The U13 team were keen to ensure that their season was prolonged for a few more weeks as they took on St Edward's College, Liverpool in the semi-final of the Lancashire Cup. However, the odds were against them as a 24-7 defeat was the result of the fixture played in late January, albeit in very boggy conditions. With a near perfect playing surface, Arnold turned on the style and certainly did not disappoint.
Immediately from the kick-off, Arnold put the visitors under pressure as they failed to gather the kick cleanly. Following a series of scrums, No. 8 Bill Gavin broke blind and brushed off two tackles and, although seemingly surprised to find himself over the try line, scored in the corner.
This was an excellent start, but St Edward's demonstrated their intentions as they were more aggressive at the ruck and had the edge in the set scrums. Arnold defended well and turned over possession on several occasions only to miss three first time tackles following a clearance kick, resulting in territory being conceded and ultimately a converted try, as the lead switched to St Edward's 5-7.
Undeterred, Arnold continued to press from the re-start, and following a counter attack and good kick by full-back Callan Barrow, Ellis Whorlton-Jones managed to reach the bouncing ball ahead of the defenders for a crucial score, which Barrow converted to regain a 12-5 lead.
St Edward's continued to respond, and with good drives close to the ruck and a swift break from the centre scored two further tries, one of which was converted, as they led 12-17 at the break. To their credit, the Arnold team responded superbly to the half-time advice of Messrs Morton and Jones, as they began to contest the break down more readily and close down space of the opposing backline. Scrum-half Matthew Barrett and the centre pairing of Tom Riley and Sam Royle made a number of crucial tackles forcing the visitors back and ultimately to concede a penalty which Barrow converted to reduce the deficit to 15-17.
Ellis Whorlton-Jones continued to control the game well from fly-half, kicking intelligently in both attack and defence, and he notched his second try as he just managed to reach the line following good breaks by Bill Gavin, Zach Evans and Sam Royle. Barrow again added the conversion as Arnold regained the lead 22-17.
Although under pressure in the scrum, props Max Walker and Christian Mills worked hard to secure possession as the visitors become frustrated by the excellent defensive work of the back row and half-backs, enabling Arnold to clear their lines from a series of penalties. From a resulting lineout, excellent work by hooker Ben Pearson created space for Whorlton-Jones who raced through the gap and won the foot race to the corner from 40 metres to score an excellent individual try; the conversion missed and Arnold were now in control at 27-17 with less than ten minutes remaining .
Although a try was conceded with the last play of the game, this was an excellent team performance. An intelligent kicking game ensured good field position, but self-belief and a willingness to contest possession and carry the game to the opposition by the whole team were central to the 27-22 victory.
The squad must now continue to work hard to prepare for both their Sevens tournaments and a final against RGS Lancaster at the Lancashire Schools' Finals Day in late March.
Well done to all concerned. A brilliant effort!