THE smiles on the faces at Ruskin Drive last Saturday said it all – with Pilkington Recs rattling in 11 tries in their opening game of the revamped NCL season.

The clash saw centre Ian Stanley, second row Jordon Morris, stand off Owain Abel and scrum half Ton Connick all cross for braces.

Wingmen Jake Hodson and Alex Fitzhenry and prop Jon Key also crossed in the rout.

It was not simply the manner of Recs’ 58-22 triumph over Wigan St Judes – but that combination of relief and joy at getting the show back on the road after missing the whole of last year.

And added to that was the satisfaction of seeing young players push through into the first team to freshen up the ranks.

Recs A had already started the ball rolling in the North West Men’s League, but on Saturday it was the turn of the NCL team who were denied their crack at Premier League last year.

This year’s competition has had to start later and has therefore been shortened and regionalised.

Recs coach Liam Bostock said: “With it being regionalised, they are all derbies and our division is probably the hardest across the lot.

“The lads are looking forward to the challenge and it is one they are looking forward to having a good go at it.

“With it being regionalised it has given a lot of the lads with young families a bit of a break from travelling to Hull and Cumbria every other week. So that will revitalise the team.”

There is a hunger from some of the older, experienced players and that is complemented by the enthusiasm of the youth.

“Now the 18s have stepped up – they have been a breath of fresh air.

“There are so many new faces down its like a new squad and a new crop of players gives a new lease of life to the team and that motivates the older lads and gives them a boost,” Bostock said.

Recs have two open age sides but there is a one-club mentality with the crossovers between the NCL and Men’s League teams.

Training wise they have been pulling in between 28-38 regularly each session.

And one of the most pleasing things is that 18 of those have come up from the under 18s from a squad of 21.

Club stalwart and Junior Secretary John Rees said: “When lockdown happened, we had just been promoted and those lads, who wanted one last go at the Prem, felt it has been taken off them.

“They have this year in the regional structure and then fingers crossed they will be back next year at the pinnacle to give it one final blast.”

This year’s competition has had to start later and will has therefore been shortened and regionalised.

Recs are in the same division as Thatto Heath and joined Wigan and Leigh sides St Judes, St Pats, Ince Rose Bridge, Leigh Miners and Leigh East in a pool of seven.

There are then play-offs at the end of the group stages with the top two and some best placed finishes heading to quarters, semis and a final.

Club wise Recs have come through this tough period well and are showing good numbers at training - all based at Ruskin.

“We have 56 registered open age players, and at kids level we have over 300 this year, the best year we have ever had,” said Rees.

“There are 81 registered at Cubs, which is 4-6 year olds

“From a club perspective we do a lot of things right.

“We don’t pressurise the kids to win – there is an emphasis of playing and enjoying it.

“We have a good bunch of coaches, all with the same mentality of just wanting the kids to have a smile on their face.

“The facility has helped increase the numbers, but that is double-edged sword as we have a great facility, but we are outgrowing it.”