Bolton Mets claim first win of the season

After last weekends lacklustre performance against Newton Storm, we were hellbent on making amends this Saturday Away to Golborne Parkside.

Despite the desire to improve, injuries and player unavailability really made it a tough ask, however, the character instilled in all those involved with the club meant we did what we could to make it happen. This included drafting in former players Anthony Knight and Adam Millington, plus rarely available Dave Hulme and debutant Chris Gaffey.

The lineup was only 15 men strong, and in all honesty it looked like Al Scarbrough had picked the names out of a hat considering the number of players playing out of position, but again, the willingness to do what was asked of them was incredible.

From the opening moments of the game it was all Bolton Mets, a shift of the ball down the left flank saw Scrum Half Steven Harrison release Patrick OBrien who then went on to outpace the chasing defenders before touching down. Playing his first competitive game for the club in 18 months, Kieran Lockett slotted over the extra 2 points to increase the lead.

The pitch had taken quite a soaking over the course of the week, as such it was cutting up quite badly and causing some footing issues, this is when Golborne took advantage and crashed over for a try of their own. The scores now tied at 6-6 after a successful conversion.

Starting on the Wing this week, Callum Smith has shown major improvements in the games so far this year and got his just rewards 25 minutes into the half. A blind side play saw Full Back OBrien throw a cut out pace to Smith who initially aimed for the corner before putting on a late step to fool the defender and find his way to the line. This was to be his first try for the club and a moment for him to remember.

Going back to last weekend, we lacked control and composure in many areas of the pitch, but not so much this week as Jonathan McMillan and Harrison kept things ticking over nicely. Harrison himself went close to scoring later in the half, a last ditch tackle stopping him inches from the line, but the build up play was slick and entertaining to watch.

As the half was coming to a close, and with the Mets camped on the Golborne line, Hooker Lockett took the opportunity to dive over from close range and open his account for the season. An easy conversion made it 16-6 to Bolton at half time.

With only two interchange players on the bench, Al used Alex Stephens and Adam Millington to freshen things up a little by making straight swaps for Darren Robinson Snr and Kieran Lockett respectively. He also pointed out a few things for the players to be aware of before sending them back in to battle.

It wasn’t long before Millington stamped his authority on the game, he also bagged himself a try from close range and put the Mets further in front. The missed conversion left the score at 20-6 in favour of the travelling side.

Rugby League is a team game and there is no place on the field for dead wood, if you’re not pulling your weight then it doesn’t take long to show. This is why it was so encouraging to see the Backs helping out with ball carries when the Forwards started to look tired. Making his Bolton Mets debut, Chris Gaffey played his part in starting several attacks from close to our own line, and he was gleefully backed up by Centres Gavin Hatton and Anthony Knight. It was Hatton who benefitted from one of these attacks when the fleet footed Harrison bypassed several defenders before offloading close to the line and giving Hatton the chance to score.

The Home side also started the game with 15 men but were now down to just a bare 13 due to a couple of injuries, and things got even worse when they found themselves down to 12 after a high shot earned one of their players a 10 minute spell in the sin bin late in the game.

Building the pressure, and taking advantage of the extra man, we soon worked our way upfield. The tireless running of Robinson Snr and Rob Tuppen set the platform for one last hoorah, and what a hoorah it was.

Taking the ball to the line, Stand Off Jonathan McMillan sidestepped two defenders before crashing over a third, it was the third tackler that caused him to lose his footing. This wasn’t going to stop him though, he continued to progress on his knees before being stopped just before the try line. It was the next play that saw Prop Forward Gavin Corfield, who has played only a handful of games in the last 2 years due to a persistent ankle injury, receive the ball a few yards out and cross the whitewash for only his second ever Mets try. Back on the field for this conversion, Lockett made it 3 from 5 and settled the score at 30-6.

Head Coach Al Scarbrough couldn’t contain his excitement after the final whistle, he said, “I’m very proud of the guys for pulling on the jersey and playing some good rugby out there, and all on the back of the hard work we put in at training”.

Earning the Oppositions Man of the Match Award this week was Full Back Patrick OBrien, for what was called an “extraordinary effort” by his Coach. He was followed by McMillan and Corfield in the runners up spots, a particular outstanding achievement for Gavin considering the lack of game time in recent years. Not content with second place in the MOM, Jonathan also walked away with the Top Tackler Award after making 19 tackles, 14 first man and 5 second man.

It was great to get our first win of the season, especially against such a well established club, and with the continued hard work we’re fully focused on reaching our season goal of making the play offs.

We return to Greenhalgh’s Pavilion next Saturday as we welcome Rylands Sharks to Bolton, the game is scheduled for a 2.30pm KO, so why not come down and cheer on your local Rugby League team?

Photo: John McGibbon

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