Not real woe of course. Two defeats and a bit of bad weather doesn’t rate too highly on a scale of suffering in these troubled times. But it was frustrating, you know? Particularly from a photographing point of view.
Sunday was the better of the two days weather wise. Much better. Skies were bright, the temperature degrees higher and the wind had dropped to a whisper. It was an early journey west along the M65 to the home of Preston Grasshoppers Rugby Club for the latest of many Roses encounters: Lancashire v Yorkshire Under 18s.
A few personnel changes in the Yorkshire squad that beat Durham a couple of weeks ago. They began well and spent several minutes on or near the Lancashire line without actually crossing it. Perhaps if they had then the result might have been different but from the moment that Lancashire made their first break forward to score, it was they who were in the ascendancy. Yorkshire did score a couple of tries in the second half but in all honesty the game was already lost. Lancashire were strong, quick and well organised. Their victory was well deserved.
As happens when photographing a team that is spending more time defending than occupying the opponent’s half, shot opportunities can be relatively rare. It wasn’t all negative though and I came away with a number of pleasing images. Some of these were actually of the Lancashire team: lineouts, tackles and scrum half passes. You can see more pictures of the game here.
And now to Saturday, the previous day. The forecasts were pretty dire for almost the whole country: strong winds, plunging temperatures and incessant rain. Snow was also in the forecast but the biggest threat described was freezing rain, bringing with it the likelihood of dangerous driving conditions. The original plan was to begin Doncaster but this was exchanged for a game much closer to home. Just in case. There were a number of options but the nearest and safest was Bradford & Bingley and their home encounter with Cleckheaton. As you will have read, I’d watched the Bees earlier in the season in bright sunshine, back in October.
On that occasion they’d beaten West Leeds quite convincingly but today Cleckheaton proved to be much stronger opponents. The weather came as promised: unremitting from kick off to final whistle. From a photographing point of view it was the perfect storm, literally and metaphorically; a team which spent little time anywhere near me (they did score a try but in the opposite corner) and climatic conditions which made the whole exercise very difficult. And it was so dark!
Big credit to both teams of players, Cleckheaton in particular were well organised and, like Lancashire the following day, thoroughly deserving of their victory. There were very few pictures worthy of keeping or showing. If you dare to look you can do so here. Overall a weekend best forgotten perhaps. Mind you, if you don’t have the bad experiences, you don’t appreciate the good ones. Likely to be less rugby next weekend, the one before Christmas. I know of one possibly on Friday evening. After that, we’ll see!