Bowdon Junior Colts 14 vs Altrincham Kersal 5
Not the end we hoped for, but nevertheless a great season
The build up to this game had lasted weeks, following the cancelled fixture in March. It was a straightforward winner takes all match, with both teams neck and neck on 25 points with just this fixture remaining. Kersal had secured the points in the home fixture in February in a hugely competitive encounter. With everything at stake, this game between two local rivals was going to be no less intense.
The conditions were not ideal for a physical game, the ground was dry and hard and the temperature in the mid 20's. That didn't stop both team coming out of the blocks at full pace, each wanting to stamp their authority on the game in the opening encounters. The tackling was fierce, neither team shirking a challenge especially through the middle, with both sides looking to gain territory through quick pick and go's. The Bowdon pitch is long and wide and there is always the risk of gaps opening up in defence if the the line is stretched. Bowdon opened the scoring on 5 minutes, Kersal carelessly lost possession with the ball finding ex AK player Harry Briscoe who saw the space opening up on the left of the posts. He broke 20 metres before stepping inside and moving the ball to another ex AK player George Wright. AK were stretched at the back and the pace of the Bowdon attack left them scrambling to cover, but to no avail. Nicholson slotted the conversion to give Bowdon a 7-0 lead.
The opening score released some of the anxiety from the game, AK knew they needed to respond quickly and they did on 18 minutes. Bowdon had the put in at a scrum on their own 22m line, a fantastic drive by the Kersal pack saw them gain possession, releasing the ball quickly through the back line out to the pacy Harry Backhouse who sprinted into the corner and then back to score to the right of the posts. Max Brooke's narrowly missed the conversion to take the score to 7-5, which is how it stayed until half time.
In the early season fixture Kersal controlled the lineout winning over 80% of the play. Bowdon had clearly been working on this aspect of their game and were much improved in this game, winning ball regularly on their own throw and spoiling Kersal ball as well. Bowdon did the basics well, rarely losing possession needlessly, this was simply the difference between the two teams.
Bowdon increased their lead early in the second half, Harry Martin breaking a tackle in midfield and fending off the covering tackler to score. Nicholson converted his second to make it 14-5.
Both teams continued to put in maximum effort, fighting through the exhaustion and the searing heat. Neither could make the breakthrough giving Bowdon the win and the league title, with Kersal finishing runners up. There was little to choose between the league's two best teams over the course of the season and we hope to lock horns again next year. Congratulations to Bowdon on their excellent campaign.
The AK squad have made huge progress this season, growing in stature both as individuals and as a team. They showed their maturity on Sunday by how they accepted defeat, sharing the afternoon with their rivals and friends in the sunshine at Clay Lane and partying through to the early hours. That's how Rugby should be! Well played lads we're all very proud of you :)