Season Review: Mets complete 23rd year of Rugby League in Bolton

Well, what a year it has been for Bolton Mets and all those involved with the club.

There’s been highs and lows throughout, but we’re happy to have completed our 23rd year of bringing Rugby League to this great town.

It all started with pre-season training at the excellent facilities at Essa Academy, and with commitment from Head Coach Al Scarbrough and the players we were confident of improving on the previous season’s outcome.

We couldn’t have started the year any better, after a 28-0 victory over the Old Boys we jumped to top spot in the league table with a 50-6 victory over newcomers North West Tigers. Unfortunately, just two weeks later the Tigers withdrew from the league and the result was wiped out.

After such a great start it was frustrating to go on a run of 6 consecutive defeats, however, that was to end with a convincing win over our rivals Bury Broncos A at Greenhalgh’s Pavilion. Eight different try scorers, including a hatrick by Ste Hickey, and 10 successful conversions by Daryl Devlin cemented a 64-14 demolition and gave us our biggest victory since August 2013.

The win over Bury was the first of 5 wins in 8 games for Bolton, including victories over Latchford Albion A, a double header against Higginshaw and the return fixture against the Broncos. Having taken charge of the Mets for the first time at Philips High School back in 2016, Al got revenge for the two previous narrow defeats with another exhilarating performance from his troops. A 44-10 win was enough to take the Mets to within 4 points of fourth place in the overall standings with 2 games to go, however, after Bury decided to withdraw from the league all results became null and void. That was now three victories taken off our tally for the season, meaning the loss of 6 competition points and 158 points for. Also, on a personal level it meant the loss of 8 league tries for Ste Hickey and 46 points for Daryl Devlin.

Taking a brief hiatus from league action, we first held our Annual Ken Jones Memorial Bowling Day before heading to the Macron Stadium for the Challenge Cup Semi Final Double Header. As usual, the Bowling Day was enjoyed by all and even through up a surprise winner in the Dominoes competition, if not the Bowls. Michael Horrobin and Tom Banks cleaned up in the Dominoes, defeating Al and former Chairman Glenn Jones in the final, before Club President Jack Dorning and Chris Jones made short work of Ryan Terry and Andy Platt in the Bowls.

Seeing professional Rugby League being played in our hometown was a real delight, and two great games will hopefully put Bolton in the mix when the RLWC committee decide which venues will host games in 2021 when the Rugby League World Cup comes to our shores. The Mets group who attended the event couldn’t have hoped for a better day, and with lots of positive comments flying around it bodes well for the future.

Back to the on-field action, we played in the inaugural NWML Nines Tournament at the home of Halton Farnworth Hornets in Widnes in early August and came away happy that we had held our own. A 22-0 defeat to Division 2 side Wigan St Judes A caught us cold, but we bounced back with a 14-0 win against Burnley & Pendle. Going into game 3 against Pilkington Recs A, we knew that a win would see us advance to the finals day or a defeat would see us knocked out. Playing a side from Division 1 wasn’t going to phase us, even when they took the lead we were still well in the game, so much so that Ryan Terry crashed over to set up a tense final few minutes. A couple of breaks gave Pilks A good field position, but when a penalty was awarded in front of the posts they opted to kick for two rather than run the ball and run the risk of losing possession. This speaks volumes about the Mets performance in the final game, as a team from 4 divisions higher were pushed right to the wire and needed to take the easy option of two points to secure the win.

With two league games remaining, we had high hopes of getting at least one victory out of the two, but it wasn’t to be. Defeats to Wigan Spring View A and Champions Thatto Heath B weren’t going to dampen our spirits as we knew we’d made huge strides forward in 2018. Just like last season, even though we finished outside of the top 4 we very nearly found ourselves in the play offs due to other teams forfeiting games throughout the year. Bolton Mets have now fulfilled all our league fixtures for the last 4 seasons, despite suffering some heavy defeats, which may not seem like much but when you look further in to the records of other teams then it certainly shows the character of our club.

Our final outing of the season was against the North Brussels Gorillas as we went on tour to the capital city of Belgium. A 20 man contingent made the trip over to the European mainland, and 16 players kitted up to do battle against the Gorillas. A tough encounter ensued and unfortunately, we didn’t quite have enough to get us over the line, a 38-20 win went to the Home side. Despite the result, the tour was very enjoyable and added another name to the list of places we have been with the aim of promoting Rugby League.

The curtain finally came down on the season with our Awards Evening on Saturday 29th September, taking place in the Bolton Market Lifestyle Hall with food being served up by one of our sponsors, Alain Job of Nkono.

There were ten different awards on offer, and it was great to see seven individual players winning an award. Al took pleasure in handing out each trophy and certainly deserved credit for the upturn in the team’s fortunes.

The awards winners were:

Oppositions Player of the Season

21 different players received votes overall, 9 different players with a 1st place vote

3rd = Ryan Terry (9 games played)
2nd = Ste Hickey (9 games played)
1st = Rick Ackers (16 games played)

Top Try Scorer

Winner – Ste Hickey = 10 (9 games played)

Worthy Mentions – Rick Ackers = 7, Daryl Devlin, Will Bate = 4

Most Improved Player of the Season

Winner – Rob Tuppen

Worthy Mentions – Paul Charnock, Darren Robinson Jnr, Tom Crook, Harry Dawber

Club Player of the Season

Winner – Darren Robinson Jnr

Worthy Mentions – Paul Charnock, Rob Tuppen, Jason Nuttall

Coach’s Players of the Season

Winner – Paul Charnock

Worthy Mention – Ryan Terry, Rick Ackers

Players Player of the Season

18 different players received votes overall, 8 different players with a 1st place vote

3rd = Paul Charnock (16 games played)
2nd = Rick Ackers (16 games played)
1st = Daryl Devlin (15 games played)

After handing out the players awards, Al confirmed Rick Ackers as the Captain for 2019 and he took this opportunity to thank the volunteers on his and the players behalf. He handed out trophies and thank yous to Darren Robinson Snr, Will Smith, Chris Hadjar, Sam Heyes, Al Scarbrough and Stuart Cooke. All the thanks were very much appreciated, we all offer our time and commitment for the love of the game and the desire to see Bolton Mets succeed.

We would like to offer our sincere thanks to all our who’ve supported Bolton Mets throughout the season, in particularly our sponsors AD Sprinklers, Steamy Windows, Essa Academy, Fireless, Greenhalgh’s, Superior Design, Bunbury’s, University of Bolton, Plus Opto, Nkono and Serious About Rugby League. Without the support of local people and companies, running a club would be a hell of a lot harder.

This season has been the most successful for Bolton Mets in 5 years, with some outstanding on field results, points for going up, points against going down and some talented players coming through the doors. Also, Daryl Devlin was not only challenging for Top Point Scorer in the division, but in the entire NWML structure, that is some effort considering the players he was up against. All in all, it’s been a great year and we hope this progress continues as we head towards our 25th Anniversary in 2020.

Well that is it for another year, with some off season planning we aim to come back bigger, stronger and even more professional in 2019. Will you be part of it? Anyone wishing to join the club, either as a player, coach or volunteer, then you can get in touch with Chairman Stuart Cooke via this website, by emailing [email protected] or by phone on 07802 608256.