Bolton Mets 20-48 Blackpool Scorpions
Yet again, despite a week of heavy rain, the pitches at Greenhalgh’s Pavilion @ Bolton Rugby Club stood up to the task as we hosted Blackpool Scorpions in the NWML Shield this weekend.
Bolton Mets named an 18 man squad for this game, and even though it would be nice to cause an upset, our main focus was being more competitive over the course of 80 minutes.
The side from Blackpool, who are riding high in NWML Division 4 whilst Bolton are bottom of the division below, took an early lead with a move from the base of the scrum. They doubled their lead moments later with a try out of nothing, and with one kick out of two successful it made the score 10-0 to the visitors.
With the Scorpions on the attack again, a loose pass was picked off by Scrum Half Daryl Devlin who then sprinted 80 metres to score under the sticks. This made it easy for him to convert and narrow the gap to just 4 points.
A missed tackle was the cause of the next try, and unfortunately it was for the Scorpions, another conversion edging them back to 10 points in front.
After 4 tries in the opening 20 minutes, a period of tight defence was to follow. Some great hits were being put in by both sides, and a few could easily have made the highlight reel of a Super League player. Working as a unit, and showing true grit and determination to keep out the opposition, the Mets defence held firm for numerous sets and even forced the error when the Away side couldn’t break them down.
On the back of such ferocious defence, we worked our way down field with strong ball carries by Niall Murphy, Gary Hill and Rob Tuppen, this allowed Full Back Patrick OBrien to take advantage of slow retreating defenders and find his way to the line. Despite being under huge pressure, and with two defenders hanging off of him, he reached out and touched the ball down.
With minutes to go in the first half, Stand Off Jonathan McMillan went for a chip and chase kick option, only to see it brought back with pace by an opposing player. As the Mets players had moved up in anticipation of a deeper kick there was no one at home to stop the try. Another kick made it 22-10 at the break.
The rain wasn’t showing any signs of stopping, and even though there was the odd complaint you could tell the lads were enjoying the outing. As you could imagine, it wasn’t the biggest of turn outs on the sidelines, but a number of spectators from both clubs deserve credit for coming out to support community Rugby League in such conditions.
Blackpool were a big set of lads, and when they were running at us with a full head of steam they were hard to stop. An attack down their right flank opened the scoring in the second half to increase the lead, but Bolton stuck at it and got their rewards.
Making only his second appearance for the club, and on Home debut, Ethan Hill got his first Mets try with a dive over from close range, after jumping into the dummy half position. This made the score 26-14 with 50 minutes played.
Due to some heavy hits in the first half, our bench was starting to look more like the waiting room in A&E. Hooker Keiran Lockett had to go off with an ankle injury, hopefully nothing more serious than a severely sprained ankle, so this meant Steven Harrisonhad to switch positions and take control of the forwards.
The driving of the ball from Anthony Knight, Tom Banks, and Ryan McClusky really rocked the men from Blackpool, they were being pushed backwards each time and this helped the Half Backs put on the plays close to the line.
Even though we were holding our own in the game, the experience started to show for our opposition. The ball handlers were not only demanding the ball, but they were spotting weaknesses in the Mets defence and pointing where their players should be running. Some solid angled runs by the two Second Rowers resulted in three tries, although the bravery on show by Bolton Full Back OBrien deserved more as he tried his damnedest to hold them up over the line.
The score was now 40-14 in favour of the visitors, but the Mets fighting spirit kept pushing us on. Working tirelessly, and always looking to take the ball forward, Winger Tom Bradley set us on our way for another try. On the back of Tom’s hard work, McMillan took the ball to the line, and after attracting the defenders to him he passed to the on rushing Centre Gavin Hatton, who crashed through to score his fifth try in seven appearances. Devlin slotted over his second conversion of the day and improved on the 4 pointer.
As we were entering the last few minutes of the game, the efforts of the Mets players had visibly taken it out of them, and they disappointingly allowed Blackpool the opportunity to score two late tries. With both conversion missing by a mile, the final result was settled at 48-20.
Taking the conditions into consideration, and the quality of the opposition, a 48-20 defeat is not a bad outcome. Yes, we were beaten too easily at times, but the character shown to keep them out for long periods was very pleasing to see from a Mets point of view. Head Coach Al Scarbrough wasn’t prepared to pick out one or two players for individual praise, he felt the whole squad deserves credit and adulation for their performance in this game, and he hopes that this has set the platform for the second half of the season.
Playing in only his second ever Mets game, his first being way back in 2013, Ryan McClusky was awarded the Oppositions Man of the Match, with Patrick OBrien and Rob Tuppen runners up. Loose Forward Steven Harrison impressed in defence, and was picked out as Top Tackler for the second time this season.
Bolton Mets now turn our attention to the upcoming night fixture, we host Golborne Parkside on Friday evening, 7pm KO. Alongside the rugby, there will be a BBQ offering burgers and such like, so we thoroughly encourage you to attend and join in the family fun.