In the midst of a very rare English summer heatwave, we travelled to Warrington to face Rylands Sharks for our first Away fixture since 21st April.
With low numbers on Friday afternoon we were a little worried about being able to field a full team, however, with the help of three Bolton RUFC players we managed to put together an 18 man squad. The heat had certainly taken its toll on the pitch, it was rock solid underfoot and only had the odd patch of grass at best.
Despite having 18 players in a Mets kit, it required several changes in position for Head Coach Al Scarbrough to balance his side as best as possible. Usually lining up in the Centres this season, Paul Leigh was moved back to Second Row for KO and wasted no time in making himself known. A strong carry saw him shrug off several defenders on the way to the line before crossing and touching down. The conversion from Daryl Devlin was perfectly slotted between the uprights and eased his mind after missing several kicks in recent weeks.
Two debutants started the game for Bolton Mets, John Ashton on the Wing and Chris Highton at Hooker, with both players working hard in the opening 20 minutes. John, and his opposite Winger Martyn Mercer, came in to dummy half on several occasions to ease the pressure on the forwards, whilst Chris caused all sorts of problems for the Sharks defence with his scurrying runs close to the ruck.
The Home side currently sit third in NWML Division Five and were always going to be a threat, their opening try was the result of a barnstorming run by their big Prop Forward who scored under the posts to make it an easy conversion.
The next try came after a knock on within our own half gave Rylands field position, some quick handling from the scrum allowed them to spread the ball wide and let loose their rocket heeled Winger. The pace from the wide man was electric and he easily rounded the scrambling defence before improving the angle for the kicker by scoring closer to the sticks than should have been allowed.
In the dying minutes of the half, a penalty against us allowed Rylands to add two extra points and increase their lead to 14-6 at half time. As the whistle blew, the lads headed for the shade to cool down and listen to Al ahead of the next 40 minutes.
With the heat sapping the players energy we called upon two further debutants to enter the fray, Rory Biggins and JP Hardmanof Bolton RUFC came off the bench to make their first appearance for the Mets, whilst Darren Robinson Jnr and Steven Harrison earned their rest on the side lines.
Rylands came out in the second half a completely different team, two quick tries caught us cold and opened up a 20 point lead. The scorer of the first try was the architect on their third and fourth, a half break and offload gave the supporting players a one on one with the Mets Full Back before crossing the try line.
Being a long serving member of the Forwards Union, JP Hardman knows how to take the ball to the line and certainly rocked the Rylands defence on more than one occasion. He was backed up by Captain Rick Ackers and utility player Andy Platt down the middle, whilst Aaron Hunt and Rob Tuppen worked their way down the flanks.
Another couple of tries were scored by the Home side, the second being an intercepted pass after a Mets scrum. The Rylands player ran three quarters of the length of the field to score, although some fantastic chasing back by Tuppen made it hard work for him. The successful conversions made the score 38-6 to the Sharks with 10 minutes to go.
The game had gotten away from us in the second half, but we were far from finished. Getting his just rewards for the previous chase down, Rob Tuppen scooped up a loose ball and ran in a try from 20 metres out. Devlin again converting to get his mojo back from the kicking tee.
The final say went to the Sharks, catching the Mets off guard meant an easy run in for the Scrum Half and the kick made the score 42-12 after 80 minutes.
The weather really was extraordinarily hot, credit must go to all players and the referee for running around in that for the love of the game.
The Oppositions Man of the Match runners up were JP Hardman and Rick Ackers, but it was Chris Highton who took top spot with a solid performance in the middle of the park. Full Back/Winger Aaron Hunt was the Top Tackler by continuing to tackle well above his weight and having a no fear approach. Well done to all the winners.