The Rochdale Tournament where we had won at Under 8s and been runners up at Under 9s in the two previous years’ finals.
First we had to safely negotiate our pool games and with a late drop out from our group it was going to be effectively a knock out tournament from the first game.
The sun beat down and the wind blew a gale across the pitch, 1st up was Trafford MV. We looked focused, the passes were flowing, our driving play was impressive but somehow we couldn’t get across the line. A few too many thinking they could do it all alone, suddenly a great pass, a side step and Raffi was through only to place the ball over the dead-ball line (the flag had fallen over in the wind). I had a feeling it was going to be one of those days…how wrong I was. Next play; one pass and a loop around the outside by Jack and we were in. Three minutes left of the half and three tries followed including a fantastic bulldozing run from half way by Alexander taking half of the Trafford MV Team with him over the line to score. The second half saw another three tries with some fantastic scrummaging from Ethan and the rest of the front row and some weaving runs from Max releasing the unstoppable Tom in midfield. Other teams were taking note, talking about the pace, power and skill of the Broughton Park team.
After a long wait we were on again, up against Didsbury Toc H winners of a previous tournament this year (not one we were at!) and we knew that it would have to be a win or an early trip home. Didsbury tackled hard and scrapped for every ball but every time we released our runners it was curtains for them. The ground was like concrete and the referee decided because of the time constraints and number of injuries not to stop the clock for injuries. It was 20 -0 and could have been twice that. I think we had two dropped balls over the line and at least three lost in the final metre. Harrison, captain for the day, was having his own competition about how close he could smash his way to the line carrying the Didbury team with him. There were amazing displays from Adam and Kieiron, constantly making holes in the midfield and tackling everything that moved, with our speedster Matt creating panic on the wing. We were through to the semis to face either Preston Grasshoppers or Blackburn.
We watched the Preston, Blackburn match (15-10 to Blackburn in the dying seconds) and knew this was going to be a tough semi final. The team talk was purely about winning ball and then enjoying ourselves. The first half was a master-class in exactly that. Smiles all around as we scored three tries including one from our very own wrecking ball and tough man Josh knocking Blackburn players over like skittles on his way to the line, and the bizarre sight of the Blackburn scrum half being relieved of the ball in the blink of an eye by the Broughton Park scrum half wizard Raffi behind Blackburn’s own scrummage, and in the next scooting over the line. In the second half it was impossible not to be thinking about the final and a loss of concentration let Blackburn in for the only try conceded in the tournament. Jack scoring a typical sidestepping run at blistering pace made the scores 20-5 to Broughton Park and we were in the final for the third time in three years.
We were up against Manchester in the final and remembered a bruising encounter earlier in the season that we just won 20-10, one of the toughest this season, we knew what to expect. The final didn’t disappoint, it was full blooded, no quarter given stuff. Manchester were doing what we had done defensively all day to other teams by being up in our faces giving us no room to use our pace and attacking flair. It was stalemate with two very different styles. Manchester were all defence with great rucking and Broughton Park with fantastic tackling, skill, pace and trickery. I even saw a repeat of the Six Nations French pass through the legs from our scrum half to release the midfield for almost the winning score. Only one team looked like scoring but the other was equally determined not to let anything through. It even went to Golden Try with six minutes of extra time. I thought we were through on a couple of occasions but fantastic last ditch tackles on Jack and Matt denied us the winning score. At the end both coaches couldn’t bring themselves to toss a coin for a winner it would’ve been too cruel on either team to have lost in such a way, so honours were shared.
The Rochdale Tournament, even better with the weather this year, is a great way to end the season with a good selection of parents and grandparents coming along to cheer us on. Thanks to Val and her team at Rochdale for a great tournament and all our travelling support, we now look forward to hanging the Trophy in the Broughton Park clubhouse and to defending the title next year.