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Vale of Lune U15s 13 Penrith U15s 15

After spending Saturday packing bags at ASDA to raise money for their forthcoming tour of the Scottish Borders, the Vale of Lune Under 15s took to the main pitch at Powder House Lane.

Their opponents had come from Penrith, Cumbria, with a pack of adult-sized forwards, but the Vale's plucky adolescents were not easily intimidated.

Early exchanges showed some rusty ball handling from both teams. Once the fingertips had warmed up, passages of play took more shape and the youngsters showed what they were really capable of. Vale stand-off, Oran McMeeking called the tune, continually probing possibilities with his cross-field kicking into space for his wingers to chase. Although the lineouts were not contested in the air, the scrums, rucks and mauls were fully combatant, inkeeping with the RFU guidelines on the safety of young players.

The disciplined possession of the Vale forwards forced Penrith into making errors, and produced the first chance at points. McMeeking stepped up and kicked the penalty for an early lead. Penrith soon hit back quickly with a hard-earned, yet unconverted, try in the left corner.

Vale centre Joe Livesey found himself in possession near the centre spot. He also found a gap in the Penrith line and he sprinted through it., fending off several attempts at tackles, Livesey crossed the line to score in the right corner and reclaim the lead. Within five minutes, Penrith were at it again. This time, it was the right flank which saw all of their efforts. The Vale struggled to keep them at bay and the second Penrith try followed, this time near the right corner flag. Half time arrived with the score at eight points to ten in favour of the visitors.

The second half brought personnel changes to the Vale. All of the players on the bench came on and some changed positions to maximise their versatility. The adaptable captain Fred Manning moved from front row to back row seamlessly. Although the Vale fought hard for possession in the rucks and mauls, there was some evident frustration at the time taken to get the ball into the hands of scrum half Josh Jordan. Once he had the ball, his distribution was excellent. The backs were unleashed to good effect, forcing Penrith to work hard to contain the threat.

Penrith retook the initiative and the Vale found themselves repeatedly chasing back to nullify the onslaught. Penrith's third try came from an impressive spell of midfield passing to the left corner. As their earlier efforts had been, they were too far from the posts to register a conversion. The Vale kept their composure and retained the ball more effectively than they had in the first half. Interplay in the 'hard yards' between Manning and Jordan gave McMeeking the room he needed to put the ball firmly into the Penrith danger zone. Errors followed and an impressive penalty/lineout/driving maul move took the Vale over for a second try. Prop Oscar Tresham put 'ball to grass' for one of those magical front-row moments.

The final seconds were energetic and positive. With only two points in it, and the spoils up for grabs for either side, each team battled admirably. At the referee's final whistle, there was some relief from the Cumbrians. Although they had earned the win, it was by no means a trouncing. They had been taken to the wire by the Vale team. Vale's U.15s coach Gareth Manning said of his side 'It was a good team performance. We need to work on our tackling, but there is a lot to be proud of.' 

Team: Oscar Tresham, Martin Czarnecki, Fred Manning (c), Colm Stewart, Tom Stafford, Will Collins, Miles Makinson, Finn Blakeley, Josh Jordan, Oran McMeeking, Ibrahim Sarikara, Joe Livesey, Alex Lamont, Liam Stirzaker, Theo Helme.    Reps:  Tom Beveridge, Noah Wassel, Joe Backhouse, Sam Ennis.

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