ASPATRIA STAY TOP
FIRST HOME WIN OF 2018 SECURES TOP SPOT
Aspatria took all 5 points in a hard fought contest, against a resilient Trafford side that competed for the full 80 minutes. The 29:18 win keeps Aspatria on top of the league with 51 points from 14 games. The going will not get any easier for the Black Reds as next Saturday they host second placed Tarleton at Bower Park. Tarleton currently trail Aspatria with 46 points after 15 games played.
Aspatria were slow to get going in this first outing of 2018 and the early battles were shaded by the visitors. Trafford gradually pressed Aspatria back against the try line but could not produce a decisive scoring move against a defence stretched to the limit. Aspatria’s failure to clear their lines continued to give Trafford encouragement and on 12 minutes they took a deserved 0:3 lead with a penalty from Pat Eccles.
The score stung Aspatria into action. Lee Tinnion from full back produced the first sign of attacking flair. He fielded a long clearing kick and charged 50 meters upfield to put Aspatria in the danger area. A scrum followed and Aspatria’s fortunes improved further when the home pack took the ball against the head. The pressure was building on Trafford who were now giving away penalties in a desperate effort to stem Aspatria attacks. Aspatria refused to take 3 points, opting to keep the screw turning. This tactic paid off on 18 minutes when they used a penalty to launch a catch and drive move. The take by Phil Dixon was perfect and this allowed fellow second row, Matthew Atkinson to peel of the back of the line and charge to the line. Atkinson was stopped but there was no panic in the home ranks as they used a succession of rucks to suck defenders in. With this achieved the ball was slung out to winger patrick noutch who had an easy stroll across the line.
The conversion missed but Aspatria held a slender 5:3 lead. The advantage did not last long with Trafford regaining the ball from the restart and the ball coming into the hands of left wing, Jamie Kingdon who exploited a gaping hole in the Aspatria defence to race through and under the posts. With a successful conversion Trafford led the contest 5:10.
Into the second quarter and there appeared little between the two sides. This was about to change as Aspatria’s pack began to get the upper hand in the set piece battles. On 27 minutes Aspatria regained the lead. The move commenced around the half way mark with some excellent handling in the back division between the centre pairing of Craig Foster and Andrew Miller. Miller cut the defence open and took the ball to the 22 where Atkinson took over. The big man still had 20 long meters to go to the line but nothing Trafford threw at him could stop the charge and with Foster’s conversion Aspatria regained the lead at 12:10.
The score kick started Aspatria’s best spell of the game and all but put the end result to bed. On 31 minutes Aspatria were back, deep in Trafford territory. Another penalty and the inevitable catch and drive followed. This time no breaking off as the Aspatria pack secured the ball and maul inch by inch to the line. There was nothing Trafford could do to stop the mass of black and red shirts going over. From the mass of bodies tumbling over the whitewash smiling hooker, James Ravell emerged with the ball to claim the try. The conversion sailed wide but Aspatria’s advantage on the scoreboard improved to 17:10.
From the restart a penalty was awarded to Trafford. A chance to put pressure back on Aspatria was wasted as the visitors elected to go for goal with an optimistic 50 meter attempt falling well short and handing possession back to Aspatria.
Aspatria work the ball upfield and achieved the bonus point fourth try on the stroke of half time. Gary Hodgson from his No8 position was doing consistent damage to Trafford with his darts from the base of scrums and clever interactions with scrum half, Heinie Jonker. These two combined around the 22 to get Aspatria moving towards the posts. All the Aspatria forwards had a hand in the score but the man who finally crawled on his hands and knees to dot down under the sticks was Atkinson. Foster’s conversion allowed the Black Reds to take a decisive 24:10 lead into the second half.
At the commencement of the second period there looked to be little hope of a Trafford revival. Aspatria dominated possession for the opening 10 minutes but some poor handling and less than decisive decision making kept the scoreboard static.
Having absorbed the early pressure Trafford mounted a sweeping attacking move on 51 minutes that took them near the full length of the pitch. Aspatria’s scramble defence proved effective and the visitor’s only reward was a Stuart Crampton penalty to bring the deficit back to 24:13.
The quality of play in the second period did not match that of the first 40 minutes and the game became bogged down in midfield with both sides guilty of turning over hard won possession through less than precise handling. On 60 minutes a piece of individual brilliance from Aspatria’s Andrew Miller lifted the gloom as his jinking run finally got Aspatria behind the Trafford defensive line. From this point Hodgson took over possession; in partnership with Atkinson the duo raced down the right flank interchanging passes. Hodgson had the final word when Atkinson unselfishly released him to charge over the whitewash for Aspatria’s fifth try and 29:13.
The possession stats will show that the final quarter of the game was edged by Trafford. During this period they had ownership of the ball but fatigue seemed to have set in and attacks lacked innovation. The clock was in Aspatria’s favour and the home side appeared content to absorb the pressure and see the game out. They did this successfully up until the final attack of the day when Trafford achieved some reward for their tenacity. Movement across the Trafford back division finally created space for Kingdon to cross for his second score of the day and finish the game 29:18.