Following the previous week’s “Bingley Music Live” festival, September 11th 2011 heralded the start to the new rugby season for the Junior Bees.
Like most seasons before it, this meant the introduction of another stepping stone on the way to full adult rugby. For the Under 16’s, the new technique was lifting in the line-out and it was evident that pre-season work in this area had paid off with both Harvey Craven and Liam Hagerty taking comfortably to their newly elevated positions.
The Under 16’s started the new campaign as they had finished the last with a win at Cleckheaton, except this fixture was not marred by any of the indiscipline of last April, when tempers boiled over at the end of the game. Credit is due to both teams for putting previous differences behind them and entertaining the crowd in a game of commitment and quality. The first couple of minutes were pretty frenetic. Plenty of aggression from both sides and a referee keen to assert his authority led to a flurry of penalties. Bees were showing a little more belief than Cleckheaton with strong runs from Lewis Brook, Ryan Wilson and Harry Ellison as well as a crunching tackle by Matt Dilworth. Although the first quarter of the game passed without a score from either side, nearly all the play had been in the Cleckheaton half and the pressure was starting to tell as the home side made an increasing number of errors and gave away a string of penalties (holding on, handling in the ruck and pulling down the maul to name but a few).
20 minutes into the game, a Bees line-out was adjudged not straight and the home side opted for the scrum. This was one area of the game where Cleckheaton had the edge and the ball was soon out to their backs. Good defence from Bees culminated in a smash and grab raid by Matt Dilworth. He offloaded to the ever present Sam Jeffrey, who in turn passed on to Andy Niczyperowicz for a relatively straightforward but well deserved Bees try. Bees continued to have the upper hand and some expansive play by the backs brought another try from Matt Dilworth to take the score to 0-10 at half time.
Joe Bashforth claimed the ball from the Cleckheaton kick off; quick recycling and a deft kick to touch from Nick Gore immediately put the hosts back under pressure. Bees should have scored but we hung on to the ball just too long to benefit from an overlap on the left wing. But Bees were looking comfortable now and it was only a matter of time before Andy Niczyperowicz picked up the ball in a fairly central position and set off on a wide arc, evading a number of desperate Cleckheaton lunges to score in the corner. Two more second half tries from Jack Meggitt and Lewis Brook with a conversion from Nick Gore took the final score to a comfortable 0-27.
There were encouraging signs in this performance. Firstly we were quickly out of the blocks, secondly players were starting to hunt in packs of 2’s and 3’s. In the forwards this meant fewer incidents where players found themselves isolated and in the backs this strategy gained us a bit of turnover ball. There were also some good individual performances. Matt Dilworth, always quick and strong seems to have gone up a gear over the close season; he deservedly won man of the match. Tony Butterworth and Liam Hagerty looked sharper and stronger following their coast to coast cycling. A great tackle from Tony foiled a sneaky bind side back row move by Cleck and Liam showed plenty of aggression throughout. Dominic Walker also really put himself about when he came on as sub for Harvey. Will “utility” Rix did well in the role of hooker, as did Pete Booth and Sam Germaine and Sam Jeffrey, tireless as ever in the centre, looked sharp when he replaced Tony at scrum half. But most of all, every player made a real contribution; the whole team looked balanced and this balance was unaffected by 5 substitutions and some significant shuffling of positions. Every player understood their role and carried it out to excellent effect. A really positive start.