LRGS 20-7 Merchant Taylors
In somewhat difficult playing conditions LRGS 1st XV progressed to the final of the Lancashire Cup for the 1st time in a number of seasons. This win was built on excellent discipline and defence from all members of the squad. The team put in a magnificent performance against a much bigger Merchant Taylors side. The weather conditions played a leading role in the styles adopted by both teams. Many spectators might have though Merchants larger forward pack would have been well suited to the blizzard like conditions. The opening moments of the game started with Merchants forward pack dominating proceedings and scoring a try after a number of pick and goes near the Lancaster line. This in fact proved to be the only time Lancaster defence was to be breached.
As the half wore on Lancaster began to hit their stride and scored a well worked try with some excellent footwork and handling from Sam Stott who put Matthew Bargh in space to score in the corner. Unfortunately the conversion was missed and the score remained finely poised at 5-7 to Merchants. The remaining 15 minutes of the half became a midfield battle with the playing surface beginning to resemble a mud bath more than a rugby pitch. Neither side were able to capitalise on their possession and the score remained 5-7 as the teams entered the half time team talk.
The 2nd half started with LRGS clearly wanting to play all the rugby in the Merchants half of the pitch. Some excellent kicking from Harry Bashall at stand off kept Merchants pinned in their 22. Bashall mixed his kicking game well and a number of delicate chips almost paid dividends with only last ditch tackles stopping LRGS from scoring. LRGS’s tactics proved to be the correct decision as Merchants had little choice but run the ball back at what was turning out to be a blue wall of defence. The LRGS forward pack were magnificent in tackling and competing at every breakdown.
Many of the boys put in their best performance of the season so far. A special mention must go to Zac Barrow who stepped up to the unfamiliar position in the 2nd row from his usual berth in the back row. Zac put in a monumental effort and worked himself to exhaustion. The good work of the pack was rewarded with a penalty right in front of Merchants sticks. Bashall converted the straightforward kick to give LRGS the lead for the 1st time in the match. This slender 8-7 lead proved to be the turning point in the game. From the restart the ball was gathered and sent deep into the Merchants half. Defence pressure was rewarded with a turnover and LRGS were back on the attack. James Wroe went on to beat 2 defeats and slide in for a try in the corner. LRGS now led 13-7 with 20 minutes to go.
This was a nervous time for coaches and spectators alike, but they need not have worried. The forward pack began a series of pick and goes and some excellent ball carrying from the backs got LRGS to a few meters from the Merchants line. After a number of phases skipper Jack Vaughan Jones managed to burrow his was over right under the sticks. The conversion was added by Bashall to take the score to 20-7. This was the final scoring action of the game but a further 7 minutes of defence was needed to win the game. The ball was kicked into touch and the final whistle sounded. The effort from every player was visible as several dropped to their knees exhausted.
The 1st XV coaching team of Andrew Wilkinson, Robert Squire and Evan Stewart were absolutely delighted with the win. Andrew Wilkinson – 1st XV Head Coach stated “This was an important win for us in what has proved to be a difficult season for this 1st XV. The boys really stepped up to the plate and were magnificent from minute one. We knew we were always going to be up against in with the weather conditions and their big set of forwards but showed great spirit to come out on the right side of the result. It was great to see all the players’ reaction after the final whistle. I am very proud to be involved with such a dedicated bunch of lads.”
Director of rugby Evan Stewart went on to say “The game today was the last chance for a number of our Upper 6th boys to play at home and we wanted them to make sure they did themselves justice. Many of them have put in 7 years hard work and to be going to a Lancashire cup Final is a fitting way to say goodbye to Memorial Fields and Pitch 1. This game should give the boys confidence that they can compete with anyone and credit must go to Merchants for playing their part in an excellent advertisement for school boys rugby. I thought the effort from both teams was huge and it was probably the best performance I have seen from an LRGS team in the last few years. We will now move our focus to the final in early March and hope for a repeat performance.”
Lancaster must wait to find out their opponents in the final with the other semi being contested by Stonyhurst and St Edwards in the coming weeks. The School now has its U13’s and U18’s through to the final of the Lancashire Cup and with the U15’s and U16’s in action in the coming weeks are hopeful of more success. The regular fifteen aside season finishes with the U12 and U13 squads attending the King’s Macclesfield junior tournament, and all other teams play Manchester Grammar on Saturday 7th February. The focus will then turn to the busy sevens and tens season.