Anselmians 42 Leigh 12
Saints bounce back in some style.
Any doubts the Anselmian faithful may have had about the side’s ability to respond after a defeat were quickly dismissed within two minutes at Malone Field last Saturday.
Welcoming newly-relegated Leigh, Saints produced such a stunning try within two minutes of the kick-off that the visitors could be forgiven for wondering what had hit them. From the kick-off, a series of five of six phases established territory before the backs executed a succession of sweetly timed passes to release full back Iain Taylor, who triumphantly scored wide out on the left by the clubhouse. Such was the precision and timing of its various parts that it looked like a training ground move.
Taylor then converted from the touchline to give the home side a 7-0 lead.
However, any celebrations were premature as Leigh fly half, Rob Drake, opted to put their first penalty deep into the Anselmian 22. From the lineout, Leigh’s forwards combined effectively and winger Kieran Duffy crashed over for their first score. Drake missed the difficult conversion, but Leigh had opened their account.
Both sides settled down to neutralise each other in the midfield with both fly halves and full backs exchanging speculative kicks to no obvious benefit. Leigh were caught offside and Taylor missed a relatively straightforward penalty. The deadlock was broken by some slick passing from Saints’ centres Sam Russell and Adam Bramhall, aided by fly half Andy Cummings, before Taylor timed his entry to perfection and then delivered a wonderful pass to wing Harry Southern, who scampered away to score in the corner, unopposed, on his opposite wing. Once again, Taylor converted from the touchline and Anselmians led 14-5 after twenty minutes.
Saints now became more adventurous and the Leigh centres were finding Bramhall, Russell and wing Charlie Hough quite a handful. Supporting them in exploring every opportunity was the increasingly influential skipper, Nick HEARN, who was a yard quicker than any other player on the pitch. Added to some deft kicks by Cummings and Anselmians were getting on top. Despite this, there was some good fortune in the next score. A hanging kick from Cummings to the Leigh 22 bounced perfectly straight up and Adam Bramhall, following up, gratefully accepted the gift. Again, Taylor struck the conversion accurately and, after half an hour, Saints led 21-7.
Leigh’s forwards were putting in sterling defensive work, but they could not control the ball for long enough to trouble the Saints’ defence. An Anselmian penalty was quickly taken and run to the blind side. Leigh’s defence, realising the danger too late, could only watch as Harry Southern scored his second try, this time on his own wing. The metronomic Taylor stepped up and, with alarming accuracy, slotted his fourth conversion. As half-time approached, Anselmians had a bonus point, and the last act of the half was Taylor missing a relatively easy penalty in the middle of the pitch.
Shortly after the restart, Leigh lost one of their props and immediately took one against the head. They attacked on the left, Anselmians were offside in the centre, and fly half Rob Drake sent a long kick to the Anselmian right. Leigh won the lineout and, courtesy of some neat passing and poor Saints tackling, Drake crashed over between the posts and converted his own try. Five minutes into the second half and Leigh trailed 28-12.
Leigh now found some belief and more of the ball and began to test the Anselmian defence, winning a succession of penalties, as the home side were adjudged offside. A long kick from Drake gave Leigh some pressure, but the Saints’ defence was not found wanting. There was now a similar passage of play replicating the first half exchange of hopeful kicks up and down the field with, predictably, the same stalemate. On the hour, the second half score was 7-7 and this was a fair reflection of the game.
Anselmians forwards were industrious, without exerting any great pressure, and it was Nick HEARN who offered a way out of the deadlock. His handling skills and pace were troubling Leigh and, when Bramhall and Russell combined to release scrum half Liam Sadler, it was because of the unglamorous graft by the Anselmian forwards. Sadler’s try, again converted by Taylor from wide out, made the score 35 -7 and Leigh probably realised the game was up. Anselmians found bigger gaps as the visitors tired and Hearn, Quitadamo and Southwell were notable in attack.
A sweeping move involving backs and forwards led to captain Hearn scoring a well-merited try and, again, Taylor stepped up and secured the extras. With six converted tries making it 42-12, Anselmians had their another bonus point win and, as the light faded and the cold descended, Leigh’s players visibly lost heart and were probably grateful that the referee blew up a little earlier. Anselmians remain unbeaten at Malone Field and will visit Bowdon in a fortnight quietly confident that they can challenge the best in this division.