Even though lacking several key players, Shevington Sharks U16s responded to the sharp criticism they received after the previous week’s shoddy show with this emphatic victory over newly-promoted Oldham St. Anne’s.
Though the Sharks eventually ran away with this game, the first half at least was a tough tussle, the visitors muscling up to them surprisingly well. The interval score stood at 20-12 in Shevington’s favour, and they knew they were in a match. Only in the second period, when their superior fitness began to tell did the floodgates well and truly open.
However, it would be a little unfair to credit this victory solely to the newcomers’ lack of puff. Shevington had so many late withdrawals due to injury and holidays that numerous players found themselves out of position. For example, scrum-half Rob Pritchard was forced to move to hooker, loose-forward Sam Wilde
to stand-off, second rower Sam Gray
to loose, and fellow second-rower Connor Bishop out to the wing. The potential was there for some serious disorganisation, but this was a vastly more controlled performance than we saw a week earlier. Playing with much more structure and composure, and functioning as a team rather than relying on individual flare, the Sharks got on top early and stayed on top. Even when St. Anne’s threatened a mid-first half comeback, Shevington refused to panic and stuck to the job. The defence was solid across the park, while on the attack the lads supported the man with the ball and cut their mistakes – loose carries, badly judged offloads etc – down to a minimum.
Individually, there were heroes a plenty. Full-back Jake Simm had a field-day, scoring four great tries, all the result of excellent timing and powerful, incisive running; though one of them – a seventy-yard spectacular – had the crowd roaring with excitement.
Stand-off Cameron Boulter had another top-drawer game, scoring two tries of his own and making a fine break late on, from which prop Jack Purdham
, who matched him yard for yard as he processed down the field, was the beneficiary, diving over the whitewash unopposed.
Back-row titans Sam Wilde
and Sam Gray
also had a strong match, making hay in the Oldham ranks whenever they were on the ball, both being rewarded with touchdowns. Centre Ryan Shaw
also showed the opposition a clean pair of heels, scoring an excellent individual effort.
The Sharks crossed the line ten times in total, six of which scores they converted, five courtesy of winger Joe Foster
’s trusty boot, and one from prop Adam Bewley
Questions will always be asked about the standard of opposition after games like this, but it wasn’t a total mismatch. St. Anne’s came to Shevington looking to do a job, and after their poor showing last week, it would have been easy for the Sharks’ to have trooped out onto the pitch demoralised. That didn’t happen. The Sharks worked hard in training last week and once the game had got underway, stuck closely to the plan, every man doing exactly what he was supposed to instead of making it up as he went along – the result speaks for itself.