'Loo squeak a win in 'Old Firm' battle.
Two Grand Dames slug it out and neither deserved to lose.
Warrington's pitch fell victim to the weather but fortuitously the promised snow didn't arrive and Hall Road was the late venue for this tussle between the two most successful Lancashire clubs of this age group. There is mutual respect between coaches, players and supporters, all appreciative of what has been built over ten years and many of the boys have played for their respective clubs for the duration of this time. However, time and tide stands still for no man and with other clubs building nicely and providing different challenges a win in this fixture was a must.
Warrington were straight out of the blocks with pressure down the left, fantastic tackling by 'Loo went unrewarded when a clearing kick was charged down and dropped onto by Wire but was unconverted. 'Loo were straight back into it with their own left field pressure, a clever chip by Jakob and the returning Louis was onto it to score. Warrington came at 'Loo again and it took a second great knock on forcing tackle from Ewan to secure the ball however shortly later Warrington were ahead again with a break down the right, followed by a converted penalty for holding on. Wire were beginning to dominate, kicks from hand were precise and into open ground and a chip over the left was rewarded with another score, 20-5 to the visitors with a mountain for Waterloo to climb in the second half.
Into the second half and it was 'Loo on the attack, a wonderful line out move resulting in a forward drive and Josh Johnson going over from close range. Next up a little of what we expect from 'Loo with a break down the right and Joe Stuart putting the hammer down before kicking on, the ball bouncing off the post and deceiving attackers and defenders alike who all gestured 'After you Claude', allowing Benedict to drop onto the loose ball...game on!
For me the next few minutes provided the highlights of the match, firstly Coach Gordon assisted the ref by spotting an 'in touch' right on the Warrington try line which was unseen by many others and shortly later Coach Brookman reversed the referees decision re a knock-on. Both coaches are fully committed and desperate for the results of their development work to be turned into performances and therefore results but rugby is above that and they were most interested in seeing the right thing done...well done gents.
Cool heads were required as we entered the last ten minutes with 'Loo still trailing 20-19, the forwards however took charge and ground out a try by doing the hard wok, pick and go, pick and go until who else but Joe Mc dived over. Excellently converted under great pressure by Jakob to take 'Loo into the closing stages with a six point lead.
Would Warrington accept this and move on to the next game? No chance! They are a properly tight unit, well coached, organised and with some flair too and a break down the right led to a knock on an a scrum, followed by determined defensive work by 'Loo which unfortunately produced only a penalty scrum under the posts at the last play. A well worked move down right produced what felt like the inevitable score but was it too close to the corner for a successful conversion and the win? Sadly for Warrington yes it was and there was little celebration from the Waterloo supporters as they could feel for the Warrington kicker and the efforts of his team who pushed 'Loo all the way and demonstrated fantastic teamwork and maturity, kicking for territory, applying pressure on the back line and refusing to be turned over when in possession...good luck to them for their remaining games.
But despite eulogising over the Warrington performance credit has to be given to this Waterloo team for refusing to lie down when three scores down, despite a somewhat disjointed performance. They dug in and ground out the result against the odds, particularly impressive considering many had played a tough school game on a very heavy pitch 24 hours earlier when most games across the region had been cancelled. Still all to play for, the phoney war is definitely over and all the top teams march into the New Year, with further attritional games to come.
Lastly, an apology from myself. Its easy (well not for myself as I have to check with numerous spectators) to mention try scorers and half backs and of course there is little point in writing reports unless your own lad gets a mention in 75% of games but as I reflect on this and other games I should remember the glue that holds teams together. Hookers Murphy and Almond dig in and give 100% every week whilst also creating very cheeky moves, less than glamorous prop forwards provide a platform by working like Trojans, back rowers bash away time and time again and the support from the side lines from substitutes and squad members must provide encouragement to those selected...nobody is bigger than any team and this is ably demonstrated by this squad, chapeau to you all.
Full Time: Warrington 25 - Waterloo 26.