Fleet finally find their feet
Following two dismal displays over the last couple of weeks the men from Melbourne Avenue knew they had to show their true colours at a cold but sunny Calder Vale.
Just like previous weeks Fleet started very brightly, centre Karl Bowling and flanker George Orry were in the thick of the action taking the game straight to their hosts. Indeed the early pressure allowed No.8 Richardson to nudge an easily penalty making it 3-0. A few minutes later Bowling was scampering down the far side weaving his way to the try line, the conversion taken making it 10-0 with only 15 minutes on the clock. The lineout was functioning well, nautical boy Devon Brown was making it look easy as he threw with precision time after time to the eager second row Rob Brookfield. Following a lineout in the opposition 22 it was centre Jamie Mayall who sidestepped 3 men to dive over and bag himself a try, no conversion taking it to 15-0. Despite the score Burnley were making plenty of territory with the force of their larger forwards, Fleet were having to make numerous tackles and it was veteran fly half Paul Bamber who showed the way with a particularly big hit on a large second row. However, from deep within their own half in was the Green and Golds that struck again courtesy of a move started by Richardson who picked up at the base of a scrum and raced forward before neatly offloading to the racy winger Kris Phillips, he beat everyone who tried to tackle him, scoring a try without conversion making it 20-0. With such a score most sides would perhaps throw the towel in but not Burnley, back they came showing the vibrant crowd how well they could scrummage. The whistle happy referee was penalising Fleet constantly as Burnley were dominating the scrum whilst camped within the Fleet 22. A great tactical move by coach Steve Woodburn brought on the burly figure of prop Scott Dobbie who provided the ballast to steady the ship! The remainder of the half saw no further scores as both sides made good yards only to lose out to mistakes or turnovers.
Into the second half the game initially became a bit scrappy until the impressive Phillips linked well with his fellow wingman Brad Stapleton who in turn fed the hungry Bowling, again showing plenty of gas to blaze his way to the try line, conversion added to make it 27-0. Burnley were still trying to get back on terms with Fleet but some excellent tackling was largely preventing this. Eventually the pressure told as Burnley forced their way over to score from close range via a forward, making it 27-5. Surprise package of the day was Andy Solomona- Holme who was asked to play on the wing instead of his customary second row, he entertained the crowd with some neat footwork and sidestepping as he beat a couple of opponents. The even bigger shock came next, it was Holme himself who popped up with a try from close range, conversion missed making it 32-5. Fleet continued to dominate the game from this point as their superior fitness and better ball handling showed well. This was further evidenced when prop Pete Benny was on hand to charge down an attempted Burnley clearance , who politely pounced on the ball to score a try, no conversion making it 37-5. Although Fleet continued to create chances no further points were added, in the fading Burnley mist the referee blew for time.
What a difference a week makes- both forwards and backs delivered a high tempo performance which allowed players to show their skills. The pick of the forwards were hooker Brown who was in the thick of it, second row Brookfield who dominated the set piece, the back row trio of Richardson, Orry and Jordan Brocklehurst gave everything in attack and defence. Of the backs, Phillips found some form as did Mayall, ably supported by the aggressive Canadian Gavin Rowell. However, this week’s shining star was centre Bowling who showed great running and handling whilst bagging a brace of tries, so was nominated as man of the match
In this type of form Fleet will be looking forward to the prospect of doing the double over the visiting Eccles next week.
Report by Dan Jefferson