More Lessons To Learn
By Phil Walton
report by James Collins
Another weekend, another semi final, and although the team we ended up heading over to Consett with was much changed from the one we selected on Tuesday (following cry offs right up to the meet time on Saturday), we managed to take a squad of 19 with a very strong look to it. Karl Nelson came in to the team to start at Hooker, Hardy came in to captain the side from the back row, while Jonny Manning started on the wing and Luis Rewcastle with the evergreen Ros Huntley continuing his comeback by moving up on the bench from the 3s.
All these lads could count themselves unlucky to have not been in the team/squad selected, having performed really well when called upon in previous games. There were no worries from me when I was putting the team together on Saturday morning.
Consett have been flying in their side of the candy league system. Top of the league, 14 played, 14 won, averaging over 40 points scored per game. We played and beat them in November, but from all accounts it was an odd week for everyone with several players missing from both sides.
As the teams lined up before KO, it was obvious that they were by far the bigger side. “Never mind, we’ll tire them out” I thought. They were big last time and we outplayed them! It quickly became obvious that the side we were facing were an entirely different prospect to the one we played last year.
Yes, they were big, but they were quick and very well drilled too. As the game wore on, it turned out that they were pretty fit as well. Did they have a weakness? Well I wasn’t a big fan of the pink splashes in their kit design, but apart from that they were a pretty decent outfit.
What followed of the 1st half was a bit of a blur. We defended bravely, but a bit naively at times. They had several big runners throughout their pack and back line, and we kept trying to tackle them high and getting bounced off. When we tackled low, we were much better, and although Consett were looking for offloads, we had defenders in place ready to make the next tackles. We didn’t change how we were defending quickly enough and we spent the next 40 minutes trying in vain to get some ball to our back line, while Consett hogged the ball. The pressure told, and they scored several tries.
The backs hadn’t had much to do other than tackle when half time rolled around, and the forwards had been in a real battle. We were struggling to win our own line outs, we were being pushed backwards in the scrum, and we had lost Hardy, and his replacement Ross Huntley meaning after thinking I’d finally retired about 4 times over the last few seasons, I was rolled on to the pitch just before the break.
To be fair, the second half was much better. Consett were still very dangerous when we had the ball but, although not perfect, or defense was much better and we managed to cause them some problems ourselves.
Although injuries continued to mount up with Paul Lindsey and Ross Radford having to leave the field, we scored good tries through Finley Reah, Harry Leyland and a great finish from Luis Rewcastle, with a conversion each from Harry and Stephen Waddle meaning the final score was 68-19. Tough Day!
I remember coming to Consett as needing a win to confirm the league title for the second team a few years ago and winning by a similar margin. I don’t make that point to brag (although we were really great, and we did win the league), but just to demonstrate how these things go. This Consett team have worked hard to get where they are over the last 3-4 years, while we’re on the start of a journey with this team, the lads are definitely on an upward trajectory versus last year, and with hard work and commitment to each other, to the team and to training, we could be winning leagues in a couple of years.
A couple of quick mentions for the MOMs named on Saturday. Finley Reah had one of the better games I’ve seen from him in the last few months, He got stuck in to an unfamiliar role in the second row, took his try well and seemed much more like the old self that we saw last season, it’s great to see his confidence coming back!
Corey Blacklock got the MOM nod for the back and looked like our most dangerous player throughout the game, with a couple of really good breaks that took the pressure off us when we needed it most.
I also wanted to mention Karl Nelson, who I thought had a great game. We struggled in the line out, but conditions were very hard and the Consett Jumpers were very intelligent and athletic players, but Karl never stopped working, made a couple of huge tackles in the second half, and was generally a brilliant addition to the team.
Luis Rewcastle took his try very well too, and looked sharp when he came on to the pitch. It says a lot about the structure and future of the club at second and third team level that every time I’ve asked someone to come up from the 3rd team, they’ve never looked out of place and have always added something positive to our efforts.
Lastly, It’s great to see another old boy back in Stephen Waddle. His confidence and communication make a huge difference throughout the whole team.
Consett deserve to be in the final, and I really hope they go on to lift the trophy. It was clear they are a team who knew each other, trained together, and had ability throughout. We have the ability, and we can earn the rest if we learn from experiences like Saturday and use them to improve ourselves in training and in games.
Back to the league next weekend, let’s learn from this, put it behind us, and move on! Still a lot for us to achieve this year!