The 2017 season got underway with a thrilling encounter at Greenhalgh’s Pavilion on Saturday afternoon as the Bolton Mets current side took on the club’s former players.
With the scene now set could Bolton Mets overcome our yearly rivals to tie up the scores at 2 games apiece in the series.
Right from the kick off, in front of a large welcoming crowd, both sets of players where ready to do battle with the aim to come out victorious and to win the Old Boys Challenge Trophy. As anticipated, both teams were up for putting on a show which only helped raise the excitement amongst the spectators on the side lines. Even though this was the first game of the season, albeit a friendly, the effort, passion and skill levels of both teams were top quality.
The Old Boys started the better of the two teams, attacking with venom they were able to stamp their authority on the game when John Stryker went over for the first try of the game. Chris Clarke converted to make the score 6-0 in the opening 5 minutes.
In response, Bolton Mets started to complete there sets and in turn create more chances. They where finally rewarded with a try by Centre Danny McNamara, who was also making his Mets debut, but unfortunately the conversion was missed to leave the score at 6-4 to the Old Boys.
The match then became a tug of war with both teams missing several chances to take the lead, however, it was Bolton Mets who broke the deadlock for this quarter as we scored our second try. Prop Forward Dale Forrest ended a sweeping spread play after side stepping the on rushing defender and diving over the line. The conversion was again missed but Bolton Mets were now in front for the first time in the game.
Heading dramatically to the end of the first half the Old Boys changed up a gear, on the back of some strong forward charges they scored two excellent tries to regain the lead. Chris Piercy was released, after a cut out pass from John Stryker, and was able to beat the defender to the line, whilst Tom Everard scored on the opposite wing on the back of some slick mid field handling. Both conversions were missed but the Old Boys now had a 14-8 half time lead.
The second half promised to be just as exciting as the first, and with the spectators thoroughly enjoying what was on display Bolton Mets accepted the challenge. Hooker Anthony Knight went over for an excellent and well deserved try in the right corner, after play started at the base of the scrum, but yet again Mark Dorning was unable to add the extras. The Mets narrowed the lead now to just 2 points with the score at 14-12.
As the tension started to increase the pendulum swung back in favour of the Old Boys, a courageous try from Andy Roberts gave them the edge and in true Rugby League style this game was going down to the wire. The touchline conversion was skilfully, and somewhat surprisingly, slotted over by Chris Piercy to take the Old Boys one step closer to the spoils.
Showing some great spirit and determination, Bolton Mets launched one of their best attacks of the game and were able to force the Old Boys to make several errors. Those errors put the current crop of players on the front foot and what followed next will go down in folklore, at least in the Dorning household. The club’s longest serving player, Mark Dorning, took the ball to the line before chipping it over the onrushing defenders, the back spin meant he was able to chase and re-gather the ball before throwing a dummy that sent the opposing Full Back, and half the crowd, the wrong way leaving him free to spring to the line from 40 metres out. Scoring under the sticks gave him an easy conversion but with only a minute left on the clock the Mets were still point behind.
Agonisingly, the time ran out for the final assault and the referees whistle brought an end to a very exciting game. The final score was 20-18 to the Old Boys, giving them a 3-1 advantage in the yearly challenge.
After a very exciting game of Rugby League it was time to select a Man of the Match for both teams, Adam Ryan won the honours for the Old Boys whist the returning Andy Bowling was picked out for Bolton Mets.
The game was a credit to all the players and coaching staff of the club and those people who have been involved over the last 22 years. Both teams where a joy to watch and nobody went away without being entertained.
There will be more to come as Bolton Mets move forward through the season, next up is an Away friendly to Culcheth Eagles on Saturday 18th February ahead of the first league game on Saturday 4th March.
If you’re interested in playing Rugby League then why not come down to Bolton Mets and see what we’re all about. Training takes place on Wednesday evenings, from 8-10pm, at Essa Sports Centre, BL3 3LB.
Author – Nigel Riley
Photos – Bryan Fowler