NLD U13 Plate Final
By Gareth Beese
As many of Lincoln's rugby teams relaxed into the Mayday weekend celebrating their season ends with presentations and festivals, the Under-13s team travelled to Newark for their date with destiny in the NLD Plate final.
Playing Newark's team on their home turf as the opening game of finals day presented a great opportunity and a big challenge. The largest playing squad fielded by Lincoln Under-13s this season arrived on time and focused for the game ahead.
After a nervous start from the Lincoln team, Morgan Jones opened the scoring against the run of play, snatching the ball from the grasp of Newark's full-back and cantering in unopposed.
Both sides settled into a close combative game, played at a fast pace, with very little kicking. Newark showed their attacking capabilities early, with their pacey winger getting outside the Lincoln defence to level the score.
After Lincoln lost the ball 10 metres inside their own half, Newark counter attacked wide left, maintaining possession from a number of rucks despite strong defensive work from James Thomas, before again moving the ball wide to the right, and the Newark winger stepped inside three covering Lincoln defenders to score a great team try to take the lead.
Lincoln continued to turn over possession in the ruck to a streetwise Newark team, mainly due to poor ball presentation and upright body positioning.
Newark's confidence grew and their three-quarter line attacked, passing the ball down the line well, with the dangerous right winger again cutting back infield and crashing through numerous loose Lincoln tackles to score under the posts, extending the Newark lead to 15-5.
Lincoln's usually solid scrum was under pressure from Newark, with ball lost against the head, starving Lincoln of possession. Despite some brave resistance in defence from Lincoln, with strong low tackles from James Tomlinson and Kieron Fields, things were starting to look tough for the visitors and Newark's tails were up.
Desperate to make an impact on the game from full-back, Morgan Jones received a free pass on the right, but running too laterally, was pushed into touch, with frustration clear to see for all.
Newark continued to attack at will, gaining good ground thanks to direct running, good support play and good commitment to the rucks. A tremendous change down the middle looked to have created a further try, but desperate defence from Tom Arend and Morgan Jones kept them out. However, Newark retained possession and punched around the fringes looking for another score.
Lincoln's defence dug deep and a tremendous rip and charge from Tom Arend thwarted the attack and brought loud cheers from the Lincoln crowd and inspired the team.
From the resulting possession, Morgan Jones launched a speculative up and under, which he gathered superbly just inside Lincoln's 10 metre line, before scorching in from 60 metres out reducing the deficit to 15-10 as the referee blew the half-time whistle - a very timely score.
Thanks to the fantastic turnout of recent weeks, Lincoln were able to call upon their bench for fresh legs and the second half opened brightly for the new combinations.
Newark continued to back themselves to run out of their own half, attacking bravely, but improved defensive line speed from Lincoln reduced their territory gains. Winning the ball back, Lincoln charged left, with a powerful carry from James Thomas, resulting in a free kick award to Lincoln.
Taking the ball at first receiver, Oscar Wood ran laterally, before passing right to Patrick Jorden, who fed Euan Lowe who crashed over from five metres out to level the score at 15 apiece.
After Oscar Wood had made good ground into the left of the Newark 22, Lincoln's skipper took matters into his own hands, with a powerful carry, dragging two Newark defenders with him to score on the right for Lincoln to move back into the lead at 20-15.
Newark's attack managed to get around the outside of the Lincoln cover and their left winger made a surging run, before being stopped by desperate Lincoln scramble defence.
Oscar Wood enjoyed another few powerful carries, and Tom Fletcher also gained good ground, and Lincoln started to assert themselves more in the rucks, aided by an energetic defensive press.
From a free kick, Dylan Adnitt carried strongly and from the resulting fast ruck ball the Lincoln three quarters moved the ball wide to Josh Driver who made good yardage into the Newark half.
Lincoln built pressure and territory and an alert Paddy Kelleher was disallowed a poacher's try when he pounced on a loose ball as Newark failed to clear a Morgan Beese chip kick.
Newark's electric winger once again broke out on the right flank, scorching into Lincoln's 22, with Morgan Jones reliable as Lincoln's last line of defence. Despite winning the loose ball, a Lincoln mistake resulted in a dangerous attacking scrum to Newark.
Scramble defence from Paddy Kelleher and Morgan Jones resulted in another defensive turnover, which the all-action Oscar Wood cleared downfield.
An enterprising Newark attack from their own half gained ground to the half-way line, before a loose pass was picked up by James Thomas. Playing with advantage, the skipper's lateral run eventually found space out left, supported by Paddy Kelleher. Strong carries by Dylan Adnitt and Tom Fletcher gained ground into the 22, before nice passing across the Lincoln back line saw Josh Driver charge deep in the Newark 22 before being dispossessed.
Bravely, Newark continued to run from deep, but Lincoln's teamwork and effort from all in defence kept them penned back, and when the ball was spilled, James Thomas pounced, regathering his own chip kick before powering over the line to open up a two score advantage at 25-15.
To their credit, Newark refused to give up and their enterprising backs again created a fourth try for their speedy winger to reduce the deficit to25-20.
With six minutes remaining, and Lincoln only one score ahead, Newark kept Lincoln penned in their own half. A booming clearance kick from Lincoln was well fielded by the Newark full-back, but the ball was spilled 10 metres inside Lincoln's half.
Euan Lowe scooped up the loose ball, and bursting through two tackles, sped in 60 metres for a lung-busting decisive score. Lincoln held out the last few minutes for a hard fought, but well-deserved victory.
As the parents heaved a collective sigh of relief, the players grinned from ear to ear celebrating a trophy in their first competitive rugby tournament.
All 21 players on the pitch today, plus those not selected or not available for the final have played their part in this fantastic achievement that all of them can be justly proud of.
It was great to see them all together in the club-house enjoying each others company and becoming the "band of brothers" that rugby teams are.
We’re all looking forward to seeing the boys create more rugby memories like today in the Under-14s next season.