NLD 34 v EASTERN COUNTIES 22
Sunday 07 September saw the first outing of the season for the NLD U18’s squad against a strong Eastern Counties side who prevailed against NLD this time last year.
Both squads suffered late withdrawals following the round of school matches played the previous day, and kicked off with each side having 23 players available.
The early exchanges demonstrated that, despite this being the first match of the season, the NLD players were combining well both at the breakdown and with ball in hand.
In a fiercely contested first half, NLD emerged at half time with a 24-10 lead thanks to tries from Joe McMenamin (2) and Ben Usher (2) together with a couple of conversions.
Some excellent work in the loose resulting in the two forwards’ tries were reward for the hard work applied by the pack in retaining their own ball and for pressurising the opposition possession into conceding turnovers.
In contrast, the Winger’s tries demonstrated a pleasing ability by the backs to capitalise on the loose ball in broken play when possession was kicked away by Eastern Counties.
Intelligent running lines combined with good decision making and precise offloads provided Ben Usher with excellent opportunities, which he made the most of, despite still having much to do from 30 metres out.
Eastern Counties showed a willingness to run the ball from all areas of the pitch and, with fast and elusive runners, it was inevitable that they would keep the scoreboard turning over.
The second half gradually became more fragmented as fatigue began to show on the players, although this only provided the substantial crowd with more excitement as gaps began to appear for the more intelligent players to exploit.
That said, with fatigue comes a fall off in precision resulting in significantly more stoppages for technical infringements and a general deterioration in the game’s continuity.
It was a credit to both sides that the match remained close right to the end and Tom Winning’s two second half tries help seal the victory for the NLD despite a late rally from Eastern Counties, who scored the final try with the last play of the game.
Head Coach Nathan Smith voiced his satisfaction at a job well done and was keen to let the players know that they had put down a strong marker for when squad selection comes round for the Championship game against Leicestershire on September 24th.