The NWML season came to an end on Saturday with the visit of table toppers Thatto Heath B to Greenhalgh’s Pavilion.
We knew we were in for a tough 80 minutes having been heavily beaten earlier in the season, and because Thatto had put almost every other team in the division to the sword. With two early tries from the visitors, the first a spread play from left to right and the second a solo try by the Half Back, it looked ominous for the Mets in the opening 10 minutes but we did manage to hold our own for a good period before they crossed again.
After Thatto broke down the left they looked certain to score, but with Daryl Devlin tracking back he managed to force a knock on in the in-goal area moments before the ball could be touched down. A try did follow a few minutes later however, this now giving them an 18-0 lead.
Proving to be a real handful, Centre Paul Leigh carried the ball with great strength and forced the defenders back towards their own line. At the end of the set, a neat little kick through from Daryl Devlin saw the ball ricochet off a player and the post protector before Paul Charnock dived on to the loose ball to score his first try of the season. Devlin easily improved on the try with a conversion right in front.
From here on in, Thatto regained control and took charge for the remainder of the half with 4 further tries. You could say that at least two of them were ‘gifted’ to the Away side, but credit must go to the Crusaders for their slick handling and ever-present support play. With the kicker successfully converting 7 from 7 it made the score 42-6 at the break.
Head Coach Al Scarbrough had his chat with the players during the interval, picking out both positives and negatives to take into the second forty minutes. We had set the players two targets before the game, to score more and concede less than we did in the 68-0 defeat to Thatto back in March.
Having already achieved one target in the first half, we managed to cross the line again minutes after the restart when Full Back Patrick O’Brien touched down. It was another grubber kick from Devlin that bamboozled the defenders, allowing O’Brien time and space to score and open his Mets account. Having set up both tries, Devlin was also successful with both conversions to make it 42-12.
Our defence tightened up in the second half and really put the opposition under pressure to force several errors. The father and son partnership of Darren Robinson Snr and Jnr helped keep things on course down the middle, whilst Thomas Evans and Ben Latham worked hard on the fringes. The two stand out tacklers though were Ryan Terry and Tom Cain, hit after hit stopping the attackers in their tracks as if they had just run into a brick wall.
Thatto did break us down again on a couple of occasions, the footwork from the ball handlers causing us problems and creating gaps for the hard runners. Two converted tries extended their lead to 54-12 with 10 minutes to go.
Despite a hamstring strain, Ben Latham side stepped his way down the left flank, making great strides forward, before offloading inside to the support players. From the next play, a kick through saw Thomas Evanschase down the Winger and dive onto a loose ball in the in-goal area, unfortunately, the referee brought play back as they ball had landed on the touch line.
A couple more tries followed from the visitors, but with both kicks missed it meant a 64-12 result as the final whistle blew. We had achieved both targets set before the game, which must go down as a huge positive considering the opposition.
Completing his first 80 minutes of Rugby League in over two years, Patrick O’Brien added the Oppositions Man of the Match award to his try. Tom Cain, playing only his second game of Open Age was runner up, whilst Rick Ackers came in third. Maybe Ryan Terry and Paul Leigh could have been in the three but it is the Away side who picked it. Having missed out on one award, Ryan Terry had to be awarded Top Tackler for his consistently ferocious hits. Tom Cain won the award last week but was worthy of a mention again after his no fear approach.
With the league season now over, we look ahead to our final game of the year on Saturday 15th September as we travel to the capital of Belgium to face the North Brussels Gorillas. This will be our fourth tour to mainland Europe since 2015 and the excitement amongst the players is electric.
*Credit: John McGibbon Photography