The Tigers are a relatively new team, having formed only 3 years ago, and they were a little bit of an unknown quantity for us going into the game. With the rain also making the conditions difficult it was tough to call the outcome of this one.
A bright start by the Mets saw us take control, a couple of neat kicks from Scrum Half Ste Hickey were rewarded with repeat sets. On the back of this we soon opened the scoring with a close range try from Hooker Andy Crompton, his first try for the club in only his second outing. Stand Off Daryl Devlin was on kicking duty and duly obliged with the extra 2 points.
Five minutes later we were in again, this time it was Devlin who kicked through which led to Andy Platt diving on to the loose ball just before it hit the dead ball line. Another successful conversion doubled our lead and made it 12-0 after 20 minutes.
Once the Tigers got their hands on the ball they drove it forward very well, some solid carries bent the Mets defence but couldn’t quite break it. Captain Josh Bourne was leading the line well and made sure his team mates stuck to their task.
As was on show in the Old Boys game, the Mets have now added a kicking game to their attack which gives us another dimension when close to the opposition line. Devlin’s angled kick through gave the wide men something to chase, and even though the ball was collected by the Tigers Winger it was stripped legally by Jonathan McMillan who dived over the line to score. That is now two tries in two games for our recent recruit and it looks like we have a great player on our hands.
Even though it was the Backs getting the glory, it was the Forwards who laid the platform for the ball handlers to work from. Strong drives by Neil Kelly, Ryan Terry, Rick Ackers and Jason Nuttall helped set up the next try. A well worked break down the right touchline saw debutant Centre Ben Latham release Ste Hickey for his first try of the afternoon, another conversion by Devlin increased the lead to 22-0 on the half hour mark.
Alongside Ben, we also had two debutants on the opposite flank in Callum Smith and Mark Riley. A strong display from Centre Callum was marred by an injury which forced him off just before half time, but a solid 80 minutes from Mark was encouraging for the games to come.
The only real gripe about the first half was the fact that we let the Tigers cross the line in the final seconds, a couple of strong carries pushed the Mets defence back and an angled run found a gap in the defensive line to score. With the conversion slotted between the uprights, it made the half time score 22-6 to Bolton Mets.
Within minutes of the restart we managed to cross the line for our fifth try, Ben Latham taking the ball out wide ran around, through and over the opposition on his way to the whitewash. It’s always good to see a player score on debut, and in Ben we may have found a real strike weapon in the Centre position.
Coming off the bench in the first half, Second Rower Rob Tuppen was causing havoc when in possession. A mazy run saw Tuppen take on the defence before offloading the ball to the supporting Hickey. With the ball down by his side, and slightly behind him, Hickey defied the odds to keep hold of the ball as he went in under the sticks. Converting his fourth kick of the day, Devlin made it 32-6 after 53 minutes.
Completing his hattrick, Ste Hickey was set up by Latham again as a break from inside our own half left the Tigers reeling. Once released, Hickey sprinted away to take his tally to 12 points for the afternoon and give Devlin an easy kick.
As the game progressed, several injuries for the Away side meant they had to go down to 10 players and were struggling. Despite this, they never gave in and continued to work hard in both attack and defence, dare I say it, a reflection of the Mets attitude for the past 20 years or so. As the Tigers were now down to limited numbers we removed two players to make it 11 vs 10 for the remainder of the game.
Heading into the final 10 minutes of the game we still weren’t finished with the scoring, another offload in the tackle by Tuppen gave Rick Ackers the opportunity to get a four pointer. This was the second time in the game that Rick had crossed the line, however, the first one wasn’t given as the referee had judged him to have been held up by the defence.
Rounding out the victory with a try of his own, Daryl Devlin scored close to the sticks after being set away down the right flank by Ben Latham. He sprinted past the Winger and opened up the angle for his final conversion, the successful kick took the final score to 50-6 in favour of the Mets and gave us our first opening game victory since 2015.
It’s tough to look past a player who scores three tries in a game, and so as you would expect Ste Hickey walked away with the Man of the Match award. It was a fine display by the Scrum Half and was great to see a former Bolton Mets Junior ripping it up for the Open Age side. The runners up spots went to Rick Ackers and Josh Bourne. Earning the Top Tackler award was of course Ryan Terry, something that is almost a given every week due to his ‘cut you in half’ tackling style.
Having browsed the records, the result is also our first Home and league win since August 2016 and the first time we have scored 50 or more points in the league since August 2013. The credit for the win must go to the Head Coach Al Scarbrough, who has helped turn the team into a well drilled unit, but also to the players for their continued hard work and positive attitude despite the rough period we have endured for the last few years. The commitment of everyone involved has been second to none, it would have been far too easy to walk away so to register such an impressive result is a great feeling at the start of the season, and to be top of the league shows that all we have been through was worth it in the end.
Next week we travel to St. Helens to take on Thatto Heath B in the NWML Division Five, the game has a 2pm KO due to other Home games taking place.