunately, the Referee then penalised the NLD forwards for an early push and they were fortunate to get possession back when the kick failed to find touch. From the catch, Alex Henderson opened play up to bring Josh Beavis in from Full Back and his rangy running made good yardage into the Warwicks half. From spilled ball in the ruck, Warwicks were able to spin the ball wide and make ground into NLD territory following a couple of missed tackles and only a strong intervention by Josh Beavis halted the progress.

NLD were penalised again, following more missed tackles, for not moving away and were only saved from a further Warwicks score by poor handling and a knock-on.

Following more midfield melees, NLD allowed Warwicks to score against the run of play. A lack of accuracy at the breakdown led to a pass not going to hand. From the interception, NLD were unable to reorganise quickly enough defensively and Warwicks ran through the empty spaces on their right to score.

The missed conversion meant the score was 5-10 after 20 minutes.

There followed a further period of midfield tussling with some strong carries by Jordan Butcher at Prop without much progress being made. Eventually, NLD again found a good touch from a penalty and from the commanding lineout, the Forwards made good ground with play stretching across the pitch to the far side. With the pack working hard round the corner to keep the phases going, the Warwicks side became stretched defensively. Once the ball was spun wider, Will Harding-Terry proved too strong in the midfield and a determined run brushed aside the defenders for a score under the posts.

Oscar Malik converted to make it 12-10.

As Half Time approached, NLD showed a lack of composure when, following a quickly taken penalty, possession was kicked away. From the turnover ball, Warwicks showed good handling skills and, again, taking advantage of a disorganised defence, they were able to run in another try.

The missed conversion brought the score to 12-15.

Disjointed play from the restart saw NLD recover possession following a kick which Josh Beavis returned well into the Warwicks 22. From the breakdown, a looped pass left Alex Henderson still with three men to beat. With deft footwork, Alex stepped inside the lateral rush defence to score in the corner.

The conversion was missed and the Half Time score was 17-15.

From the restart, Warwicks showed an increased tempo to their play and, again, punched holes in the defensive gaps. Play moved wide following a breakdown and the winger was able to score in the corner.

A great touchline conversion brought the score to 17-22.

From a scrum, Warwicks were penalised and NLD then kicked away good possession which eventually resulted in a lineout. Strong running from Will Harding-Terry took play into the opposition half only for a knock-on followed by a penalty to gift possession back to Warwicks. Despite a great tackle from Ed Cox in midfield, NLD were penalised for not being 10 metres and the team seemed to have a disorganised look to it.

Great turnover work from Aidan Butler was spoiled with a further knock-on followed by a penalty for off-side. From the penalty and lineout good work from the pack resulted in a scrum to NLD from a held up maul and then a scrambled kick to touch.

The Warwicks side had clearly upped the intensity of their game in the Second Half and through continued pressure, despite some tenacious tackling from Ed Cox, George Ilincuta and Findlay Tweedie, they eventually forced the ball over the line in the corner for another try which was unconverted.

Score 17-27.

The kick-off was returned into the NLD half and another strong run by Josh Beavis took play back into the Warwicks half. Good continuity from the Forwards and a strong run from Lewis Booth at Hooker led to a penalty for off-side.

NLD opted for the scrum from which Warwick Waudby at No. 8 made a powerful surge, supported by his other back row players. Warwicks infringed again with a high tackle and from the advantage play, skipper Will Ellison extended an octopus –like arm to dot down from the back of the ruck.

With the conversion missed, the score stood at 22-27 with about 17 minutes to play.

From the restart a phase of scrappy play resulted in a knock-on and scrum down with an NLD put in.

Patient phase play by the pack eventually created some space out wide and a good line break by Logan Watt and George Ilincuta saw Ed Cox float a pass to Adam Hopkins. The Winger used good footwork to make ground and he was able to get a pass away to his fellow Winger , Alex Henderson, on the outside.

Subsequent rucks produced quick ball only for NLD to knock-on from good position about 10 metres out. From the advantage play, Warwicks kicked deep into the NLD half and, despite Adam Hopkins running the ball back, the ensuing breakdown provided the Warwicks forwards with an opportunity to turn the ball over. The NLD pack was a little slow in regrouping allowing Warwicks to win the ball.

Only strong tackling from Findlay Tweedie followed by a great turnover by Ed Cox, winning a penalty, prevented Warwicks making further inroads into the NLD 22.

From the lineout, again won by Will Ellison, the ball was played wide giving Will Helliwell a rare opportunity to step outside the defender and take play into the Warwicks half. From the ruck, Warwick Waudby and then Will Harding-Terry again carried strongly before Warwicks were penalised for a late tackle.

Will Heliwell found a good touch and from the  lineout a good catch from Ben Henson allowed George Ilincuta to peel off the back towards the Warwicks line, although he was stopped short. Strong rucking provided Findlay Tweedie at Scrum Half with quality ball and his long missed pass opened up the spaces in the midfield.

Strong tackling from the Warwicks defence forced NLD to play laterally and then Warwick Waudby made another strong blindside break carrying almost to the 5 metre line. NLD were applying huge pressure by now and dominating play as defenders tired towards the end of the game.

Following a strong burst by Ed Cox followed by a pick and go by the same player, NLD were able to again threaten the Warwicks try line. Only determined defence by the Red and White players prevented a score when they held up Will Harding-Terry over the line.

From the ensuing scrum, the pack once more demonstrated its dominance in the set piece to produce good ball only for the final pass to get knocked-on just short.

Warwicks chose to kick from the breakdown and Josh Beavis once more identified the space and ran the ball back at the defence. From the ruck, Will Helliwell took a great short pass inside to break through beyond the gainline well into the Warwicks 22.

With continued pressure going forward at the rucks, NLD were rewarded as the Warwicks defence again conceded a penalty in their own 22. No advantage accrued and NLD opted to scrum only to receive another penalty as the Warwicks scrum transgressed again. Opting to kick to touch this time, NLD won the lineout yet again through Ed Cox and after a succession of rucks, Findlay Tweedie sniped around the edges only to be stopped short about 2 metres out.

Inevitably, the unrelenting pressure told on the defence and it was skipper Will Ellison who burst over the line from one final ruck to score and take NLD into the lead. As the conversion was added, the score read 29-27 to NLD with about 3 minutes to play.

Eager to recover the two point deficit, Warwicks found themselves in front of the kicker at the restart resulting in a scrum to NLD on halfway which relieved the immediate pressure. With a couple of minutes remaining, sensible play by the Blues and Whites would surely see them home with a victory.

Patient exit from their own half should have run the clock down. Unfortunately, in an effort to force another score, NLD knocked-on in the Warwicks 22 giving precious possession back to the opposition in the final minute. Choosing to play with the advantage, Warwicks, to their credit put the balls through hands close to their own try line and were rewarded with a great break from the Blindside Flanker evading numerous tackles to run the ball well into NLD territory.

Playing patiently through the phases taking play into midfield, Warwicks were awarded a penalty over on the right as the NLD defender failed to move away. From the tap, NLD failed to retreat 10 metres which gifted the opposition a penalty less than 8 metres out and no more than 2 metres to the right of the posts.

Despite the domination shown throughout the game by the NLD in many areas including the scrum and lineout, a lapse of concentration and discipline seemed destined to cost them victory as the Warwicks Fly Half teed up the ball. This would be the final play of the game and surely NLD would come up short by a single point.

However, such is the pressure on these young players at representative level that the young Warwicks player pulled his kicked and NLD ran out victors with the final score at 29-27.

The players were rightly proud of the win and their performance, however, no-one is in any doubt that the squad has plenty of work to do if players are to make progress to Midlands selection. Nevertheless, a winning start and some stand out performances which will stand players in good stead when the selectors make their call towards the end of December.

Lee Slack – NLD U18 Manager