Serious About Rugby League’s partner club Bolton Mets travelled up to the North East of England last weekend in preparation for our tour fixture versus a NERL Select XIII.
The game was being held at the home of Whitley Bay Barbarians and was being played as a curtain raiser to the North East Rugby League Grand Final between Jarrow Vikings and Edinburgh Eagles. Alongside these two fixtures, there were also Juniors and Women’s games taking place.
We got off to a bright start when Hooker Adam Ryan rounded several defenders before sprinting his way to the line. Captain Daryl Devlin coolly slotted over the extra 2 points to extend the lead within the opening 5 minutes.
After a tight period of play, the Home side started to gel and put the Mets defensive line under some real pressure. Despite keeping them out for several attempts, the quick-thinking Hooker spotted a gap and dived over to score. The conversion tied the scores at 6-6.
The guys from the North East, made up of players nominated by the teams not making the Grand Final, scored another try around the half hour mark with a barge over from a big forward. Then, on the back of a scrum play deep inside his own half, a fleet footed Centre ran almost the full length of the field to score a try, beating the chasing Callum Smith to the line.
Bolton regrouped and started to make firm inroads into the opposition half, Loose Forward Mark Dorning rolled back the years with several strong carries, whilst Ryan Terry scattered defenders like skittles every time he had the ball in hand. This helped set the platform for Bolton’s next score, after Winger Mark Riley was stopped close to the line Ste Hickey, playing in the Centre, used his experience to nick a try from inches out.
With both teams missing their last conversions, the score now stood at 18-10 to the Home side. Head Coach Al Scarbrough was equally pleased and peeved with his side’s performance in the first half but knew a few tweaks might help snatch the win.
As the game got back underway, the onlooking crowd certainly appreciated the spectacle they were witnessing. Seeing local players being given a stern test by a well-established club like Bolton Mets was a great advert for Rugby League, particularly for clubs from the non-heartland areas.
With Bolton on the attack, a wild pass was intercepted and led to the next try, the NERL Select XIII opening up a 14-point lead early in the second half. Even though they had the advantage, the Mets have put in some excellent comeback performances this year so far, were we going to get another?
Causing all sorts of problems with his fast footwork, Adam Ryan doubled his tally with another solo try 10 minutes into the half. The way this guy can accelerate, step, and hand off tacklers is a sight to behold, we can’t imagine many players like seeing his name on the team sheet on match days.
We managed to make it back to back tries with an attack down the left flank, Centre Rob Tuppen taking the ball to the line before offloading to Winger Ethan Hill, who then side stepped the first defender before taking another two over the line with him. This is now 3 tries in 5 games for Ethan, proving the adage correct, ‘if you’re good enough, you’re old enough’. Two conversions from Devlin brought the gap down to just 2 points, 24-22 to NERL.
The game was being dominated by the Hookers, and it was time for the NERL number 9 to get his second try with another close-range effort. Increasing their lead again, this time with a spread play from right to left, a booming pass from the Scrum Half found his Winger in space who then went on to score in the corner.
As the game entered the closing minutes, Bolton needed something special to regain a bit of pride and narrow the gap. What has now become a trademark for Stand Off Jonathan McMillan, a step and go earned us a last-minute try, converted by Full Back Paul Charnock, to bring the game to a close and the final score to 32-28 in favour of the Select XIII.
As always, we are disappointed with the result but proud of the team’s efforts. Having been in Newcastle since Thursday, and with a couple of late nights on the beer, the Mets could have easily rolled over and succumbed to their hangovers, but we ploughed on and feel we played our part in providing the onlooking crowd with a thrilling game.
With 2 tries, Adam Ryan was picked out as Man of the Match for the second year running in the tour game, whilst Ryan Terry claimed the prize of Top Tackler. Will Adam be able to make it 3 in 3 next year, wherever the tour maybe?
Bolton Mets will be back in NWML action on Saturday 31st August when we travel to league leaders Clock Face Miners A of St Helens, before finishing off the season with a Home game to Higginshaw and Away game to Wigan Spring View A in September.