The sun certainly had his hat on this Saturday as we welcomed Aspull New Springs to Greenhalgh’s Pavilion, the blistering heat making the game of Rugby League even tougher than usual.
The game got off to an interesting start when Adam Woods collected the kick off on the full and returned the ball, he received a straight arm right under the chin for his troubles but earned the Mets a penalty. This tackle set the platform for the opening 20 minutes when penalty after penalty helped us gained good field position.
Camped in the Aspull half, another penalty saw a player sent to the sin bin before a quick tap by Loose Forward Rick Ackerscaught out the defence allowing him to cross the line and score. The conversion by Daryl Devlin was put narrowly wide to leave the score at 4-0.
A brief stoppage was needed as the referee had to re-establish his authority on the game, due to several penalties and side line interference, but the game was soon back underway.
Aspull now had the ball close to the line and a drop off pass gave just enough room for the forward to barge his way over under the sticks. An easy conversion now gave them the lead mid way through the first half.
Due to his experience and performances, Rick Ackershas recently been rewarded with the captaincy and he showed why when he scored his second try of the game. A tackle bust 20 metres inside his own half gave Rick some open space to sprint upfield, despite having support from Ste Hickey he had the confidence to get to the line. Taking on the last line of defence, a neat little stop and go helped stand up the Full Back and give him enough time to dive over the line. Hickey slotted over the conversion to add the extra 2 points for a 10-6 lead.
As the half was coming to a close, a blip in defence allowed the Away side an opportunity to spread the ball wide and score. A missed conversion tied the scores at 10 a piece going into the break.
The game recommenced under the mid afternoon sun and immediately saw Aspull get a real slice of luck on the fifth and last tackle. Taking the ball to the line, the Full Back stabbed the ball through the Mets defence only for it to rebound straight back into his hands allowing him to score. The conversion now gave the lead back to Aspull and raised the heat even more.
Winger Tom Evans was making only his second Mets appearance, his first coming at Home to Blackpool Stanley last season, and was causing the Lions real trouble when he had the ball in hand. Some strong carries from dummy half earned many metres up field and helped set the platform for our next attack.
We are always looking to strengthen our squad to help make us more competitive and the arrival of Gareth Hession will do just that. Playing at Full Back gives him some of the kicking responsibilities, and after taking the defence on his neat chip over was collected by Hooker Daryl Devlin who sprinted away to score between the posts. Converting his own try once again tied up the scores, now 16-16.
Straight from the resulting kick off, Centre Paul Leigh smashed through several tackles and charged his way upfield. Once past the half way line he passed to the supporting Devlin who finished off the move with his second try of the day. He again converted his own try to increase the Mets lead to 22-16.
The game had been a real see saw battle and the remaining 10 minutes was to be no different. The Lions Second Row Forward crashed over to the left of the posts and the successful conversion tied the scores for the third time in the game, setting up a tense finale.
Now there are no prizes for guessing what happened next, with the Mets lacking in victories over recent years it does make it hard to see out games. For the want of a better phrase, we done know how to win a game, and what I mean by that is we don’t have the knowledge or experience to see us over the line when the game is in the balance as it was on Saturday. However, with performances like this we will soon get that winning feeling back amongst the players, it just needs a bit of luck to fall our way.
Within the last 5 minutes Aspull crossed again, this being the killer blow to win them the game. Even though the conversion was missed it was enough to snatch the win away from Bolton Mets and allow them to take the two league points. The final score ending up 26-22 to the men from Wigan.
Despite trading blows early in the encounter the game was played in great spirits, credit to Aspull for having enough in the tank to take the victory. We look forward to the return fixture in a month or so and hope to take the spoils on that occasion.
With two tries and a commanding performance, Rick Ackers was picked out by the opposition as Man of the Match. The runner up spots went to Scrum Half Ste Hickey and debutant Full Back Gareth Hession, although a worthy mention must also go to Hooker Daryl Devlin with a personal tally of 12 points during the game. Playing at Centre this week, Jonathan McMillan earned the Top Tackler award due to his not stop efforts in defence and managing to stop several attacks with some quick work from marker.