Our penultimate game of the season saw us travel just across the Bolton-Wigan border to face Aspull New Springs on Saturday.
Despite the forecast suggesting rain it was to be a glorious day for a game of Rugby, I saw Rugby as by pure coincidence Bolton RUFC 3rd XV were playing Aspull RUFC on the adjacent pitch. The game started brightly as Bolton got plenty of possession, the Half Back pairing of Ste Hickey and Daryl Devlin working well together to gain field territory.
With a limited interchange bench, it was going to be a tough 80 minutes for the forwards, however, they were sharing the workload between themselves and doing a grand job in making the hard yards up field. Loose Forward Josh Bourne was always on hand to carry the ball and this helped inspire his teammates to back up his efforts.
Defensively, we were standing firm and rebuffing all Aspull could through at us, Second Rowers Harry Dawber and Andrian Gribbin were the two stand out tacklers in the first half as they made solid contact every time. From the left Wing to the Right Wing, every player worked hard to put pressure onto the Aspull attack which resulted in several handovers of possession.
After a late arrival, Ken Sackfield replaced Gribbin and immediately got into the action. Some strong drives forward helped make inroads into the Aspull half before we shipped the ball wide, Darren Robinson Jnr going close to breaking the deadlock late in the half.
After 30 minutes of play it was the Home side who opened the scoring after a nice angled run caught out the Mets defence. The was quickly followed by another after some poor play allowed New Springs the make 60 metres down field from the kick off. Two successful conversions gave the Home side a 12-0 lead but we soon bounced back with a try of our own.
As we set up camp in the Aspull half with back to back sets, some nicely worked plays by Ste Hickey and Joe Harte got us close to the line before we managed to cross. Playing out of position at Hooker, Joseph Burns scooped up the ball from dummy half and dived over to register his first Mets try since his return. Having recently taken over the kicking duties, Daryl Devlinslotted over the extra two points to halve the gap and keep his personal scoring tally ticking over.
Moments before the half time break Aspull managed to score again, this time it was a slick handling move that gave their Centre enough space to crash over. With the kick sliced wide it left the score at 16-6 to New Springs, but the first 30 minutes was possibly as good a period as we have had all year.
We couldn’t back up the first half performance in the second half, a short kick off caught us napping and the quick thinking Scrum Half waltzed his way to the line. A spread play earned Aspull their fifth try of the day, the sliding Mets defence just not able to stop the Hooker finding a gap.
We did find our feet at times, Centres Dave Hulme and Stuart MacDonald coming in to help out the forwards with strong carries set the platform for Andy Platt going close to scoring in the corner. A blind side play by Burns set Platt away, however, some aggressive cover defence saw him just brush the touchline before reaching the try line.
Having lost Sackfield to the Union game on the next field we were now down to just one substitute, club volunteer taking to the pitch for the second week running allowed Devlin to get his ankle strapped but we were soon to pay the price for the lack of numbers. Aspull used their superiority to cross for a couple more tries to open up the gap before a try right on the final whistle sealed the win with a 46-6 score line.
Losing the second half 30-0 was tough to take, particularly after such an encouraging first half, however, as always it gives us things to work on over the off season. The players should be proud of their first half performance as we were always up against it with Aspull’s well organised attack and physical defence.
The Opposition Man of the Match Award saw Sacked and Burns named as runners up, with the top spot going to Captain Ste Hickey. Despite being the oldest Mets player on the pitch, Andrian Gribbin showed his younger teammates how to do it by walking away with the Top Tackler Award.
Next Saturday sees the curtain come down on our 22nd year of bringing Rugby League to Bolton as we host Halton Farnworth Hornets A at Greenhalgh’s Pavilion. After the game, we will be holding our End of Season Awards Evening at Bolton Market Lifestyle Hall, with everyone meeting from 6.30pm onwards. All past, present & future Mets players, coaches, club members and supporters are encouraged to come along and help us celebrate another season.
Picture: John McGibbon Photography