With the series tied at one game apiece it was now time to see who could claim overall victory in this Anglo-Dutch battle.
The Mets players and coaches travelled over to the Netherlands on Friday afternoon with the intention of sampling a few of the local ales before calling it a night. The self-imposed player curfew was met by most, with just the odd one or two strolling in a touch later.
Some transport difficulties on the Saturday morning meant a delay in our arrival, however, we soon found ourselves at the ground being greeted by the Pitbulls committee members Jason Bruygoms and Thijs van der Zouwen, along with several of their players who had played in either the first or second encounter. With both sides limited for numbers it ended up at 14 players aside, each team having just the one player on the interchange bench.
The weather wasn’t quite of the torrential proportions it was in 2015 but the rain started to come down just as we were about to kick off. The combination of the rain, a new ball and the 3G pellets made the early handling tricky for both sides, however, the Mets did manage to put the ball through hands on several occasions to cause the Pitbulls some problems.
It was to be a stalemate for the first 30 minutes or so, until Hooker Neil Walsh managed to find a gap just inches from the line allowing him to dive over and score. With no rugby posts in place, the Pitbulls had laid out a 6 point scoring zone, close to the sticks, and several 4 point scoring zones further out towards the touchlines. Walsh was only able to score in the 4 point zone but it at least gave us the lead heading into the break.
Prior to travelling we had made arrangements with Tom O’Grady of the Amsterdam Cobras to play for us. Tom is an Australian backpacker who missed his flight back home and ended up staying in Amsterdam for 15 months, and in turn playing for the Cobras. Alongside Tom, we also had the services of Remco van Zoen of the Harderwijk Dolphins, a recent recruit to Rugby League but a more than willing participant. Both players put in a great shift for the full game, Tom particularly impressing a few of his Mets teammates with some strong runs and solid tackling.
Early in the second half we managed to double our lead, Full Back Dan Johnson was put through a gap by Ryan Terry before outpacing several Rotterdam players on the way to the line. The try was very slick from start to finish, some quick and accurate passing in centre field before the speed and determination of the finish. The try was again scored outside the bonus zone so the score now stood at 8-0 to the Mets.
The Home side were missing several key players but still linked up well when on the attack, Prop Forwards Edson Aldair and Shadan Lavia making some good inroads before the halves whipped the ball wide. It took some first rate defence from the Mets to keep them at bay, Ryan Terry, Ste Hickey and Andy Platt putting their bodies on the line to prevent the breakthrough.
When bringing the ball out from our own line the Mets back line jumped into action, Wingers Stuart MacDonald and Carl Henderson using their pace whilst Centres Paul Leigh and Rob Tuppen used their strength to carry the ball forward. With Leigh picking up a knee injury he was replaced by Anthony Knight, a player seriously injured in this seasons Old Boys fixture but who wanted one last cameo before hanging up his boots.
The last few minutes of the game were quite tight, the Pitbulls earning penalty after penalty before setting up camp on the Mets line. The call from Head Coach Al Scarbrough was to dig deep and hold firm, each player doing their up most to keep them scoreless.
After coming through the onslaught it was time for one last attack, Walsh received the ball 20 metres out and headed for the line. With some never before seen footwork he side stepped two would be tacklers before turning the Pitbulls Full Back inside out, he also managed to touch down in the 6 point zone to make it 14-0 to the boys from Bolton. The final whistle was blown moments later and the game was now won.
The opposition picked our Neil Walsh as Man of the Match, earning him a souvenir Rotterdam Pitbulls shirt, whilst Al Scarbrough felt 51 year old Stuart MacDonald deserved a mention after a near faultless performance in only his fifth game of Rugby League. It is always hard to look past Ryan Terry when it comes to Top Tackler, and this game was no different, however, a worthy mention must go to Carl Henderson who never took a backwards step despite being of only a slight frame and coming up against players twice his size.
Thijs of the Pitbulls made a speech thanking us for a great game and congratulating us on the victory, not just in the game but in the series. As such, we were presented with ‘The Cup’ to commemorate the win but to also give the clubs something to play for the next time we meet, possibly in Bolton again in 2018.
Thanks must go to Mirre Welbolen of RugbyClicks.nl for taking the excellent photos and allowing us to share them. Please like her page on facebook by following this link.
We’re back into league action this coming Saturday as we travel to Wigan Spring View.