Anselmians 32 New Brighton 23
Saints extend unbeaten home run.
Anselmians 32 New Brighton 23
Talk at the pre-match lunch centred on New Brighton’s poor start to the season; their sole victory being against Manchester Medics the previous week. They had conceded more points than anyone in the division and, when it was pointed out that they had played the better teams, popular opinion still insisted that Anselmians, fresh from consecutive victories, would not be troubled by the Seasiders.
So much for clubhouse punditry. Brighton started briskly, turned over the Anselmian kick-off, kicked cleverly across field and winger Vinnie Dutton scampered over. Full-back Joe Silcock converted and New Brighton were 7-0 up before the alacadoo analysts had finished their cheese and biscuits.
To their credit Anselmians, shocked by the effrontery, reacted quickly. A sharp break by vice-captain Liam Sadler engineered an opening for skipper Nick Hearn to score and, although full-back Ian Taylor missed the conversion Anselmians were in the game. 7-5 to the visitors and less than ten minutes played.
Both sides had opted to play an expansive running game and seemed oblivious to the rain which was, initially, an irritant but, as the half continued, inevitably affected the quality of the passing and the attempted ploys. Midfield defences predominated and, whilst both sets of half-backs tried to break the deadlock, the game became fractured and inconclusive. The wind got up and the rain became heavier and the crowd was treated to a bout of inconclusive kicking by both sides trying to establish an attacking platform. Under one such bombardment, Anselmian No. 10. Andy Cummings fumbled a catch, recovered well, but conceded a penalty that Silcock gratefully accepted, extending the visitors lead to 10-5 after less than half an hour played.
The Anselmian scrum half, Liam Sadler, was beginning to dictate the play and the deadlock was broken by stand-off Cummings who launched a speculative kick to the New Brighton right. A series of forward drives and debutant hooker, Scott Southwell, crashed over to level the scores. A fine kick by Ian Taylor meant that, approaching the break, Anselmians nosed in front 12-10.
From the restart, New Brighton came back strongly. A combination of neat passing, despite the dreadful weather, camped the visitors in the Anselmian half and the home side was only spared by a couple of understandable knock-ons. The Saints’ pack began to assert itself and, after a deliberate build-up, Sadler released Cummings. A well-timed pass found full-back Taylor, taking an exquisite line, and he sliced through the New Brighton defence to score by the posts. The full-back converted his try, making the score 19-10 on 35 minutes. All the home umbrellas began to nod sagely that the New Brighton effort would peter out.
Wrong again. The visitors launched a series of furious attacks which surprised the Anselmian defence. In their eagerness, the Saints' centres were adjudged offside and full- back Silcock kicked a simple three points. 19-13 and it was New Brighton who were attacking when the half-time whistle blew.
Anselmians, to the surprise of many, now retreated to their changing room, not for jelly babies and hot chocolate, as some suggested, but to regroup and dry off. The forlorn visitors were a sorry sight in the persistent rain without the consolation of a sliver of an orange. Surely, the best they could hope for was heroic failure as the refreshed Anselmians were now playing downhill towards the clubhouse?
Wrong again. New Brighton started as they finished, running the ball at every opportunity and stretching the Anselmian defence, and only being denied by some poor handling and a greasy ball.
A break by centre Adam Pitt released winger Luke Thomson and, as the forwards recycled the ball, a neat sidestep in the centre and impressive acceleration allowed Pitt to score beneath the Anselmian posts. The simple conversion by Silcock meant that New Brighton now led 20-19. New Brighton were in the ascendant and a series of switches and miss moves created increasing questions for the home side. Such pressure produced another penalty and Silcock was unlucky to see his cross field kick hit the left hand upright. The relieving kick did not make touch and was run back by the New Brighton backs. Once again, Anselmians were penalised and Silcock made no mistake in extending New Brighton’s lead to 23-19 in fifty minutes.
The umbrellas realised this was not going to plan.
New Brighton stand-off Darryl Parker was running the show, forcing errors, in a home defence that saw Kellum Friday, Josh Jones and, increasingly, Scott Southwell, perform heroics.
Somewhat against the run of play, Anselmians broke out and set up a forward drive. New Brighton were penalised and a grateful Taylor reduced the visitors lead to a single point with a straightforward kick on the hour. 22-23.
New Brighton continued their impressive progress up field through their forwards and again the home side were penalised. Silcock missed the penalty but, even had he succeeded, Anselmians would still need a score for the lead and the possibility of a five point win. The rain eased and the wind dropped for the last twenty minutes, but both sides made handling errors. The deadlock, fittingly, was broken by the skipper. Anselmians established a platform on the New Brighton 22. A No. 8 pick-up, a blind-side break and a scorching dash for the line saw Nick Hearn slide over in the corner. Taylor missed the conversion, but Saints had a bonus point and the lead 27-23.
New Brighton refused to lie down, but Anselmians found renewed belief. Breaks by centres Sam Russell and Charlie Hough and a deft break by Andy Cummings led to panic in the New Brighton defence and, again, they infringed. To their relief, Taylor missed and New Brighton only needed a score to steal the spoils. In a tense final five minutes, the game was won by a Sam Russell break, a Kellum Friday carry and ended by winger Harry Southern joyfully crossing the line. Again the kick was missed but, at 32-23 down, New Brighton would have to score twice to win, and once to get a bonus point. They threw everything into a last ditch effort and, as Friday was binned for not retreating, Anselmians welcomed the final whistle.
It is a measure of Anselmians' progress this term that they would have lost a similar game last season. There is renewed belief and confidence and a refusal to submit which is admirable. In a pack that worked as a unit, it is unfair to single out individuals, but mention must be made of Scott Southwell, who scored a try on his debut, and is clearly a man for the future. He was deservedly named the “Man of the Match.”
As for New Brighton, they must wonder what they must do. A fine team effort produced no points. Their lowly league position will inevitably improve, but to leave Malone Field with nothing was harsh and deeply disappointing.