TARLETON HURDLE CLEARED
BLACK REDS STAY TOP
Aspatria’s promotion hopes remain intact thanks to a 45:34 win over Tarleton. Taking a full 5 points from the game, Aspatria continue in the No1 spot with 56 points from 15 games. Tarleton who started the day in second place fall to third, having been overtaken by Keswick on 51 points but the Lakesiders do have a game in hand.
Billed as match of the day, Aspatria and Tarleton produced exactly that; a game of the highest quality. Both teams enjoyed periods of dominance during this enthralling contest. The vital difference being that Aspatria used theirs to better effect to keep the scoreboard ticking over.
Aspatria took the lead after 5 minutes. Tarleton were pushed back into their half where home scrum half, Heinie Jonker set-up and then finished the score. It was Jonker’s run from the base of an attacking scrum that put Aspatria on the front foot. From a penalty awarded, Jonker’s quick dart then unsettled the defence providing the home forwards with an attacking platform. The Black Red pack mauled the ball to the line where Jonker took back possession and used his strength to wrestle the ball over the line. Craig Foster converted for 7:0.
Tarleton hit back almost immediately with an intensive spell of attacking rugby. They should have scored after 9 minutes when the Aspatria defence was caught napping and allowed a clear run to the line. Inexplicably, what should have been a simple and final pass was thrown to the ground and Aspatria were off the hook. The relief did not last long. Playing against a stiff breeze, Aspatria were finding it increasingly difficult to clear their lines and the action was confined in and around the home 22. Tarleton used a penalty to launch a catch and drive move 10 meters out. The drive failed but when the back division took over the pace of the attack, first to the right and then back across the field proved too much for the Aspatria defence and produced a walk in for left winger Luke Banks. Ben Walton missed the conversion to leave Aspatria with a narrow 7:5 advantage.
Taking into account Tarleton’s territorial advantage it was no surprise when they took the lead on 23 minutes. Again, pace of attack unpicked a struggling Aspatria defensive line and No8 Frankie Skofic went under the posts for 7:12.
Prior to the game Aspatria have a few niggling injuries effecting selection of the back division. This forced coach Mike Scott to name himself on the bench. An injury to scrum half Jonker obliged Scott to join a rejigged backs line-up far earlier than he intended. But it was Scott’s introduction that fired the home side back into life.
From this point Scott used his immense experience to bring Aspatria’s big ball carrying forwards into the game. There was no finesse being used as Matthew Atkinson, Greg Dickinson and Liam Ridley ploughed into their opposite numbers. On the 27 minute mark this tactic paid dividends as Atkinson charged over the line with defenders bouncing off him, left and right. The conversion was missed but Aspatria were on level terms at 12 all.
With 33 minutes gone Tarleton regained the lead. With an outstanding solo effort, No8 Frankie Skofic scorched through the Aspatria defence before unloading to fellow pack mate Tom Eckerskey who drove over the line. Another conversion missed but the visitors had the lead, 12:17.
Tarleton kept the pressure on Aspatria but fatefully could not turn their attacks into points and the last word of the half went to the home side with a Foster penalty to narrow the half time gap to 15:17.
Aspatria had every right to feel relieved at half time. Tarleton had the better of the first 40 minutes and the 2 point advantage held was a long way from reflecting this. Aspatria now had the wind at their backs and a whole different ball game was about to emerge.
Aspatria opened the half with a blistering spell of attacking rugby. Scott, in midfield, weaved his magic to engineer strong runs from his willing pack and achieve field position in the Tarleton 22. With less than 3 minutes gone Scott’s sublime offload to onrushing hooker, James Ravell resulted in a score and the lead retaken at 22:17.
On 48 minutes the state of the game was reflected by Aspatria’s decision to let Foster have a crack at a long range penalty. The gamble failed but bizarrely led to the next score. The 22 drop out was held up in the wind and dropped straight into the arms of second row, Richard Miller. Miller needed no invitation to burst through a first tackle and race towards the try line. Miller was dragged down short but left wing, patrick noutch was on hand to pick up and dart over the line for the try bonus point, plus increase the lead to 27:17.
Tarleton responded immediately. From the restart, Aspatria cleared the ball with a towering kick deep into Tarleton territory. The ball was fielded by fullback Will Fell who set off on a run that sliced the Aspatria defence in half. Aspatria recovered the situation but in a secondary move hooker, Jamie Bantleman took the ball over the line to bring the score back to 27:22 and provide a try bonus point.
55 minutes gone and there was little to separate these teams but the next 15 minutes would prove decisive for Aspatria. First, following a sustained assault on the Tarleton line, Aspatria settled for a penalty – 30:22. This was Aspatria’s time and another penalty followed to ease the advantage out to 33:22. On 68 minutes Atkinson scored his second of the day. This was an impressive effort with the big man taking possession of the ball a good 40 meters from the line and then skittling defenders out of the way as he raced in for the score and a 38:22 lead.
On the 70 minute mark the result was put to bed. Tarleton, desperate to get back into the contest were throwing the ball about in something resembling 7 aside rugby. It was ambitious but also not working with Aspatria harassing and disrupting their every attempt to run the ball from deep. A forced pass failed and only found Aspatria centre Josh Watson who ran unopposed over the line. Foster converted for 45:22.
Tarleton had lost the game but were far from finished. The visitors summoned up the energy to entertain the crowd with two late tries. First over was Bantleman and a minute later he was followed by Skofic to end a fine day’s rugby at 45:34.