After 6 months of planning, the team finally flew out to Belgium to do battle against the North Brussels Gorillas and add another location to the list of places we’ve toured in recent years.
Due to family & work commitments and/or financial reasons not everyone could make the trip, that meant the team wasn’t quite as strong or as balanced as it could have been, however, the lads that did travel were more than capable of getting the win.
As the game got underway it was clear to see that this was going to be a real physical battle, and after a heavy tackle put an end to Darren Robinson Snr’s afternoon it was quickly proved as much. With a ferocious tackle pushing him backwards, and a hard landing on the 3G pitch, he was left a little shell shocked and had to leave the field for the remainder of the game.
Despite the early set back we were soon bearing down on the Brussels line when Hooker Adam Ryan broke though a tackle in centre field. Having made the initial break he started to look back and therefore lose forward momentum, this allowed the chasing defenders the opportunity to bring him down before the line. Moments later, a spread play saw Winger Carl Henderson cross the whitewash only for it to be chalked off for a forward pass.
The Home side didn’t need a second invitation and capitalised soon after with the opening score of the game, plus the added extras with a successful conversion. One try didn’t just turn in to two, but three, and soon we found ourselves 18-0 down within 20 minutes. Some hard and fast running by the Gorillas caused us real problems and they deservedly had the lead.
Yet another set back for the Mets, this time Darren Robinson Jnr leaving the field with a suspected broken ankle reduced us to just 14 players and one interchange player on the bench. Fortunately, after the game it was clear that the ankle wasn’t broken but it was enough to worry those on the side lines when it happened.
With half time approaching we had one last throw of the dice, Ste Hickey going close to scoring before Centre Rob Tuppen dived over from dummy half. This was enough to get us off the mark, but a missed conversion left the score at 18-4 at the interval.
To win the game we now had to turn things around in the second half, however, an early try by Brussels increased their lead further and made things even harder than they already were. Bouncing back quickly, Adam Ryan made sure this time as he scooted away from the ruck and touched down out wide. Another missed conversion left us 16 points behind with 30 minutes remaining.
Prop Forwards Ed Wiseman and Ste Dorning were the two players who interchanged from the bench, this meaning every other player had to play on regardless. Second Rower Andrian Gribbinwas working overtime in defence and onlookers would have been forgiven for thinking he was younger than his 54 years.
Brussels hit back again to keep their advantage at a manageable level, their support play was a delight to watch as they continually managed to offload in the tackle and use their second phase play to score.
This half was following a completely different pattern to the first, tries were being swapped with regularity and it was the Mets who touched down next. Playing in the Centres, Garswood Stags Loanee Leon McCormick was released by Ste Hickey down the right flank and he swiftly made his way over the line. Hickey skilfully converted the try and brought the gap down to 14 points.
Tempers flared several times during the game but luckily it never escalated to anything more than a push and shove. On the back of a penalty and a good kick down field, the Gorillas scored another try with a break down their left-hand side from their speedy Winger.
The see saw battle continued and it was our turn again to score, Adam Ryan doubled his tally with some quick footwork and agility to waltz through the defence. Scoring under the posts meant 6 points rather than 4 and the lead was now cut to two scores.
Despite the hard work in the second half, we just couldn’t stop the Home side from scoring one final try to seal the win. A crash ball from 10 yards out saw them score their 7th try of the game and secure victory in the first ever encounter between the two sides. Credit must go to the North Brussels Gorillas, they were worthy winners and handled the occasion far better than ourselves to take the 38-20 win.
Adam Ryan was picked out as Man of the Match, due to scoring two tries, whilst Ste Hickey also deserves a mention for playing the whole 80 minutes as a lone Half Back. Leon McCormick takes the Top Tackler honours, he tackled well above his weight and constantly chopped down anyone that was put before him. Fellow Stag James Melling also put in a good performance, it was only a bout of cramp that stopped him going the full length of the field late in the game.
We would like to thank the guys in Brussels for welcoming us and helping organise the game, and all 20 tourists who made history in the first ever tour to Belgium for the club.
The only thing remaining this year is the End of Season Awards Evening that takes place from 6pm on Saturday 29th September at Bolton Market Lifestyle Hall, where we will celebrate our most successful season in five years. All are welcome, so please feel free to come along and celebrate with us.