BIG EFFORT FAILS AT THE END
ANSELMIANS 65:14 ASPATRIA
Aspatria’s season ended in disappointment with a 65:14 defeat at Anselmians in the play-off match for the one remaining promotion position. Aspatria can take consolation from finishing runners-up in the North Lancs and Cumbria league and will be amongst the favourites for automatic promotion next time around but this journey to the Wirral proved to be game too far.
Anselmians are unbeaten at Malone Field this season and after the end of 80 minutes, Aspatria knew why.
The early stages of the game provided no clues to the final outcome. Aspatria battered Anselmians and lesser teams may well have folded under the onslaught. Ryan Scott started the game with a cleverly disguised kick-off that fooled the home defence and allowed Aspatria to regain possession almost on the try line. Desperate defence held Aspatria at bay but at the cost of a penalty which was turned into an attacking lineout, five meters out. Matthew Atkinson took the ball cleanly and developed a hole to crash over the line. Scott added the extra’s for 0:7 and less than 3 minutes played.
It was all Aspatria in these early stages and the visitors had a chance to extend the lead on 7 minutes but Scott’s penalty attempt slid wide of the post. No matter, two minutes later another penalty was used to set up a catch and drive deep in the home 22. Anselmians simply could not handle the strong running Aspatria forwards and after several phases it was left to No8 Gary Hodgson to crash over under the posts for 0:14.
Anselmians were rocking badly and conceding penalties that helped Aspatria turn the screw. Heinie Jonker in the centre for Aspatria was particularly effective with his direct running. With 18 minutes played, Anselmians had not threatened the Aspatria line but they did manage to get the scoreboard moving with a penalty from fullback Ian Taylor.
At the time the 3 points earned by Taylor seemed a minor setback for Aspatria. With the game moving into the second quarter Aspatria’s performance had near silenced the large home crowd. Aspatria spend the next few minutes on the Anselmians line where both Atkinson and Hodgson were inches from registering a third try. The defence that held Aspatria out at that time was superbly organised and committed. Aspatria came away with nothing and would never know what impact another score, at that point, may have had on the final outcome.
Escaping further damage lifted Anselmians and possibly deflated Aspatria but undeniably it was the turning point of the game.
On 25 minutes a Taylor penalty brought the score back to 6:14. The fullback’s kicking performance throughout the game was near perfect with 11 successful conversions and penalties from 12 attempts.
In conditions better suited for Cricket or Tennis, Aspatria began to be tested by Anselmians. From the restart the home side used the ball efficiently to move upfield and establish a first attacking position close on the Aspatria line. A flowing backs move followed and a first try in the right corner followed. At 13:14 Aspatria were no longer bossing this game and the crowd finally found its voice to urge on the local boys. The tide was turning.
The single point lead was gone on 30 minutes. A home scrum on the 22 followed the restart. The impressive centre partnership of Sammy Russell and Liam Sadler used this to launch an attack. The interchange between the two outfoxed the Aspatria defence and the move went a full 70 plus meters to the try line.
20:14 and the game had rotated on its head; not only on the scoreboard but in terms of the penalty count. Aspatria, under pressure, were persistent offenders and this allowed the home side to gain easy yards. The attacking intent was now the exclusive province of Anselmians. On 38 minutes the referee lost patience with Aspatria’s rate of infringement and picked out Richard Miller for a yellow card. In the final few seconds of the half Anselmians came close to a further score but Aspatria showed grit and determination to hold them out and conclude the half without further damage.
Based on the evidence of the first 40 minutes the end result remained in the balance at the mid-point of the game. However, there was no denying that momentum had swung in favour of the home side and they exploited this immediately from the kick-off.
In the first minute, Aspatria conceded a scrum in the 22. Without Miller’s bulk, Anselmians shifted the Black Red pack further downfield to set up a perfect platform for the back division to take the ball wide right and over the line for 27:14.
6 minutes later and Aspatria knew it was not going to be their day. Another scrum close to the line was controlled by Anselmians and scrum half Harry Southern was able to pick-up and dot the ball down for 34:14. On 65 minutes Taylor landed a long range penalty for 37:14 and kill the contest.
This was a position that Aspatria could not recover from but it did not stop them trying. The response was excellent. Lee Tinnion’s strong running from fullback was a constant thorn in the side for Anselmians and he was aided by some superb work from Andy Holcroft and Chris Tweddle in the forwards. Inevitably, chances had to be taken and this made the visitors more vulnerable to counter attacks. When mistakes were made, Anselmians proved to be ruthless.
In the last 15 minutes of the game Anselmians posted a further 4 tries. All well executed; taking advantage of a tiring Aspatria who recognised the game was up. The score line 65:14 did not accurately reflect Aspatria’s early grip on this contest but it undoubtable demonstrated which of the two teams deserved to move to the league above.
Overall a season that has delivered entertainment in spades for those who stand on the touchline. The lads who have pulled on the Black and Red have stayed strong together and took us to the brink of promotion - well done and thank you. Let's go one better next season.