A mixed season for Pocklington Under-8s culminated in them participating in the club’s minis tour to Blackpool over the weekend of 21 and 22 April.
Despite the very wet journey from Blackpool to Preston Grasshoppers on the Sunday, the festival was blessed with unexpected and uninterrupted blue sky and sunshine. With the withdrawal of one team from the group, the under-8s were left with three group matches, and a possible semi-final and final.
After a couple of hours wait, and a slow start, the boys’ opening match against Warrington reflected much of their season – strength in attack with tries from Johnny Raper, John Burley and Patrick Jessop, but inconsistency in defence conceding five tries.
A tighter second match against Waterloo, due to determined tagging by both sides, resulted in a 3–3 draw, with two tries from Johnny Raper and a third from Freddie Griggs.
Now, in what was to be the team’s final match, against hosts the Preston Grasshoppers, tiredness started to be a factor. The Pock boys were soon trailing to several quick scores by the Hoppers but rallied with two tries from Patrick Jessop, including the team’s try of the day which started with the recovery of a dropped ball almost on their own try line, its movement through several pairs of hands, elusive running and the score in the corner. Despite Pocklington finishing the stronger side, Preston came out on top 5–2.
While the boys were disappointed with the results, there was jubilation in the knowledge that this was their last tag rugby match, as next season, as under-9s, they start contact rugby.
Pocklington Under-8s thoroughly enjoyed their first experience of touring. This was largely due to the organisational time and results of minis deputy chairman Tim Ward, to whom the players (Arthur Whelan, Freddie Griggs, Henry Woodruff, Joe Cheney, John Burley, Johnny Raper, Patrick Jessop, Olly Grainger and Jude Symons), parents and coaches (Stuart Jessop and Wayne Grainger) of the under-8s would like to pass on their great thanks.
Last weekend saw the under-9s also cross the Pennines for the Blackpool Tour. Unfortunately by Sunday morning the squad of nine was reduced to eight due to Joseph Ward becoming ill and having to miss the festival.
Their first opposition was a tough Kirby Lonsdale who fielded a strong team. Despite some determined defending from Ollie Mercer, excellent tackles from Harry Jones and Maxwell Willmott, and the boys trying to keep the ball moving along the line, the game ended with a 2-0 defeat for Pock.
Match two proved to be another hard game against Warrington and, again, determined defence was needed. Thomas Brown and Maxwell Willmott worked hard in the scrum and Ben Maycock and Harry Jones put in some great runs but unfortunately were tackled down before reaching the try line on several occasions. Warrington proved to be a well-drilled squad with excellent set play that was too much for Pocklington to overcome. Again, the match ended in a 2–0 defeat for Pocklington.
The third squad they faced was Waterloo, and the first half was closely–fought with both teams aiming for the try line on several occasions, only to be forced out of play. Louis Eccles and his nimble footwork came close to scoring and frustration began to mount with some dangerous tackling from both teams. The second half proved to be the turning point for the Pock boys, with Alex Hindle defending hard and Ben Maycock flying down the wing to finally put Pock on the scoreboard. Heads went up for Pock after the try and an excellent piece of play followed, when Louis Eccles retrieved the ball from the ruck, passed it quickly out to Alistair Deacon who saw a gap in the Waterloo defence, and headed through to put another try on the Pock scoreline. The match ended 2–0 to Pock.
Their final match of the day, versus the hosts Preston Grasshoppers, was another well–played game.
The boys put in great effort and worked hard; producing some excellent rolling mauls, led by Ollie Mercer and Alistair Deacon. However, at half time, they were two tries down and yet to score. Pock was determined not to be beaten and Maxwell Willmott, showing strength and speed, put Pock on the scoreboard. Alex Hindle put in a fantastic tackle to prevent the Grasshoppers creeping further ahead and, close to the end of the match, Harry Jones found his speed and raced down the pitch, leaving the Grasshoppers’ defence behind to score a great try, levelling the score, and the final whistle blew at 2-2.
The boys finished third in their group so did not proceed to the knock–out stages but, with a small squad, worked hard. All coaches and parents were very proud of the boys in the final performance of the season.