Spirited performance against the odds
The green and golds made the return trip to Cumbria after back to back victories against Silloth and Workington.
Having taken the scalp of the black/reds earlier in the season the visitors were on this occasion underdogs having suffered periods of indifference during the mid-season period whilst the hosts just missed out on a promotion play-off place. Although neither team had much to play for other than pride the conditions were set for some open running rugby. Fleetwood were without their speedsters Kris Phillips and Jack Crompton who would have enjoyed the wide open spaces to exploit but had to adapt their game plan according to the resources available.
It was the black and reds who took the lead after 2 minutes with a well-taken try after Fleetwood were guilty of failing to deal with the kick off effectively. Aspatria put together a series of phases before Ryan Scott went over in the right corner for a 5-0 lead. However Fleetwood began to secure possession and managed to retain the ball at the breakdown. Brad Stapleton did a superb job running the ball out of defence and setting up a counter attack. Dale Thompson also ran strongly before player-coach Woodburn put young centre James Torkington in for an excellent try, both players in unfamiliar positions due to unavailability of some of the regular backs. Scott Richardson converted for a 7-5 lead to Fleetwood who continued to press through the forwards and earned a penalty within kicking distance which Scotty dispatched for a 10-5 advantage. Ricky Newton worked tirelessly alongside fellow front rowers Jack Brocklehurst and Pete Benny. Rob Brookfield and James Lilley put in the usual shift in the second row, the former gaining valuable possession at the line-out. Fleetwood however failed to deal with the kick off and put themselves immediately under pressure. Jack Brocklehurst was shown a mysterious yellow card alongside one of his opponents for an innocuous offence at the breakdown. Ryan Scott converted the penalty for the hosts to reduce the deficit to 8-10. Aspatria always looked threatening in the backs with some enterprising moves and shortly before half-time broke the line with a try in the right corner by Grant Bethwaite. Conversion missed giving a half-time score of 13-10.
The second half saw the introduction of the influential Matt Atkinson for the hosts who made an immediate impression with a barnstorming run and try after 6 minutes, brushing aside a number of Fleetwood tacklers. This came after Fleetwood talisman Scott Richardson had been shown a yellow card for an unknown offence again alongside one of the home players, the referee seeming to go the pocket at frequent intervals. The conversion gave the hosts a 20-10 lead. Yet another yellow card shown to a home player saw them with 13 players on the field. Following a series of rucks the excellent Ali Cheal, playing at scrum half, made a Danny Care style break from a ruck to find himself one on one with the full-back . A clever sidestep saw him race clear for a well-deserved try. Skipper Ricky Newton stepped forward to take the conversion to register his first points of the season(2) and bring the scoreline back to 20-17 with 20 minutes remaining. This was to be the last score for Fleetwood however and the hosts added a further 19 points with tries by Greg Dickinson, Lee Tinnion and a second for Grant Bethwaite as the visitors began to tire. Fresh legs were introduced in the form of Jordan Brocklehurst, Ryan Holden and Andy Holme rerplacing Mike Kelly, Dale Thompson and James Lilley.
This was a spirited performance by Fleetwood with 4 forwards playing in the back line. Ali Cheal was impressive at scrum half with regular fly-half Karl Bowling playing an Owen Farrell style role at inside centre with Woodburn taking the number 10 shirt. James Torkington played at outside centre and defended valiantly with wingers Alex Maddern and George Orrie occupying the wide positions and neither looking out of position. Fleetwood now have 1 more fixture to fulfil with the re-arranged game away to champions Carlisle next Saturday 29th April with all of the other teams in the league having completed all of their fixtures. An early kick off (2pm) will be followed by a rapid return to Melbourne Avenue for the annual senior presentation evening in the clubhouse at 7pm.
Fleetwood will be looking to build on their progress with their young team next season and are looking forward to welcoming Gavin Rowell from Canada to join us at the start of the season, a utility back who has experience with the Canada under 20s squad.
Report by Ian Cameron