In quite stunning, sunny and incredibly hot conditions the 1st XV took on our close neighbours, KEQMS, in the 2nd Round of the Daily Mail National Cup at Arnold. These matches are always keenly contested and the boys of both teams did not disappoint as they served up a rip roaring cup tie.
KEQMS were on the front foot immediately after a good kick off had Arnold in early trouble but the accurate boot of Sam Crowther soon got Arnold out of trouble. The set pieces would be key to the success of either side and it was Arnold who dominated these early exchanges with North of England hooker, Jacob Nickson, taking two scrums against the head for Arnold and Arnold winning all of the KEQMS lineouts in the first 20 minutes. This gave Arnold the greater possession and Richard Whiteside and Crowther combined brilliantly to steer Arnold into the KEQMS 22 for much of the opening 20 minutes.
However, the KEQMS defence was superb with no.7, Matthew Williams, in particularly good form. He forced a number of turnovers right on his own try line when it seemed like Arnold would gain possession and threaten a score.
The home side eventually did turn their early pressure into points as nice hands down the blindside from Whiteside and Andrew Walkden released James Kidner and he touched down for a deserved 5-0 lead. KEQMS were immediately on the attack as another kickoff caused problems for Arnold but once again Arnold cleared well. A Crowther penalty from 35 metres out put Arnold 8-0 ahead and then Arnold further extended their lead with the second try of the match. KEQMS decided to run the ball adventurously in their own 22 but a risky pass was well intercepted by centre, Jacob Reid, and he sprinted in under the posts. Crowther added the extras for a 13-0 advantage.
KEQMS hit back through a penalty for 13-3 but then Arnold scored just before the break with the third try of the match. A ruck 10 metres out saw year 11 scrum-half, Richard Whiteside, twist and weave his way through three tackles down the blindside and a nice offload resulted in no.8, James Aird, crashing over for the try and a 20-3 half time lead.
The first 20 minutes of the second half were a fairly even affair as KEQMS fought to get back into the match. Prop, Teddy Diggle's workrate was fantastic, and he was having a tremendous match in the loose exchanges as well as carrying the ball very well. Sadly, the KEQMS lineout was being dominated by Arnold and this lack of possession was beginning to tell with Whiteside and Crowther continuing to dictate the field position and territory. Matthew Williams was again the stand out forward for KEQMS but the Arnold backs were beginning to gel out wide with Andrew Walkden, Mitchell Bolus and Ben Cheston all making telling breaks. The three year 11s in the backline - Whiteside, Bolus and Cheston - all contributed fantastically in the second half.
KEQMS's hard work was rewarded with a try with 15 minutes to go as an overlap was created on the right for Daniel Proctor to just squeeze in despite some last ditch tackles. 20-8 for Arnold but Arnold put the result beyond doubt with Alex Casey driving over near the end for a 25-8 final score.
Arnold's captain, Jacob Nickson, was superb throughout and flanker, Tom Jepson, had a dynamic match in the rucks and hugely productive match in the lineout. Joe Shaw worked hard throughout and Richard Whiteside continues to excel at no.9, despite his youth. Jacob Reid had a very strong defensive match in the centre and James Kidner was enjoying a fine match until he had to leave the proceedings through injury. Proctor, Diggle and Williams were the pick of the KEQMS players in what was an entertaining and competitive match. Arnold will now await the winners of the Giggleswick v Stonyhurst College match.
Lower down the school, the U15s lost a cracking match away at Liverpool College in the Lancashire Cup. Ellis Whorlton-Jones put the Arnold boys ahead as he finished off a tremendous team move for a 5-0 lead but some ill-discipline and slack play saw Liverpool score twice when Arnold were down to 14 men. Liverpool led 10-5 at the break. Arnold camped for much of the second half in the Liverpool 22 but the home side's defence was superb and their very impressive 10, 12, 13 and 15 always looked dangerous on the break. Tyne Davis struck a good penalty to reduce the lead to 10-8 but despite some good opportunities created, the Arnold boys could not break through and Liverpool just edged a fine encounter by two points.
The U13s found the going tough in the Lancashire Cup at Rossall as they went down by 45-5. Both teams will now contest in the Lancashire Plates.