After a false start in Round One, due to a waterlogged pitch, we finally kicked off the new season on Saturday with a trip to face Garswood Stags.
We sent out our troops in our newly acquired Away playing kit, the colours inspired by our sponsors Greenhalgh’s Craft Bakery, and without sounding too biased I must say it looked awesome.
The game was started by Captain Ste Hickey as the Home side had opted to attack from the KO, what followed was a tense opening period as both sides settled into the game. Some solid defence from the Mets kept out the Stags for the first 10 minutes before an opportunist try from the Garswood Hooker gave them the lead.
A second try followed 5 minutes later when a well executed chip and chase try was scored by the Stags. With both tries converted the score now stood at 12-0 to the Home side.
The tense battle continued further into the half as possession changed hands on several occasions, the Bolton half back pairing of Hickey and Mark Dorning regularly taking the ball to the line before passing on to a supporting runner. Making his Mets debut, James Lacey was playing at Hooker and after scooping up the ball from the dummy half position bumped off a couple of would be tacklers before touching down over the line. Despite having his shirt pulled over his head he was still able to keep control of the ball to open his Mets account. Dorning slotted over the extra 2 points to half the deficit.
Head Coach Al Scarbrough was very pleased with the way his side were performing so far in the game, the defence in particular was a vast improvement on last season. However, as this was our first run out of the season we weren’t quite match fit, whereas Garswood had put in a convincing performance against Bury Broncos A the week previous, meaning a couple of late tries were scored by the Stags. Despite the wet and windy conditions, they were happy to throw the ball out wide and they benefitted from an overlap on two separate occasions to open up a 22-6 lead at half time.
We’ve had a bit of a bad time with injuries so far this year, but luckily today wasn’t being too mean to us. The returning Rick Ackers, a Mets player in the late 2000’s, felt a pull in his hamstring in the first half and after treatment from our medical staff, Olga & Shane from University of Bolton, it was decided not to risk any further injury by putting him back on the field. He was replaced by another debutant in Gareth Smith who put in a steady shift for the remainder of the game.
The course of the second half followed the first almost identically, a period of defensive control by the Mets kept the Stags out for the opening 10-15 minutes. Forwards Jason Nuttall, Andrian Gribbin and Andy Platt were certainly putting themselves about in both attack and defence whilst Full Back Joe Harte was continuously looking for any slight gap that could lead to a breakaway.
The Stags, who finished 3rd in Division Four in 2016 but somehow found themselves in Division 5 in 2017, set up camp on the Mets line for several minutes deep into the second half, and despite keeping them out time and time again they were able to cross the line after a neat angled run found a gap in the previously tight Mets line. The next try from the Stags increased their lead to 28 points but we weren’t finished just yet.
A close call followed when Joe Harte was deemed to have knocked on over the line, a collision with the post pads may have been the reason, but we were successful minutes later when our third debutant Josh Bourne forced his way over. A strong drive from 10 yards out saw Bourne barge through several tacklers before placing the ball down. Dorning again converted to make the scores 34-12 to the Stags but this was an encouraging outing from Bolton.
As in the first half, the lack of match fitness was evident from the Away side and we allowed Garswood a couple of opportunities to extend their lead. The final whistle was blown by the referee and the score ended up 44-12 to the Home side, however, despite the score line it was an impressive performance from an inexperienced Mets side.
The Opposition Man of the Match was awarded to hard running and big hitting Loose Forward Ryan Terry, whilst the runners up were Mark Dorning and Andy Platt. It was a close call between Terry and Hickey for Top Tackler but due to several of the spectators commenting that ‘he is everyway in defence’ the nod went to Ste Hickey.
The season continues next weekend as we host Clock Face Miners A at Greenhalgh’s Pavilion, Bolton Rugby Club, Avenue Street, BL1 3AW. The game will have a 2.30pm KO and we would appreciate all your support.
Thanks to Bryan Fowler for all the match photos that accompany this match report. His commitment to photographing local community Rugby League is something to be admired.