Triple boost for Northampton RL

Newly re-branded amateur club Northampton have enjoyed an eventful week, culminating in a friendly against Championship side Widnes Vikings.

They attended the World Club Challenge between Leeds and Melbourne at Elland Road to receive their Clubmark Gold award, becoming the first rugby league club in the Midlands to receive the award.

Then last weekend, the club hosted training sessions for the club’s under 12, 14 and 16 teams ran by Harlequins RL and Widnes Vikings, before their open age team took on a Widnes under 20 side in a friendly, in which they were narrowly defeated 28-20.

Northampton coaches Smith and Campbell commented: “Our boys deserve massive raps for their performance and effort. We’ve been hampered by the weather for training and to produce real grit against a young side that all have full time contracts goes to show that we will be a real force again this year.

“We don’t want to give individual mentions to those star players from today as this was a real squad effort and everyone deserves the same praise. After 20 minutes we really could have rolled over but we came back time and time again. This really is a special group of players.”

The Vikings entered the fray with the full time and extremely successful under 20’s outfit plus a couple of 1sts team regulars hoping to show their skills to enhance their futures. The Demons took to the park with a strong outfit although missing 3 key players through from their Grand Final outfit from September. A healthy crowd of 200 people attended which is testament to the intrigue the town is beginning to show in the Community Club.

Straight from the kick off the Demons showed that they were going to give no quarter to their illustrious opponents and Fred Braithwaite made his first dump tackle of the match. The pace was furious and the tackles hard but within two minutes fullback Michael Hulme was called into action to hammer the attacking Widnes centre into touch and to save a certain try.

The Vikings were returning to the country from a successful tour of France whilst the 5 months of inactivity from the Demons was obvious. Widnes  worked the ball well and their attack speed kept Northampton on the back foot. It was a pleasure for the crowd to witness such speed of handling and angles of running from the Pro’s but within 20 minutes Northampton were in trouble and 14 points down.

The Demons were shaking their heads trying to catch a breath as it was beginning to look like a long afternoon but things began to take a change. Northampton’s famed Yellow Brick Wall defense was beginning to take its toll on the Widnes big men which meant the ball began to be thrown out wide a lot more. Seizing his chance Joe Rice pounced on a floated pass to intercept an scorch 80 meters to the opposition try line. The crowd came to life and the Demons began to breathe real fire.

Coach Campbell immediately introduced the big gun forwards of Matthew Meek / Mark Dunkley and Carl Sivat off the bench who began marauding into the Widnes line sometimes physically running over opposition defenders.

“The age defying Johnson began to marshal his troops and the Conference Amateurs began to increase the speed of the game themselves with the Harlequins prospect 17 years old 6ft 3inch / 16 stone Meek in a devastating mood. Within 2 minutes of their first try good handling saw Seb Ward crash over for his first try of the season and just before half time a Johnson cross field kick saw Kier Flatt complete an impressive half by collecting and touching down.

The second half followed the first with Widnes dominating early and squeezing in for a contentious try in the corner followed by another ten minutes later. Instead of wilting as expected the Demons kept up the physicality forcing the professionals into numerous errors. This hard worked was marked by Joe Rice squeezing into the corner after good work by Ward and Davenport.

With 15 minutes to go the hits were becoming fierce as the Vikings became frustrated with Fred Braithwaite in particular on the receiving end of a head high haymaker whilst fullback Michael Hulme made two try saving tackles. Fortunately Northampton enjoyed the physical side and continued to make the big hits as Braithwaite once again dump tackling his previous assaulter.

As time flew by Northampton kept pressing for the winning try but couldn’t convert their chances and a key injury to Captain Chris Webb caused the side to lose shape in attack. Eventually Widnes took advantage of Northampton’s tiring defense and sealed the win with a try underneath the posts.

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