Manchester invite Moor Heat On the first match day of the season
As we welcomed three new players and the returning Jack to the Manchester U15 ranks,an excellent first half was not enough to quell the Heaton Moor onslaught that followed half time.
First and foremost, a warm welcome to Henry, Josh and Dean, as they stepped into the Manchester red and onto the First XV pitch for our first game of the season against our old friends from Heaton Moor (HM). It was great to see these new starters come down and commit to Manchester for the season ahead. Having a positional headache for the first time in a number of years bodes well for the future and is a credit to those players who have encouraged their friends to come down and participate in what is surely the best team game on the planet. We also had Jack back from long term injury, who was made Captain for his return, as well as Elliot reporting for duty for the first time since the U13s season due to his cricket commitments throughout 2016/17.
Heaton Moor won the toss and elected to receive the kick off. Manchester lined up with a new look back line and determination on their faces. The whistle blew and Luke drop kicked to start the game. Now, I'm not sure what HM expected, however, it surely wasn't a Manchester line that looked forward to the collisions and took pride in driving the HM runners back time and time again. The first 5 minutes saw a stalemate in the middle of the pitch where neither side could gain a foot hold on the match and every ball was contested ferociously, both in the tackle and at the breakdown. It was Manchester who seemed to relish in this new situation and it was not long before HM infringed at the breakdown, such was their determination not to concede. Manchester did not organise themselves well and a poor kick resulted in the HM wing running in from 70 metres for the first try of the day.
Undeterred, Manchester came right back at them and the next few minutes were again back and forth as both sides looked for supremacy at the breakdown. In front of their own posts, pushed back by the HM forwards, Manchester spilled a pass only to see the HM centres quicker reaction and HM were two scores up, 20 minutes played.
From this moment onwards, until half time, HM pressed their advantage and Manchester remained stalwart but on the back foot. It was always a desperate tackle or last ditch effort that salvaged the situation time and time again. HM knew that they were in the ascendancy and it was only ill discipline at the breakdown, with hands going in or a high tackle, that held them back from some really great opportunities in this period of play. The pressure was, however, mounting and HM would have their moment. Quick ball from the HM Scottish scrum half saw their powerful centres running at the Manchester rearguard. Tackles went in but the onslaught was relentless, giving HM the platform to launch their newly acquired and lightningly fast winger to sprint over for their much deserved third try of the half.
The second half saw wholesale substitutions from both sides and it was the HM subs that made the greater impact. A new look HM front row saw their first choice props stepping forward and from a fairly even first half at scrum time, there was suddenly a totally one sided look to the front rows and HM were able to capitalise on this to give themselves a solid platform for their back line to attack from. It is fair to say that the Manchester players kept their heads up and continued to play to the best of their ability, however, as a number of injuries forced more changes, Manchester lost their shape and the energy levels fell much quicker in the second half for them. HM took full advantage of this and were able to run in a number of tries with relative ease, giving a final score that didn't reflect the hard work and endeavour of the Manchester players, particularly throughout the first half encounters.
HM were worthy winners of a good first game of the season. The Manchester players have also a lot to feel confident about after the match. We always knew that HM were a strong side with a good level of ability and good rugby brains throughout their side. For the Manchester players, the first half showed great promise and lots of effort with good shape, passion and ability against a side with 5/6 Lancashire DPP players in their number.
Todays worthy players were: Phil, Ash, Luke, Joe, Harrison, Henry, Eddie, Hanuf, Isaac, Olly, Josh, Jack, Dean, Jack (C), Bobby, Marzen, Jack and Elliot. Plenty to be proud about and lots of great work to build on as we look forward to our first cup game next week since our Lancashire Final of 2016/17 season, when we travel to Rossendale for our first group game.
Crouch, Bind, Set,