Lancashire 16 Group – 2016 Season Review
Lancashire 16 Group Manager
Significant changes in age grade rugby took place this season. Divisional rugby at 16 group was disbanded and responsibility for selecting an England U16 team passed onto the professional academies. The Autumn festivals disappeared from the fixture list leaving stand-alone matches against Cheshire and Yorkshire.
Training and preparation ahead of the opening fixture went very well in September and October and optimism was running high. The first match against Cheshire, at Bowden RFC, was a huge disappointment as the home side ran out convincing 50-7 winners. The damage was done in the first half when Cheshire converted all their chances scoring five tries. Lancashire, on the other hand, only had an interception try, from Jamie Morris, to show for 15 minutes of territory and possession. Three more Cheshire tries in the second half completed a demoralising rout.
Lessons were learnt and the Red Rose boys produced a much better performance against a very strong Yorkshire side at Preston Grasshoppers. Lancashire made a bright start in difficult conditions and went toe to toe with their White Rose opponents but yet again they could not turn their chances into scores. Two Yorkshire penalties made the score 6-0 at half-time. Lancashire came out at the second half flying, and winger Joshua Moreau scored a fantastic solo try in the corner. Yorkshire responded with two tries of their own to extend the lead to 13 points with 15 minutes to play. Lancashire showed great character and spirit throughout the game, and staged a late fight back through a Kian Stewart try, after a great break and offload by Matty Ashcroft. Stewart converted his try to bring Lancashire back within six points with minutes to play. That is how the game would end, as Yorkshire were able to hang on for a narrow victory.
Lancashire showed vast improvements from their last outing against Cheshire, and Coach Iain Crosley saw plenty of positives, as he said: "It was a lot better than our performance against Cheshire in both attack and defence. We showed great spirit to get back into the game, and played some really good stuff with the ball in hand".
Cheshire: lost 50-7 at Bowden RFC, Sunday 25th October 2015
Yorkshire: lost 15-12 at Preston Grasshoppers, Sunday 8nd November 2015
The boys were quick to acknowledge backroom team of Ian McFarlane (Chair of selectors), Coaches Ian Crosley, Rod Murray, Mark Murray, Damien Hamilton, Brad Tuft, Brad Jones, Alex Loney who deserve great credit for preparing the team. Also many thanks to physio Andrew Baldwin, Robbie Jones at AKS, Ray French at LSH and journalists Phil Hannah and Ash Cooper. Finally, many thanks for the encouragement and support of the boys’ families and friends.
An interesting footnote to this age group is that two U16 Kirkham Grammar School boys Sam Dugdale and Kieran Wilkinson, who played up an age in the 2014-15 season and were on the EPD pathway, went on to represent England U16 against Wales in April 2016. Congratulations to these fine players who played No. 8 and stand-off respectively. We can only wonder what difference they would have made to this Lancashire team if they had been available to play.
At the post match dinner Lancashire President Tim Stirk marked Ian McFarlane’s retirement by presenting him with a commemorative plaque to celebrate 18 seasons as a valued coach and selector.