Ping pong pinball

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A weekend of cracking rugby in which the conditions had a significant role to play. On Saturday I ventured to deepest, darkest Lancashire to take charge of Rochdale v Carlisle in North West One.

The Rochdale clubs set up is first class, with a state-of-the-art club house and changing facilities and a maximum size pitch – big enough for 30 a-side! Situated on the top of a hill, the club commands views across the stunning Lancashire countryside…or at least it does when the rain isnt pelting down like a tropical monsoon, with thick low lying cloud, dark and brooding and promising plentiful rain.

The game was played at a good pace, with both teams combating the elements as much as each other. The ruck and tackle was evenly contested and the scrums, of which there were plentiful, were brilliantly competed with no issues at all. Event the scrum-halves put the ball in with spirit level straightness! A well worked try from a driving maul gave the home side an early 5-0 lead, with the conversion inexplicably missed, in what was about to become the routine for the whole weekend.

Carlisle gritted teeth and used the wind and rain at their backs as an attritional 16th man, and brought themselves back into the game with two well struck kicks from rare penalties. The match was on a knife edge: 5-6 at half time and the score remained the same as the last 10 minutes began to count down on the clock.

An audacious and somewhat speculative grubber kick through the defence saw the Rochdale winger sear through two defenders and timed his dive to collect the bouncing ball as it reached the try line to break Carlisle hearts. The conversion ricochaid of the right hand post and onto the crossbar before flopping over for the two points.

Carlisle gathered themselves to score a good try of their own from a line out, but again the conversion attempt smashed into the sticks, this time flying back into play. From the restart Rochdale gathered and moved the ball wide and with pace, finally playing some rugby and scoring by the posts. The conversion hit the crossbar and bounced back at the kicker. Two more tries were run in during the last two minutes, both conversions missed – both in front of the posts!

And so to Sunday. Caldy U19 v Manchester U19 played under blue skies and mid-20s temperatures. A much faster tempo to the game with both teams eager to run from everywhere (including two tries that started under their own posts). Manchester were by far the fitter, bigger and quicker team and scored six top drawer tries, all from distance and all after going through several phases and numerous hands.

However, they had clearly not practiced any kicking, as all six conversions, all in front of the posts, were missed. And not marginally missed. One attempt hit the corner flag!

The highlight comedy moment was the Manchester wing who, with more hubris than humour, celebrated his “try” 20 meters from the line and then gave a huge Chris Ashton style dive – only to drop the ball over the line!

So from a weekend were even those with broken legs can kick, to a week were everyone had two left feet… Off to Gloucester for next weekend so god only knows what that will hold!

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