Despite the cold conditions, the Arnold U14 VII enjoyed their trip to North Yorkshire for the inaugural Giggleswick Sevens.
Playing the hosts in the first of the group games, an Alex Vowles-Bradley individual try and an Elliott Fackey conversion was the only consolation in a 27-7 defeat, as Arnold failed to close down the Giggleswick pacey backs and work off the ball to secure possession. Things were, however, much improved in the second game, as the team began to dominate a smaller, but still physical, RGS Lancaster side. Vowles-Bradley and Rory Humphries finished off two excellently worked tries, as the team began to trust each other in attack and defence. Despite LRGS scoring with the last play of the game, Arnold held on to win 10-5 for a deserved win. However, the game came at a cost as the squad was a little depleted for the final group match versus St Mary's, Crosby, and scrum half Vowles-Bradley was the only scorer in a 20-5 defeat.
Arnold, in qualifying for the Plate, began to find their form in the semi-final against Hill House, Doncaster, playing some expansive supporting rugby as six tries were scored to just one conceded (Humphries 3, Andrew Perry 2 and Jordan Makepeace with Tyne Davis also adding a conversion to add to Fackey's two). Arnold ran out 36-7 to secure a place in the Plate final to meet LRGS for a second time, who beat the much fancied Morecambe side.
Starting well, an early Matthew Garrod try from a driving maul, followed by a well-constructed try for Humphries out wide as Arnold dominated the game throughout. Two further tries scored by Alex Atherton and a length of the field team effort finished off with a neat Sean Jagger side step to touch down unopposed ensured a comfortable 24-5 win and the Plate trophy.
As the day progressed, the quality of the sevens improved greatly. The squad worked well together and were happy to interchange positions throughout. Andrew Perry and Alex Vowles-Bradley played particularly well and, in addition to those already mentioned, so too did Will Nickson, Tom Forster and Ben Pritchard.
The U15s travelled to East Manchester for the inaugural Audenshaw School 7s. The weather conditions were, at times, awful but this did not deter the Arnold boys in what looked to be a tough group. In their first match they lost a close contest to St Ambrose by 10-0. The score was 5-0 for much of the contest but St Ambrose took their chance and they then scored off the final play. In their second match, Arnold dominated Rossall School to win by 28-7 with tries by Richard Whiteside (2), Matthew Radley and Sam Walton. Declan Humphries played well and Alex Vowles-Bradley was looking very sharp. The last match would decide if the team progressed into the main Cup or the Plate and they battled hard against Altrincham GS. Altrincham took the lead but missed their conversion and, as the Arnold boys worked hard, they crossed for a good try by Matthew Radley. Elliott Fackey got the all-important conversion and Arnold edged it 7-5 to meet Cheadle Hulme in the quarter-finals. Sadly, Cheadle won by the closest of margins as one try gave them a 5-0 victory in a very competitive match. All the boys worked hard throughout and it was good to see Chris Bottomley back in action.
On Saturday the U16s started their 7s season at the always entertaining Merchant Taylor's 7s. In their first match they lost to a quick and agile home side even though the scores were level at half-time. Louis Mottley was fast in attack and Tom Hammond, Ahmed Ahmed and Harry Kenworthy were working tirelessly. These attributes were needed as a talented Woodhouse Grove side was next and good play from Alex Casey, tries by Mottley, and good link play by Andrew Walkden and Matthew Radley earned a 21 all draw against the eventual group winners. The U16s then beat Giggleswick by 5 tries to 2 but lost their last match against Kirkham GS to miss out on a semi-final spot.
To see some excellent photos of the U16s in action please click here to go to the Arnold School TV Channel.