Nothing was going to dampen the excitement surrounding the 5th Annual Old Boys Game, not even the risk of heavy rain and snow in the days leading up to it.
Head Coach Al Scarbrough had a large squad to choose from going into the game, and with the Old Boys currently leading the series 3 games to 1 it was vitally important that he selected a strong side. The snow had failed to show itself, however, the rain wasn’t quite so forgiving and certainly made its presence known with a top layer of mud on the pitch making it slippery under foot.
An impressive start by the current side saw them earn a repeat set on the Old Boys line before opening the scoring. Scrum Half Mark Dorning took the ball to the line before committing two defenders and releasing Centre Joseph Burns who dived over the line to score. Mark couldn’t convert the try so it remained at 4-0 after 5 minutes of play.
Another try followed soon after, this time Mark setting up the opposite Centre Ste Hickey with a delightful angled kick. As the ball slid through into the in-goal area, Ste outpaced the Old Boys defence and dived onto the loose ball. Attempting to convert his own try, Ste was narrowly wide of the uprights with his kick leaving the Mets 8-0 to the good.
The Old Boys tried to gain a foot hold in the game, but the ferocity of the Mets defence kept them camped within their own half, however, with the current side on the attack a neat interception from Aaron Smith saw him sprint upfield with no one in front of him. Despite being one of the speedier players on the Old Boys side, he was brought down before the line by Captain Josh Bourne and debutant Winger Jonathan McMillan.
Solid drives by the Old Boys forwards Neil Hart, Colin Crompton, and Dave Cain, started to make in roads as the half progressed, but the defence from the opposing forwards Ryan Terry, Jason Nuttall and Andy Platt kept the yards down to a minimum.
Back on the attack, Josh Bourne, who was facing the Old Boys for the first time, had the bit between his teeth as his carried the ball forward. Several defenders tried to push him back, but pure strength forced him towards the line. As the would-be tacklers fell off him, and with very little space remaining on the field, the big Loose Forward dived for the corner to expertly touch down. Yet another missed conversion left Al Scarbrough wondering whether this could cost his side later in the game.
Next up was the try of the half, Prop Forward Rick Ackers had entered the field mid-way through the first 40 minutes from the bench, and after a one on one ball steal close to his own line he sprinted his way upfield. With the full length of the field to go nobody, let alone Rick himself, expected him to outpace the chasers to score a try, but that is exactly what happened as his touched the ball down over the line. Finally, a successful conversion from Stand Off Daryl Devlin extended the Mets lead to 18-0 as half time approached.
The rain continued during the game, making handling very difficult, but the spirit of the game was there for all to see. Players past and present doing battle with the sole purpose to show their love and support of this great club, and the desire to see it succeed.
As the second half got underway it was time for the Old Boys to ring the changes, Mark Green and Lee Williams paired up in the halves, whilst Gary Hill and Chris Lane were drafted in to sure up the middle. This helped them subdue the next few Mets attacks, but the pressure soon took its toll.
After Ste Hickey had made a break upfield only to be brought down close to the line, Prop Forward Neil Kelly, somehow finding himself in the dummy half position, chose to barge over from close range to score his first try for the club. Another kick between the posts from Daryl Devlin made it 24-0 with nearly an hour played.
In the first half, debutant Andy Crompton had started well in the Hooker position but found himself on the side line with a chest injury, this meant Sam Abbott entered the field to take over. The third debutant for Bolton Mets was Loose Forward Lee Massey, and it looks as though he will slot nicely into the pack and challenge several players for their shirts in the coming weeks.
The time was ticking by and the scoring seemed to have stuttered, that was until another kick and chase resulted in the sixth Mets try of the afternoon. Mark Dorning again the provider, an angled grubber kick from left to right enticed Winger Jonathan McMillan to use his pace and beat the opposing Full Back to the ball. Jonathan pounced on the opportunity to open his account on debut and calmly touched the ball down before Chris Piercy could get there. The conversion was missed again but the score was now 28-0 to the current side.
With only minutes left on the clock the Mets played it safe and brought the win home, achieving our first defensive shutout since the tour to Rotterdam in July 2017. As the final whistle blew a huge roar erupted from the current side, as well as a huge sigh of relief from the Old Boys that it was over for another year. With five games now contested, the Old Boys still had the lead at 3-2 but the current side will already be aiming to tie the scores in 2019.
Former Mets Coach Rick Brooks picked out Sam Heyes as Man of the Match for the Old Boys, whilst Al Scarbrough picked the evergreen Mark Dorning as Man of the Match for the current side. Mark got the honour of receiving the trophy in the post-match celebrations, the trophy being a gladiator style helmet with the scores engraved on either side. Ryan Terry earned the Top Tackler award for some bone rattling hits that will certainly give the Old Boys something to remember over the next 12 months.
The day was a massive success despite the weather, and even though it had understandably scared off a few supporters the players all turned out in numbers to make sure the game was as tense and as positive for the current side as possible ahead of the new season.
If you want to get involved with Bolton Mets, either as a player, coach, or volunteer, then please get in touch through Pitchero, Facebook or Twitter. Or, please feel free to attend our AGM at Bunbury’s, starting at 12.30pm on Sunday 18th February.