Match abandoned at half time - Even the stray dog was shivering.
Oldham St Annes 18 v 6 Wigan St Cuthberts
The summer season started at Oldham St Annes. An early morning phone call from the St Annes coach warned that conditions weren't great but the pitch was fine. Both coaches decided we should travel resulting in the game kicking off int the middle of intermittent sleet showers.
The game (or what was played of it) was hard, tough and played in an excellent spirit. Tackles were ferocious from both sides, play the balls were quick and clean and skill levels were very good - There wasn't much between the teams in the first ten minutes or so and only some excellent defending from St Annes kept Cuthberts off the scoresheet. As the first half went on Oldham hit back and two quick fire tries saw them establish a 12-0 lead. Heads were threatening to drop on the Cuths side, but a superb break from Callum Newton established the field position for Scrum half Adam Bennett to spot a gap in the St Annes defence which he took to cross under the posts. 12-6 and game on.
Unfortunately, by now both teams had players who were starting to feel the effects of the wintery conditions. With players dropping like flies and the teams down to nine a side, St Annes scored on the stroke of half time at which point the coaches took the decision to abandon the game. We meet St Annes again twice more this season and hopefully the games will be as good as what we saw today, certainly we can expect better conditions.
From a coaching point of view, very mixed feelings about todays game. The improvement in skills, game awareness and ruck speed is obvious to see, but I'm going to be blunt here and it might upset one or two people. If this team is to make progress some players need to get mentally stronger. We find ourselves in a very challenging group this season in which there will be no 50 point walkovers and we wouldn't want it. We have a hardcore of five or six players who give 100% week in week out no matter how hard the game is, but some of the other players really only want to play against weaker sides and don't want to know when they meet teams who can match them physically or when conditions don't suit them.
After twenty minutes of rugby the two players with the dirtiest shirts were amongst the smallest on the pitch whilst some players came off with clean shirts and even cleaner hands. It was undoubtedly cold today and kids welfare always comes first, but they are getting older now and need to help themselves. A basic enthusiasm for the game should be enough to get them moving and staying warm, as well as making sure they are adequately dressed beforehand.
Our squad is building nicely now and numbers will probably improve even more when the weather improves and the football season finishes. There's a place for everyone in our team and our coaching philosophy is all about improving skills and game awareness in a fun and safe environment. However, there comes a point in which players not pulling their weight, not trying, or looking for easy games might have to think about whether this is the sport for them. Just to re-iterate - There are no easy games in this group and we wouldn't want there to be. Any child looking for an easy time of it on the pitch needs to choose another sport. We will be hammering this message home in training this week so hopefully the players will take it on.
Thanks to all at Oldham St Annes for their hospitality today and we look forward to meeting you again in a couple of months. Hopefully you don't bring along the stray mutt who decided he wanted to be part of the game midway through the first half. Even Jamie's dad wouldn't go near it!