Saturday’s rugby matches were against Cheadle Hulme. These matches are always competitive but strangely none of the home teams were victorious at either venue.
At Cheadle Hulme, the 1stXV and 2ndXV continued on from their fine displays on Wednesday, when they both won against Bolton School, with two more victories.
Despite two late changes due to injury, the Arnold side responded extremely well to the demands faced by the opposition at Cheadle Hulme. A narrow pitch resulted in little space for the outside backs of either side to create many scoring opportunities, and the game was dominated by close contact situations, and the kicking of two very accomplished fly-halfs.
Although under pressure in the set scrum, the Arnold pack were able to provide a steady flow of possession, as Crowther kicked intelligently for good field position, and the centre partnership of Smith and Fairhead gave the team the necessary go forward. The back-row duo of Jacob Nickson and debutant Tom Hammond worked tirelessly at the breakdown to both slow down the opposition and enforce numerous turnovers, as Richard Whiteside controlled the fringes well, and utilised the ball carrying potential of James Haythornthwaite and james Aird. The clearing out and work at the breakdown by Joe Wide, Joe Shaw, Matthew Radley and Charles Laycock was much improved from last week, and certainly paid dividends.
Sam Crowther hit a good early penalty from the half-way line which also set the tone for the game, as the ex-England fly-half replied in similar fashion, but it was Arnold who lead 9-6 at the break following further kicks at goal.
In the second half, as Arnold played into the wind and rain, the wingers James Kidner and Alex Connolly worked well with full-back Andy Walkden who became more involved in the game. He showed great counter-attacking awareness, as well as making a series of superb last ditch tackles.
It was, however, Sam Crowther that maintained the pressure as Arnold extended the lead with three further penalties. The team showed great composure to control the pace of the game and despite a few lapses in the kicking chase, the defensive effort was excellent throughout, and was the basis of a well deserved victory.
After a very useful midweek game against Bolton the 2nd XV Spartans started this game with confidence. A number of breaks were made in the early stages. Nick Wright and Harry Kenworthy both exploited gaps but the last pass was not going to hand. Indeed, if the last pass did go to hand the increasingly inclement conditions and fierce tackling knocked the ball on. Quick ball was moved right and Tom Wrigley received a superb inside pass. With 15 metres to go the big second row set off to score a well deserved try. The Spartans were then able to absorb a bit if pressure to just hang on to their lead at half-time.
From the restart a good attacking scrum with an inviting blindside was won. Declan Humphreys fed Alex Fowler who perfectly put a wide running Olly Mills into space. The flying winger, for the second week in a row passed inside and found Ben Mortimer in full flight for a flawless score. Cheadle fought back and deserved to match the score with 2 well worked tries. Unfortunately, it was not a day to be a kicker as all conversions were missed. From the kick off the Spartans came roaring backhand the pack forced a turnover. Oliver Mills gathered and sprinted 30 metres only to be mobbed by his team mates for what looked like the winning score. With only minutes to go Cheadle camped on the Spartan line until Fowler forced a mistake and Sam Walton cleared for a great Spartan victory where the entire squad worked tirelessly.
At home, the U15s knew they had a tough match having lost by 35-0 last season but they continued their fine early season form to match Cheadle man for man. The match was still 0-0 after 20 minutes but Cheadle finally broke the deadlock as they were awarded a penalty try and they led 7-0 at the break. The rucks had been ferocious throughout the first half, with the Arnold backrow more than matching their larger opponents. Sadly, the second half did not start as well for Arnold as Cheadle created an early overlap in the Arnold 22 and it was 12-0 with 28 minutes still to play. Arnold then came to life. Tyne Davis released Matthew Garrod and he broke through the Cheadle defence to race into the 22. Two rucks later and Daniel Taziker barrelled over for a fine try and with Davis adding the extras, Arnold were now just 12-7 behind. Five minutes later and suddenly Arnold were ahead as a brilliant box kick from Davis caused trouble in the Cheadle back three. Elliott Fackey led the chase with Oliver Greenwood-Taziker and the ball was turned over right on the Cheadle try line and it was Andrew Perry who snatched the ball to dive over. Davis again added the extras and Arnold were amazingly 14-12 ahead and sensing a victory. The match now swung both ways for the next 10 minutes but Cheadle responded well as their impressive no.8 scored for a 17-14 advantage. Arnold then had their chances to score but poor decisions and excellent Cheadle defence thwarted their efforts and the score remained 17-14 going in to the last 2 minutes of play. Sadly for Arnold, Cheadle scored two converted tries in the last 90 seconds to finish 31-14 winners, in what was a very close an excellent game of rugby. Sunil Hutchinson and Tyne Davis were excellent throughout and the Arnold forwards should feel very proud of their efforts.
The U14 match was also close with Cheadle winning 26-17. Cheadle were out of the traps quickly and they were two tries ahead in just 5 minutes but Arnold responded well and after this it was an even match. Both teams traded scores but the initial opening scoring burst was the difference. Ellis Whorlton-Jones, Sam Royle and Tom Riley were the Arnold scorers and Bill Gavin, Roshan Mohindra and Rory Douglas had fine games in the forwards.
Cheadle won by 55-5 in the U13 match with Josh Radley the Arnold try scorer. This was a hard match versus talented opponents but the U13s continue to progress under Mr Morton’s coaching and there were many improvements from the week before.