Bolton edged out by league leaders

Bolton Mets 24-30 Clock Face Miners

League leaders Clock Face Miners A were the visitors to Greenhalgh’s Pavilion this weekend, marking the halfway stage of the NWML season with 8 games played and 8 games to go.

The men from St.Helens hit the ground running, firstly with a spread play down the left flank and then with a breakaway try from deep within their own half. Another try followed after a defender shot out of the line and left a gap, with all three tries converted it opened up an 18-0 lead after 15 minutes.

On the back of such a bad start the signs looked ominous, however, the character within the side helped bring us back into the game. A bit of an unstructured end to a set was quickly turned around by a delightful kick through by Stand Off Jonathan McMillan. The perfectly weighted kick was chased down by Loose Forward Gavin Hatton, beating the Full Back to the ball Gavin was able score the first Mets try of the afternoon. Kicking directly from in front of the posts meant Daryl Devlin added the extra 2 points to make it 18-6 with half an hour played.

There had been several high shots and swinging arms in the game so far, mostly by the same player, and after yet another high tackle the Miners Prop went for a 10 minute spell in the sin bin. With 5 minutes to the break, he would split his period in the bin either side of half time.

As we were a little short of the full compliment of 17 on Friday afternoon, Ben Cottam was drafted in to make his Bolton Mets debut. Starting from the bench, he soon entered the field of play and showed signs of what may be to come in future. Despite being on the receiving end of some hard, but fair, tackles, he quickly bounced to his feet to played the ball to set the next attack on its way.

Clock Face were the first to score after the break, however, it was a real bone of contention with the Mets sideline. As an attack down the left side progressed, the pass that put the Centre through a gap was clearly forward, despite this the referee allowed play to go on and the ball was touched down. A successful kick gave the Away side a 24-6 lead, and in previous outings that would have been game over for Bolton.

A number of players have shone so far this year, arguably none more so than Patrick OBrien. Stepping past and around defenders down the wing, Patrick was able to dive over in the corner and score his eighth try in seven league games, but it did put pressure on Devlin with a conversion right on the touchline. After a bit of an off week with the boot vs Spring View A, Devlin calmly converted this time and made it a two score game.

Making his first appearance of the season, Connor Orrell came in at Second Row and was soon in on the action. Bringing the ball out from near our own try line, Daryl Devlin’s short pass put Connor through a gap and saw him sprint three quarters of the length of the field to score. Adding to his assist, Devlin converted the try to narrow the gap further.

We were now on a roll, the Forward pack of Gavin CorfieldAndy PlattSteven Harrison and Rob Tuppen made massive inroads into the Miners half, this helped set the platform from players like Will BateTom Bradley and Craig Millington to attack the retreating defenders.

Having failed to score on our previous set, it gave possession back to the opposition, but they weren’t counting on Winger Millington intercepting a pass and charging away for another Mets try. Having scored close to the uprights, it meant Devlin’s kick tied the scores at 24-24, Bolton coming from 24-6 down early in the second half.

Both teams were pushing for the win, a tense period was to follow and some of tackles being put in were showing that neither side wanted to give an inch. Back to back sets on the Miners line failed to result in a try for Bolton, although Will Bate and Kieran Lockett both went close. Clock Face in return worked the ball from right to left in front of the Mets line, only to see their Winger bundled into touch, a few blades of grass away from scoring in the corner.

As possession switched between Home and Away sides, it needed something a little different to break the deadlock. Coming to an end of a set, the Clock Face Half Back put in a high kick towards their left hand side. The resulting kick was claimed by the onrushing Centre, picking the pocket of the Mets defender, and with a clear run to the line he scored the try. A 100% record for both kickers meant the score now stood at 30-24 in the favour of Clock Face.

The final few minutes saw Bolton Mets throw everything but the kitchen sink into getting back on level terms, but it just wasn’t to be. A couple of chances arose, but the pass just didn’t go to hands when needed. As the final whistle blew, Bolton were left disappointed, whereas the opposition cheered with glee as they knew they had been involved in a really tough encounter.

Obviously, frustration and disappointment follows such a defeat, however, we will take a lot of pride in giving the league leaders a real scare, and in particularly, the way we came back from 18 points behind to tie the scores late in the game.

It’s quite common to see Will Bate named as Opposition Man of the Match, and also have Patrick OBrien in the running, but it was very pleasing to see Rob Tuppen named as a runner up on the back of some very solid performances in 2019. Having recently switched from the Backs into the Forwards, Gavin Hatton took the Top Tackler honours from the number 13 position.

We now have a week off to enjoy the Magic Weekend, before returning to league action on Saturday 1st June Away to Rylands Sharks. Photography by John McGibbon.

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