Well that was the weekend that was.
The North Squad arrived at Chetwynd Army Barracks in Nottingham on Saturday fully focused and raring to go. Once the accommodation was sorted and lunch taken the squad headed off to the training pitch.
The North Coaching Team of Dave Reed & Matt Bebbington assisted by Martin Webdale put the the squad thru some light work and organisational stuff. After being fed once more the squad dispersed for the evening, some to take in a film at the nearby Cinema and some to find somewhere showing the big fight. Everyone was up and on time for breakfast at 7.30am the following morning.
Sunday had the squad attending several lectures from the RFU on nutrition, concussion protocols and anti-doping. The afternoon session that saw the lads and Coaches involved with ex-Munster Coach and now Nottingham Rugby Head Coach Ian Costello who ran a really well organised coaching session.
The North U20 starting XV was then announced and then later in the evening the North players were presented with their Match Shirts.
Bank Holiday Monday meant another early start but the North lads took that in their stride and were well primed for the kickoff at 11am against the South West U20s.
The North took the game to the South West from the kick off.
The Forwards made solid inroads with the ball and the Backs always looked dangerous with Wingers Tom Carleton and Ben Winterburn particularly impressive.
Indeed a break down his Right Wing from Winterburn saw the Winger tackled just 5 metres out but his inside pass found Skipper Chris Taylor in support who popped the ball once more to Scrum Half Ollie Green who went in for the first try converted by Ben Scher.
A South West indiscretion on 13 minutes saw Scher land the resultant penalty and the North now led 10-0.
Pressure by the Forwards on 28 Mins created some panic in defense and Winterburn thought he was in for a try when Ollie Green used skills usually seen in the round ball game to pick a loose ball but the scoring pass was called forward.
On 38 mins, Flanker Lewis Bradley broke down the blindside popped a pass to Winger Carleton who darted inside and beat 3 would-be tacklers before being tackled. The ball was quickly recycled and No.8 Sam Hudson came on a good line to take the ball, break another tackle and canter over the line for the second try, Scher made the conversion and with Half-time on the horizon the North led 17-0.
The North made 7 changes and this proved a bit of an issue as the new blood took some time to settle by then the South West had well and truly come back into the game.
A 2nd half purple patch saw the South West register 3 tries, 2 conversions and a penalty in a 21 minute period had the South West now leading 22-17. Eventually the North regrouped and after some good work from Left Wing Jonny Keh the Pack had a chance to scrumdown 5 metres from the South West line. A couple of resets annoyed the Referee enough to award a penalty try when the South West scrum disintegrated as the North pack plowed forward, penalty try under the sticks awarded and converted by replacement Full Back Ryan Foreman.
The North were now back in front 24-22. The remaining few minutes were nervous for both sides and a nervous looking pass in midfield was intercepted by North Inside Centre Connor Wilkinson who raced in under the posts from the Halfway line, Foreman converted for 31-22 scoreline which remained until no side was blown by the Referee.
A thrilling game to watch as a neutral, some great skills on show from both sides and a lot for the England Selectors to think about.
Picture Credit: Steve Winterburn