Midlands U18s Tour Report
20th August 2012, 21:28
Lebanon U18s 4 – 46 English Midlands U18s – Friday 17th August 2012
Serbia U18s 0 – 30 English Midlands U18s – Sunday 19th August 2012
The Midlands Under 18s returned from the Rugby League European Federation Youth Festival in Belgrade, Serbia with two victories.
The tour, which saw the Midlands represent England at the event, saw the side take on Lebanon and hosts Serbia, as well as attending a welcome reception with representatives from the Belgrade Municipality and both the British and Lebanese Embassies, with dignitaries attending both fixtures, played at the Ada Ciganlija sports centre on the banks of the river Danube.
Both games attracted healthy and enthusiastic following and gave all three sides an opportunity to test their arm and fulfil their differing development objectives.
With a 21 man touring party, the Midlands coaches were keen to rotate the squad as much as possible, naming two different starting line-ups for each encounter.
The Midlands dominated the opening quarter of an hour in the encounter against Lebanon, with full back Nick Tasker opening the scoring, scything through the middle of the park. Having added the extras, Tasker was on hand again to convert winger Jack Pearce’s fifth minute try after the Derby-flyer galloped away down the right side unopposed.
David Wilson nosed the Midlands further ahead, finishing a right to left move with a jinking run back inside, with Tasker this time wide of the mark.
Disrupted by a raft of substitutions, the Midlands eased off the pedal momentarily, but Lebanon capitalised with Maxine Chalhoub barging his way through the troubled defence. Ali Kanj pushed the conversion wide of the posts.
Spurred back into life, the Midlands crafted a further score through hooker Tom Hughes’ darting run, with Tasker again stretching the lead to 4-20 at the break, with Will Cox shining as a defensive player in the visitors back line.
The second half saw captain Reece Needham stretch through the defence, taking three of the Junior Cedars with him, with Ben Lewis taking over on goal kicking duties to add his name to the team sheet, but the Lebanon put their best defensive pattern together, holding their line firm until the third quarter mark, with big hits coming in from Chalhoub and Omar Marhaba, punishing the Midlands’ smaller players.
Jack Pearce finished another fine move out wide to claim his brace, Lewis missing the conversion, before Chris Zaric, a player with Serbian heritage, broke away through the middle to touch down. Lewis was unable to add the easy conversion and surprisingly missed his next shot at goal as Harry Marks’ incisive run from dummy-half saw a further centre field try. His blushes were restored he jinked his way through the final defence to complete the Midlands scoring, converting his own try and brining the final score to 4-46.
Ali Kanj, Jad Rizk, Andre Khoury, George Farah, Nour el Baba, Adam Dahbache, Mohamad Dachbache, George Yazbeck, Thomas Zachariou, Ayman Soultan, Maxime Chalhoub, Liam Laba, Omar Marhaba. Subs: Karl KaloustiAn, Chris Dalati, Sadec Choucaire, Khaled El Makari, Karim Tannir, Mamoun Soufan
Scorers: Tries: Chalhoub (20). Goals: Kanj 0/1
Nick Tasker, Will Cox, Alasdair McDougall-Stone, David Wilson, Jack Pearce, Harry Marks, Ben Lewis, Dan Hyams, Joe Frobisher, Myles Turner, Oliver Sankey, Adam Bromley, Reece Needham. Subs: Michael Bennett, Denham Samuels, Tom Hughes, Ryan Home, Hershall Ward, Connor Slater, Chris Zaric, Alex Heath
Scorers: Tries: Tasker (2), Pearce (5, 46), Wilson (13), Hughes (23), Needham (33), Zaric (48), Marks (52), Lewis (56) Goals: Tasker 3/4, Lewis 2/5
Facing the hosts Serbia was always going to be a tougher prospect for the Midlands and from the first bone crunching tackle to the last play of the game, both teams slugged out a physical contest, separated mainly by the visitors ability to move the ball, although at times the Serbian pack had the upper hand.
There were early wide scores for Leicester Storm’s Hershall Ward in the second minute and Nottingham Outlaws Tasker grabbed a further try of the tour on five minutes, after Tom Hughes superb scoot out to gain the field possession, both goaled by Tasker to give a 12-0 lead, however the remainder of the half proved a fascinating contest of strength and guile.
The Midlands lost Connor Slater to a freak warm up injury and shortly into the half Prop Dan Hyams left the field with a broken hand, causing a re-think on substitutions against the heavyweight Serbs. Hershall Ward hugged the touchline a little too closely on a couple of occasions, with tries ruled out, whilst Denham Samuels and Reece Needham fell short of the line and Jack Pearce’s score was ruled out due to a forward pass, however the team dug deep to keep the Serbian onslaught at bay.
Jack Pearce hit his mark as the second half, backing up a strong forward display to allow Ben Lewis to add the extras. Reece Needham stretched the lead after shrugging off two defenders to dive through the sticks, again giving Lewis an easy shot on goal.
Mike Bennett’s knock on over the line gave Serbia a hope of a score, but the Midlands defence held firm.
Dave Wilson’s inside pass from Hershall Ward gave him space to score on the left hand side, and with Tasker on the field covering a concussed Ward to add the extras, the Midlands moved the score to 0-30 with fifteen minutes on the clock.
Plucky defense, including a superb one on one tackle from plucky half-back Alistair McDougall Stone on man-mountain Miloš Jovanović kept the Midlands spirits high, grinding out the win and keeping a clean sheet.
Zdravko Stikić, Nemanja Zlatanović, Branko Ćorić, Uroš Radulović, Gavrilo Cvetković, Filip Stošić, Nemanja Petrović, Pero Madžarević, Slavko Marković, Srdjan Četnik, Vasilije Jovanović, Miloš Djordjević, Stefan Vidaković. Subs: Nikola Stojmenović, Sergej Devetak, Nik Ramišvili, Nemanja Bajić, Mladen Randjić, Vukašin Rajšić, Jan Kulik
Nick Tasker, Will Cox, Connor Slater, David Wilson, Hershall Ward, Alistair McDougall-Stone, Ben Lewis, Alex Heath, Tom Hughes, Ryan Home, Myles Turner, Mike Bennett, Reece Needham. Subs: Chris Zaric, Adam Bromley, Harry Marks, Denham Samuels, Oliver Sankey, Jack Pearce, Dan Hyams, Joe Frobisher
Scorers: Tries: Ward (2), Taker (5), Pearce (34), Needham (37), Wilson (45). Goals: Tasker (3/3), Lewis (2/2)