Toc H 16 - 28 Aspull
Toc H slipped into the bottom half of the table after losing to a strong Aspull side for the second time this season.
There can be no real complaints about the result - but Toc deserved a bonus point here after another watchable game at Ford Lane.
Didsbury fronted up well in every department against one of the better sides they have faced in South Lancashire and Cheshire 2 and they should be proud of their efforts on Saturday.
Given the balance of play - and the extent of the home side’s attacking endeavour - they should also feel aggrieved about coming away with nothing.
But that's the game. In attack, the visitors were more clinical and took their chances well; in defence, they gave Toc nothing. Didsbury threw plenty at them, too, but found it very difficult to consistently break them down.
That said, small margins can decide such tight games and there can be absolutely no debate over which team benefited from the big decisions. They all went the same way: to Aspull.
Captain Harry Rigby was once again outstanding and led a team of strong individual performances, particularly from the pack. Notable mentions must also go to Max Simmons at inside centre and Ben Platt on the wing, both of whom defended brilliantly.
However, losing tight matches at home has been a hallmark of Toc’s season - Oswestry, Orrell, Winnington Park and now Aspull have all come through with victories.
Again the result hung in the balance here with ten minutes to go - the scores were 16-21. Toc blinked first after some skilful work down the left wing gave Aspull the territory they needed to apply some pressure. They sealed the win when their centre latched onto a clever grubber kick which deftly unlocked Toc’s tired try-line defence.
Until then, Didsbury were right in the contest and had caused plenty of problems of their own. After conceding a couple of tries fairly early on - one of them from a careless turnover on the half-way line - they set about fighting back from 12-3 down.
A well-worked try from prop Mark Chambers saw him scrap his way over in the left corner before a second penalty from full-back Tom O’Brien made it 14-11 at the break. If anything, the half-time hiatus came too early for Toc given the momentum they’d earned in the 15 minutes beforehand.
Aspull, in fairness, always looked dangerous, especially from turnover. They have an enviable blend of bulky, athletic ball carriers up front and some highly-skilled, elusive ball players in the backs. Quite simply, they have strong players dotted across the pitch who share a defensive commitment which would probably serve them well at a higher level.
They started the second-half strongly, extending their lead to ten points and leaving Toc playing catch-up once more. Two committed defences then nullified each other for a healthy chunk of play before some fatigue kicked in, which enabled fly-half Seb Sheratte to become more influential. He'd moved the team around the pitch with style all afternoon, and once again he got Didsbury back into the opposition 22 after some lovely play down the left. A sustained assault on the Aspull line followed before back-row Mark Harrison, on his first outing back from injury, snuck over from close range to get the deficit back to one score.
Unfortunately for Toc those would be their last points of the match. In the dying minutes they desperately chased the meagre consolation of a bonus point as they pounded once more at the Aspull line - but once again their defence was up to the task, as it had been so often during another entertaining match at Ford Lane.
Things don't get any easier for Toc. They face the unbeaten league leaders Winnington Park next week (away).