A top vs bottom clash was on the cards this Saturday as Bolton Mets travelled to St Helens to face Clock Face Miners A.
Things didn’t go according to plan in the days leading up to the game, with several players carrying knocks from the recent narrow defeat to Bury Broncos we only had 11 players available on Friday morning. This meant some ringing around for Chairman Stuart Cooke who luckily managed to get an additional six to confirm, which gave us a full complement of 17 players. Unfortunately, one of the original eleven fell ill overnight and so we eventually travelled to the league leaders with a 16-man squad.
As you can imagine, getting a scratch side out only hours before KO wasn’t ideal, and due to the fact that we were missing our first choice half back pairing of Captain Ste Hickey and club stalwart Mark Dorning, plus several other experienced players, it was always going to be a tough ask to get anything from the game but we were more than prepared to give it a go. As we were also without our back up ball handler Martin Galland, it was Aaron Smith and utility player Joe Harte who partnered up as play makers.
Despite all the palaver we started the game as the better of the two teams, when Clock Face had the ball they struggled to get passed the second tackle before coughing up possession. Strong driving by forwards Tom Crook, Harry Dawber, and Dave Hulme continuously made inroads into the Home sides half before some slick handling saw us work the ball from one side of the field to the other. Unfortunately, the final product wasn’t quite there just yet.
A similar routine continued for the open 10-15 minutes and it looked as though we were causing them problems, however, as we started another attack from the half way line a quick thinking Miner managed to rip the ball in a one on one tackle before sprinting away to score the opening try of the game. Another try followed when a spread play ended with the Winger scoring down the left flank, and with both conversions successful it gave them a 12-0 lead.
A couple of breakaway tries for Clock Face followed, after two missed tackles in the middle of the park the ball carriers bust through the defensive line before crossing the whitewash under the posts. Two more successful kicks opened up a 24 point gap.
What happened next certainly caught Clock Face unawares, although the same could be said for the Mets side line, as Joe Harte opted to go for a drop goal on the last play to at least get us on the score board, but also importantly giving us back possession from the kick off.
Two further tries were scored by the hosts as they made it 36-1 at half time, the second of which came from a neat kick through into the in goal area that was not dealt with by the Mets defence allowing the onrushing player to touch down.
Al Scarbrough was more than impressed by his sides first half performance, which considering the score may seem strange but going up against the league leaders and at the very least causing them issues was a huge leap forward for us. Several changes were made at the break as Al looked to freshen up his pack, as such he sent on Daniel Bowden, Steven Murphy and debutant Matthew Moore.
Having only recently turned 17, Matthew joins the ever increasing number of teenagers turning out for the Mets. He carried the ball well in attack and tackled his heart out in defence, a bright future is on the cards for this young man.
The second half remained scoreless for a good 15 minutes before the first try, when a Joe Harte solo run saw him beat several would be tacklers before crossing the line close to the sticks. Recent recruit Daryl Devlin slotted over the conversion to register his first points since joining the club, the score was now 36-7 to Clock Face.
We continued to threaten the line, thanks mainly to some excellent angled running by Second Rower Dave Hulme and Loose Forward Josh Bourne. They were backed up by some pacey dummy half runs from Wingers Adam Woods and Tom Everard.
One of the benefits to playing Rugby League over the summer months is the weather, rather than playing on wet and muddy pitches whilst the rain comes in sideways we tend to get a lot more warmer, dryer days. However, the down side is the heat can sap the energy from players not quite at the peak of physical fitness, which means tackles can be missed as the game progresses. This is exactly what happened with us, the Miners benefitting from some less than aggressive tackling and the odd lucky bounce.
Despite the missed tackles costing us, the defence on show by Bolton was improving week upon week. Harry Dabber and Dan Bowden marshalled the defence from the middle whilst Centres Stuart MacDonald and Andy Platt made sure the edges kept the line flat and moving forward.
An interception try kept the score board ticking over for the Miners, Joe Harte throwing a wayward pass after losing his footing, before the final try rounded out the afternoon and earned a comprehensive victory for the league leaders. The final score settled at 62-7 to Clock Face Miners A.
In the absence of Ste Hickey, the captaincy was handed to Josh Bourne for the first time, his day was capped off by being picked out as Man of the Match by the opposition. He was closely followed by Joe Harte and Daryl Devlin, but it could have equally have been Dave Hulme or Tom Everard, two other players who really ran their blood to water.
Defensively, Harry Dawber earned the Top Tackler award as he put in hit after hit on the more experienced opposition. Harry has now played the last 5 consecutive games for the Mets and is continually showing signs of improvement with every step.
We do have a game next weekend but it isn’t in the NWML as per usual, we actually travel over 300 miles to face our friends Rotterdam Pitbulls in the Netherlands. This will be the deciding match in a 3 game series that has seen us travel to Rotterdam in 2015 for the opener and the Pitbulls visit Bolton in 2016 for the second 80 minute battle. Who will win the decider, only time will tell!