After consecutive away games, and a couple of heavy defeats, we were happy to be back at Greenhalgh’s Pavilion on Saturday to host Salford City Roosters A for the first time.
With a squad of 22 players available, Head Coach Al Scarbrough had his first real selection headache of the season, as with only 17 shirts up for grabs it meant 5 lads had to miss out. As frustrating as it was for those players, the team that was picked had the desired strength and balance across the field to get the result.
Things couldn’t have started any better for the Mets, Stand Off Jonathan McMillan opened the scoring with a show and go from about 20 metres out before touching down under the posts, this gave Daryl Devlin an easy conversion to make it 6-0 after just 5 minutes.
Playing at Full Back this week, James Lacey went on a mazy run, bouncing off defenders left, right, and centre, before offloading to the supporting Centre Patrick OBrien down the left flank. Outpacing his opposite number, Patrick sprinted away to score before Devlin again added the extras.
Next up, and with Salford on the attack, a wayward pass was collected by McMillan, who then had a clear run to the line for his second of the afternoon. Another successive conversion gave us an 18-0 advantage less than 20 minutes into the game.
Salford had only been able to muster 13 players and would have to do it tough for the full 80 minutes, something we’re not unfamiliar with here at Bolton Mets, but they soon had a try of their own to celebrate after a kick and chase caused confusion in our defence. With the ball being allowed to bounce, it was picked up by a Roosters player who gleefully dived over the line to score. The conversion passed between the uprights to narrow the gap to 12 points.
The Forward pack worked tirelessly in the first half to set a platform for the Backs to work from, this allowed another break down the left from OBrien and led to the fourth Mets try. Having beaten a couple of players with his footwork already, and with only the Full Back left to beat, OBrien passed the ball on the inside to Prop Forward Anthony Knight for his first try of the season.
Just before the half came to a close, we crossed again with a slick handling move from a tap penalty. As the ball passed through several pairs of hands, James Lacey threw a cut out pass to put Patrick OBrien in for another 4 pointer, Devlin made it 30-6 with his fifth successful kick.
Having made changes throughout the first half, Al Scarbrough reverted back to his starting 13 for the second. Mark Dorning, Steven Harrision and Andy Platt all causing a nuisance when they were on, and would be willing to do so again once called upon.
The momentum was fully with the Mets in this game, and a try within the first minute of the restart compounded the misery for the travelling Roosters. A scoot from dummy half by OBrien at first saw him running laterally, but once he spotted a gap in the defensive line he activated his afterburners to take advantage. Despite support from Winger Callum Smith on his outside, a hatrick was the only thing on Patrick’s mind, and even though he eased up close the line the defenders just couldn’t stop him.
Having just seen one hatrick along came another, Jonathan McMillan again throwing a dummy to help create himself a gap before crossing for his third try of the game, and his first ever Mets hatrick. Since moving to the Stand Off position, he has been a major threat in attacking positions and has improved his game no end. As regular as clockwork, Devlin converts again to take the score to 42-6 with 30 minutes still to play.
Today was the day when everything just clicked for Bolton, very few knock ons and players running the right lines showed the improvements we’ve made. The next try was another handling move, the ball being passed rapidly from left to right before Rob Tuppen fed Centre Paul Charnock, giving him just enough space in the right corner to score.
Now, try number nine is the one we’ve all been waiting for. The ever present, and ever improving, Alex Stephens had come close in recent weeks, even having a try ruled out for a double movement against Higginshaw, but not so today. A ball carry that started deep in his own half saw Alex smash through some would be defenders, run around a despairing Full Back, and even let out a celebratory roar as he went on to score his first ever try in a game of Rugby League. As the kick sailed over the cross bar, we had now broken the 50 point barrier for the first time since our Home demolition of Bury Broncos A in May 2018.
Without any subs, Salford really had to dig deep, but to their immense credit they weren’t ready to give up just yet. A blip in concentration by the Mets defence allowed the Away side a chance in the corner, a chance they weren’t going to turn down. Some quick hands created an overlap meaning the Winger could score, and with another try converted they doubled their tally.
Playing a big part in starting many a Mets attack, Full Back James Lacey finally got his just rewards by actually being on the end of one this time. Having received the ball only inches from the touchline, an unbelievable sidestep saw him create just enough space to allow him to cross the whitewash and score. Daryl Devlin, only recently making his return from injury, slotted over his tenth conversion of the game and secured a 100% success rate with the boot.
Even though they had been on the end of a hammering, the Roosters showed great character, enough to have the final say with their third score. A sliced conversion failed to improve on it, and saw the game end 60-16 to Bolton Mets.
An emphatic victory was exactly what was needed, 10 tries from 6 different scorers shows the potential within the squad, we will now look to build on this result in training over the coming weeks.
With a try, two assists, and the most ball carries throughout the 80 minutes, James Lacey earned the praise of the opposition with the Man of the Match award. Playing in the Second Row for the first time, Gavin Hatton was picked out as Top Tackler. Having scored a hatrick, named second in MOM and second in the tackling stats, Jonathan McMillan also had an outstanding game.
Due to the Easter break, and 2 free weekends, we don’t play again until Saturday 11th May when we do battle with Wigan Spring View A at Greenhalgh’s Pavilion. There may be additional training sessions or friendlies in the pipeline, so keep an eye on our website and social media outlets for more details.