A second bonus Home fixture in the last two weeks saw us host Aspull New Springs again today and possibly for the first time this season we had to prepare for the rain.
The game started well for Bolton Mets as we had the best of the early exchanges, some neat interchange play down the left flank saw Winger Martyn Mercer sprint away before passing inside to the supporting Gavin Hatton. The unconverted try gave us a 4-0 lead.
Despite having some of our more experienced players missing we still managed to put out a strong squad, and with Captain Rick Ackers leading from the front we had real confidence going into the game. We managed to double our lead midway through the half when Hooker Adam Ryan passed on to Prop Forward Aaron Haydock for a debut try. Taking the ball to the line, Aaron was stopped short but was still able to spin out of the tackle and touch down. Daryl Devlin’s attempted conversion was unfortunate to hit the post and leave the score at 8-0 in Bolton’s favour.
The rain had now made an appearance but as it was only a light shower it wasn’t going to affect the game too much, that was to come later.
As the half progressed, Aspull starting to make a few inroads into Mets territory but were rebuffed at every opportunity by Full Back Jonathan McMillan. Some ferocious defence helped keep them at bay and give us good field position for our next set. Strong carries by Steve Harrison and Darren Robinson Jnr caused Aspull some real problems, however, we just couldn’t link up the play out wide to benefit from it.
With the game entering the final minute of the half, Aspull had one last throw of the dice and they got the bit of luck they needed. A kick through bounced off the post padding and ricocheted into the in goal area for the onrushing player to apply downward pressure and secure a try and an easy conversion.
The score was now 8-6 at the break and Al Scarbrough took the opportunity to speak to the players, some lax play was cause for concern but he hoped this would be rectified in the next 40 minutes.
Some ill discipline by Aspull early in the second half allowed Rick Ackers to take a quick tap and tear away from the slow retreating defenders, and even though he probably could have made it to the line himself he unselfishly offloaded to Martyn Mercer who finished off the move close to the sticks. This was to be the first try of Martyn’s Mets career but we certainly hope there are more to come. Devlin added the extras to increase our lead to 14-6 with 30 minutes to play.
After the earlier threat the rain was now bouncing down and was being accompanied by the cracks of thunder and flashes of lightning. This meant the ball become slippery and hard to handle, as some passes started to go to grown we went through a period of scrums which stilted the free flowing rugby we had seen up to then.
The Away side were a completely different team than we faced a month or so ago, that being due to their recent partnership with NCL side Ince Rose Bridge. Some transfers between the two sides meant we were faced with some new challenges this time, a couple of the key players started to turn on the style which led to them getting back into the game.
The Mets defence was a little loose down the middle and this led to the next Aspull try, scoring so close to the sticks again meant it was to be 6 points rather than just 4. The gap now narrowed to just 2 points.
As we entered the final 10 minutes it all went a little downhill for the Mets, our try line defence was staggered and gifted the side stepping Scrum Half an opportunity to dive over and score. The resulting kick flew through the uprights to give them the lead for the first time in the game at 18-14.
From the kick off, Daryl Devlin managed to find touch and give us possession deep in the Aspull half, despite this we couldn’t force our way over the try line to rescue the win. The players started to get a little white line fever and opted to try and drive it over rather than spreading the ball wide, which considering the quality of players in the back line could have been considered the wrong decision. A knock on gave the ball back to the visitors and they did enough to see out the game, as the final whistle blew the frustration was evident from everyone connected to the Mets.
The opposition coaches picked out nippy Hooker Adam Ryan and hard running Prop Neil Walsh as runners up in the Man of the Match Award, whilst Captain Rick Ackers earned top honours again for the fourth time this season. Debutant Aaron Haydockwas singled out as Top Tackler for a very impressive first Mets appearance.
After six consecutive Home games we get back on the road next week as we travel to Oldham to face Higginshaw, this the rearranged fixture from Round One that was snowed off in early March.