Scunthorpe U9s travelled to Halifax to compete in the Old Brodleians spring festival as part of a significant Greens contingent through the U7-U12 age groups. The format was two pools each with 5 teams, followed by play-offs for the Cup, Plate and Bowl depending upon the pool placings. The Scunthorpe U9s had managed to win the festival the previous year as U8s in blustery winds and showers. Fortunately this year the weather was more benign and the prospect of a fine day's rugby lay ahead.
Scunthorpe opened the Pool A proceedings against Old Rishworthians ("Rish"). After winning the toss, Scunthorpe chose to play up the slope in the first half, a tactic repeated to good effect in the subsequent games. Scunthorpe managed to edge in front after Dawson scored in the corner and then Hogg ripped out of the maul and scampered across the line to go in 2 up after a 6 minute half. Scunthorpe managed to add to this after the restart and Taylor took a brace with one by Heath Drury. Scunthorpe's play had room for improvement though. Good tackling across the team thankfully compensating for poor rucking at the breakdown and an apparent inability of the Scunthorpe ball carriers to pass the ball before being tackled. Final Score 5-0.
The second game was against Huddersfield and the Greens' style of play continued. Huddersfield scored first as a strong runner, broke through and ran in a try. Scunthorpe did look a little shaken for a period. The pivotal moment in the game came when another Huddersfield runner looked to take them two ahead, running briskly down the wing. McInnis thwarted the attack with a try-saving tackle into touch. This play seemed to settle the Greens who managed to score 2 before half time with Taylor crossing the line twice. The 2nd half was alittle more comfortable with tries from good forwards work from Hogg and Cooling. A backs try sealed the victory with a move finished off again by Taylor. Defensive play had proved the difference again for Scunthorpe who had employed more determination and grit than tactical finesse to stop Huddersfield settling in to their game. Final Score 5-1.
Special mentions for Talbot and the brothers Gosling who acted as subs for Huddersfield in subsequent games to fill injury gaps. They did themselves and Scunthorpe proud and played with commitment particularly in the tackle, despite the challenge of playing in an unfamiliar team. This valuable game time will prove useful in developing their rugby careers. Elsewhere Scunthorpe were making some changes during the games, but the short halves and need to maintain some structure hindered this.
The 3rd pool game was against Skipton and Scunthorpe quickly took control. The half time score line sounded impressive at 4-0 after 2 scores by Taylor and one each for McInnis and Dawson, however it could have been more and easier had Scunthorpe moved the ball through hands more quickly. A few team changes during half time and 3 trademark tries for McInnis, Heath-Drury and Brader flowed during the 2nd half. McInnis, put the accelerator to the floor to sprint over the line going around the Skipton defence. Heath-Drury's try came from work at close quarters, ripping the ball following yet another tackle and struggling over. Brader's was strong running through the Skipton tacklers to power over. Final score 7-0.
The final pool game against Morley A would be the decider as both teams were unbeaten during their first 3 games. Morley A team had several big lads who had been very successful when running strongly at the other teams. Their nippy scrum half had also been effective in the earlier games, but was out due to injury. Given Scunthorpe's patchy play, despite getting results in the first 3 games, they would need to sharpen up considerably to compete against this Morley A side. Fortunately some passing drills before the game seemed to convince Scunthorpe of the value of moving the ball through hands and the Greens did start more strongly.The game though would be won or lost by the quality of the defensive work. Scunthorpe did close the Morley clarets right down and put some strong but fair hits in. The whole Scunthorpe team contributed to this with not only Brader, Hogg and Cooling in the forwards working hard, but also Heath-Drury, McInnis and Elford demonstrating you don't need to be big to bring a big guy down. This curtailed the Morley attack, preventing any forward momentum. Scunthorpe also showed more commitment to the rucks, although had a little learning to do when they failed to stay on their feet on several occasions and penalties were awarded against them. The mighty forwards battle continued though and overall Scunthorpe controlled the match and frustrated Morley in their desire to play their normal game. The scores flowed evenly through both halves with a brace by Taylor again and then 3 forwards tries (2 for Hogg and 1 for Brader), which just demonstrated the nature of the game. Final score 5-0 and a much better performance from the Greens.
The Cup Final would be with Morley B, who had won the other pool. Morley B seemed to share the same style of play as Morley A and were certainly not second string to their compatriots. Scunthorpe were perhaps seduced by the B and A tags and went a score down early in the final to a strong run down the slope which wasn't closed out quickly enough. Scunthorpe dug in though and continued the strong defensive work and Morley didn't really look like scoring again as the majority of play was in the Morley half. Morley seemed to be picking up some tips from the young greens though and upped their defensive game. Scunthorpe pulled level with a crucial 'rip and run' try from Hogg. The quality of Green's play did improve despite this being the fifth game of the day, with them managing to keep their focus and concentration. There was more movement of the ball through the backs and this did start to yield results. Taylor scored next, followed by another blistering run for the corner around the Morley defence by McInnis, who had his best day for quite a while. Taylor finished two more moves off with scores to close the game and another day's hard work paid dividends for the young greens. Final score 5-1.
Scunthorpe U9s lifted the Cup, for the second year in succession. Well done! A lot to improve upon on the field, but congratulations have to go the greens whose determination and commitment won the day. Thanks to all the boys and parents for contributing to a great day.