(Some great/dodgy photoshop skills due to not taking a team photo!)
Round 4 of the Northwest Touch series began on a blustery Sunday lunchtime in South West Manchester with teams turning out to test themselves on the gladiatorial plains of the Burnage 3G pitches.
Not a day for expansive touch play, nonetheless conditions required an emphasis on core catch and pass skills, and great defensive communication.
In the first match of a windswept and hail strewn day Chargers met a young Orrell team. With the harsh northern wind, Chargers began with some ‘up the jumper’ style touch play. Some well executed drive play created space behind the ruck which was excellently exploited by the speed of James and Rob, and the intuitive creativity of ‘king of touch’ Gregg. Notable mention for ‘pass of the ages’ from an inspired Pam, with the quintessential no look over the shoulder pass on the line to send James in for a stellar score, the touch gods were certainly smiling for that one! Chargers ended up running out convincing 8-1 winners. This fluency of drive play, and top defensive effort became a theme of the day.
The next game saw Chargers face an experienced and well drilled Cheetahs side. This match proved more competitive than the first, with Cheetahs ending a hard fought match with a win - 4-3. Despite the loss, the Chargers side showed real character and teamwork, with more standout performances from the ladies, showing some great reading of the game and communication.
With a record of 1-1 Chargers faced a scratch team from the University of Manchester. Many of the UoM team had never played touch before, and at the start of the day were baffled by their requirement to retreat for each play of the ball. Their inclusion really shows the benefit of the North west development series, getting more people involved in touch, and giving them the opportunity to learn new skills (and rules!) in a competitive environment. The game ended 10-1, with some smooth set play action from the Chargers, who resisted the tendency to play loose in the face of an inexperienced opponents. Touchdowns for the ladies, with a hat trick from Pam, a double from Ellie, and another touchdown from miss consistency Beth. A generous interception thrown by Harry gave the UoM team their score, as a way of welcoming them to the Manchester touch scene, and was brilliantly finished off - one more assist for him!
Game four was a war of the roses clash, with Lancastrian Chargers setting themselves against Yorkish invaders in the shape of the Yorkshire Thorns. The match ebbed and flowed in a classic encounter between the two sides. Coast to coast play saw the teams trading strike moves and touchdowns, with a breathless match ending with a 4-2 victory for the Chargers. Some great defensive performances in this match, with Dan performing his best LeBron James impersonation as he slapped the ball down in the Chargers touchdown area to stop a touchdown that would have levelled the match at 3-3 - top work. Two more touchdowns in this match from James ‘scorched earth’ Simons, with Pam and Ellie finishing off yet another great team performance - up the Red Roses!
For the final round robin match of the day Chargers faced off against Blaze, a team that had beaten them in the previous round of the comp. As expected, the two finely balanced sides traded scores and impressive defensive sets, as a winner looked increasingly difficult to predict. The wind was yet again a factor as the two sides kept the play quite simple, and both showing some flashy footwork and interplay to outwit each other defenses and cross for some hard earned scores. After a high paced game, the final score ended in stalemate with five scores each. In a way it was a shame that this wasn’t a finals match, as a drop off between these two well matched teams would have been as enjoyable to play in as it would have been to watch. On to the finals!
Having a record of three wins, one draw, and one loss, Chargers moved into the third and fourth place final, and faced off for War of the roses - the sequel - against Yorkshire Thorns. The match was yet again a finely contested one, with some standout play from Sammy with her trademark communication and great defensive reads. At the end of the half, Thorns were narrowly up, and a rallying call went up from within the Chargers huddle - ‘it’s the last game of the day, let’s leave nothing out there’. For me, this is what sport is all about, facing up to challenges with your mates, and putting your best effort on the pitch. The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, with an emphasis on defensive play as both teams tired after their exertions throughout the day began to tell. Chargers responded with great communication and some neat and tidy ruck play, but ultimately came out on the wrong side of the result, with Yorkshire edging the match 3-2. One all in the war of the roses on the day.
And that was that, a great early March day of touch, that saw wind, rain, snow, hail and sun - and no forced substitutions! Bring on the next round…
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