UNDER 15s / 15s GROUP – 2016 Season Review
Lancashire 15 Group Manager
Lancashire 17-16 Yorkshire at Rossendale RFC, Sunday 14th February 2016
Cheshire 36-10 Lancashire at Wilmslow RFC, Wednesday 23th March 2016
Staffordshire 12-22 Lancashire at Newcastle-u-Lyme RFC, Wednesday 27th April 2016
Lancashire snatched victory from the jaws of defeat to beat a big Yorkshire side and regain the Yorkshire Building Society trophy, which was presented to inspirational captain Lewis Johnson at Rosendale RFC.
Lancashire started the game brightly, with winger Joe Senior making an excellent break after linking up well with scrum-half Rafael Quirke. However it would be Yorkshire who opened the scoring after four minutes, with their winger crossing the line after a sweeping attack from a scrum on halfway. The fly-half added the extras to give the away side a seven point lead. Lancashire were penalized at the breakdown moments later, and Yorkshire extended their lead to 10 points with a penalty kick from right in front of the posts. Yorkshire enjoyed plenty of possession in the opening quarter and another penalty gave them a 13-0 lead after 12 minutes. This seemed to be a turning point in the game though as Lancashire began to settle down and fight their way back into the game. Another Yorkshire penalty took the visitor’s lead to 16 points, but Lancashire fought back bravely and started to control the match. Prop James Harper gave the home side a life line minutes before half time, taking a quick penalty tap and powering his way over the line from 10m out. Fly-half Alex Clayton kicked a difficult conversion to take the score to 16-7 at half time.
Lancashire seemed to gain confidence from Harper’s try, and started the second half brilliantly, keeping Yorkshire on the back foot, and penned in their own 22. Harper scored his second try of the game, again showing great strength to force his way over the line from 5m out. Clayton sent his conversion just wide, but the deficit had been cut to just four points. The home side began to dominate the game from this point, and were excellent in both attack and defense against a very physical Yorkshire side. Phase after phase of good attacking rugby from Lancashire followed before replacement Joe Simpson crossed the white wash after scrum-half Quirke took another quick tap from a penalty. Clayton just missed his conversion from the touchline, but Lancashire now had the lead 17-16 with only a few minutes left. The second half showing was much improved from Lancashire, and they managed to hang on to claim victory over their biggest rivals.
Lancashire went into their next game, against Cheshire, knowing that the U15’s had not won this fixture since 2009, so they knew this would not be an easy task, but after their victory over Yorkshire the confidence was up.
The Red Rose boys were once more slow out of the blocks and Cheshire capitalized with two well taken tries. Lancashire had chances to get themselves back into the match but handling errors cost them dearly. Trailing 10-0 at the break, a much more competitive Lancashire team emerged in the second half. An interception by Lancashire released wing Louis Houghton who had too much pace, for the home defense, in a 70 yards dash to the line. Straight from the restart Lancashire broke away and back-rower Jake Pagen scored under the posts to level the scores. Evan Powell kicked the conversion to put Lancashire into the lead 10-12. The omens were now good for the visitors however the Cheshire scrum-half, Jacob Ainscough, took control of the match, exploiting gaps in the Lancashire defense which resulted in four more tries. The euphoria of the Yorkshire win was well and truly deflated. Lancashire head coach, Bill Nichol’s reaction was “We made too many errors in all areas at crucial times and Cheshire took all their opportunities, we were too lateral in the first half.”
The U15 season drew to a close with a new fixture when Lancashire travelled to Newcastle-u-Lyme to play Staffordshire. The thirteen Sale Development boys were missing but nonetheless a strong squad represented the Red Rose. For the third match running the opposition scored first however the visitors got back on terms much quicker as Ceiron Sutcliffe and Tom Guest touched down to give Lancashire a well-deserved 10-5 lead at the interval. Lancashire took control of the match when Ben Apps intercepted the ball and ran sixty yards to score the third try. A converted Staffordshire try ensured a nervy ending but a last gasp try from Guest, converted by Adam Clayton, rounded off a good evening’s work. Lancashire coach Bill Nichol said afterwards that he was happy with the win and even happier with the performance. It was hard to pick a man of the match with so many decent players to choose from but went with back-rower Sam Shepherd for a commanding display.
For the record, the following boys will be involved in Sale Development activities over the coming months: forwards Lewis Johnson, Cameron Wilkinson, Joe Simpson, Ethan Hall-Lyon, Jake Pagan, James Harper and backs Rafael Quirk, Massi Poli, Evan Powell, Louis Houghton, Joe Senior, Charlie Warren and Joe Shields.
The boys were quick to acknowledge backroom team of Iain Crosley (Chair of selectors), Coaches Bill Nichol, Mark Bailie, Bernie Bowers, Mark Goodman and Ian Graydon who deserve great credit for preparing the team. Also many thanks to physio Andrew Baldwin, Robbie Jones at AKS, Wright Robinson College and journalists Phil Hannah and Ash Cooper. Finally, many thanks for the encouragement and support of the boys’ families and friends.