Lancashire u12's Waterfall Festival
By graham good
A blisteringly hot day, firm pitches and some spectacular rugby - a credit to all 12 teams
For the 1st time in history Bolton hosted a Lancashire Waterfall Finals day. The 12 top teams in the county (yes, it's the old -pre-1974 county) turned up for a full day of rugby on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. Heaton Moor, Sedgley Park, Vale of Lune, Trafford MV, Sefton, Manchester, Rochdale, Waterloo, Liverpool Collegiate and Wigan joined the hosts, so around 250 players and innumerable parents swarmed around Avenue Street.
Another 1st was the decision to mark out proper u12 size pitches, no wiggly lines of cones, only possible because the senior season finished last week, although a small detail every single coach and all the referees were full of praise as it massively reduces uncertainty.
The morning saw 4 groups of 3, all play all. Bolton were surprised to fine they were playing Sedgley, who they had already played in the pool matches. One of the top outfits in the county Sedgley flew out of the blocks and were 0-3 up at half time, the 2nd half was completely different, an early score from Jack Lightbown was matched and then bettered by Sedgley but in the final minute a storming run by Louie Ramm saw a final score of 2-5. Wigan then played Sedgley and confounded the bookies by drawing 4-4 but with the all important last try.
The Bolton - Wigan local derby was a 'must win' for each team. Wigan have some big lads but so do Bolton and for the spectators (including everyone from Sedgley) this was an amazing game - 11 and 12 year olds tackling with the ferocity of the 'All Blacks' with no quarter given. Towards the end of the 1st half Wigan eventually broke thru' to score but Bolton went straight up the other end where Henry Ainscough weaved his way through. HT 1-1. The second half was tougher than the 1st, Bolton camped on the Wigan line, superb defending from Wigan but no mistakes from Bolton so the ball was recycled time and time again. Finally scrum half Jack Good saw Jack L running a diagonal line, the pass was popped and Jack L scored. Wigan then camped on the Bolton line for the rest of the game, a score for them would effectively win it but Bolton held firm. FT 2-1.
The qtr final saw Bolton take on Littleboro', another class outfit who once beat us 16-1. With their tails well and truly up Bolton kept their opponents pinned in their own half, surely something would give, it did and Louie finished a brilliant team try. Things got better, whilst Littleboro' were working out what went wrong we scored again, this time Henry Ainscough getting the final touch. HT 2-0. Littleboro' threw everything at Bolton in the second half, after absorbing massive pressure a mis-timed pass straight to an opponent saw the margin narrow. In a nerve racking final minute saw a Bolton kick charged down and Littleboro' get downward pressure but had the ball gone out? Without the benefit of a TMO no one knows and the referee gave the try. FT 2-2 but Littleboro' scored last so we deemed to be winners.
The next match was against Sefton. With Bolton resting some players, the early exchanges saw each team score with Jack L again crossing the line for Bolton. Sefton then got a further try as time was called. Unfortunately the referee didn't blow and from the kick off Bolton knocked on and whilst playing the 'advantage' Sefton ran into touch. A very confused crowd then saw the ref, go back for the scrum and Sefton nipped in in the 10th minute of a 7 minute half! HT 1-3.
A rather miffed Bolton put in a sterling performance in the 2nd half, Callum Purnell going over at the end of a superb passage of play. Bolton then pounded the Sefton line but brilliant defending and perhaps a bit of 'white-line fever' from Bolton saw the visitors hold out - despite Bolton crossing the line 3 times and being held up. FT 2-3.
The final game saw Bolton play Liverpool Collegiate, whilst never having played them Bolton were aware of their formidable reputation. Unfortunately for them, no one told Evan Dare who in a brilliant 1st half performance scored 2 tries, perhaps their defense were targeting the 'big guns' but Evan ran superb lines and showed amazing strength to drag multiple defenders with him as he touched down. Just before half time a breakaway saw the deficit reduced. HT 2-1.
The match now pretty well became 'next try wins'. Up stepped Louie, for reasons best known only to him he was now on the wing but it worked, the ball was spun across the back line to him, the Liverpool defenders possibly saw the look in his eyes as four of them tried to stop him - they didn't. By this stage both teams were suffering from injured players and the heat and Bolton finished with an 'interesting' selection of players on the pitch - including playing for a time with only 11 because the coaches can't count! It became pretty clear that the teams had played each other to a standstill and with no more scores everyone was delighted to hear the final whistle, FT 3-1.
Overall it was a brilliant day, Bolton did far better than expected and everyone heaped praise on the organisation, You may think there was a winner but because of the vagaries of the RFU regulations there isn't but those who were there probably spotted that Vale of Lune narrowly beat Sedgley Park in what seemed to be a quite important match!