Wigton weather the storm
Having experienced defeat in the reverse fixture in November the green and gold men were looking to pick up a victory after a recent run of defeats
Based on the early exchanges Fleet had plenty to consider as Wigton mounted early attacks with the tackling not up to standard. That said flanker Jordan Brocklehurst was prominent with ball in hand. Almost against the run of play a quick thinking tap penalty by second row James Lilley created space for the free running number 8 Scott Richardson to break forward who in turn beat several defenders. Centre Karl Bowling was on hand to finish off a well worked try, conversion missed but Fleet were 5-0 up with ten minutes played. Wigton hit back almost immediately as they looked to exert their upperhand at the scrum, a close range effort allowed the visitors to take the lead 5-7. In attack Fleet were carrying the ball well centres Bowling and Brad Stapleton making yards but all too often the ball was spilled or stripped. However, despite conceding a penalty in the opposition half from a Paul Bamber high tackle Wigton failed to make touch, young wing Alex Ogden gathered the ball and broke inside, he neatly offloaded to the eager Richardson who ran through 5 defenders to score a try and slot over a conversion, 12-7 up. After 30 minutes play the snow descended on the pitch, visibility for the players was becoming difficult and to make matters worse Ogden was given a yellow card for a deliberate knock on whilst attempting to intercept a Wigton pass. Two minutes later in glorious sunshine the Wigton scrum suddenly realised its dominance. Camped on the Fleet 5 metre line the visitors superiority was awarded with a penalty try, the referee adjudged that the home side were struggling to legally compete, 12-14 down. With a few minutes left in the half an eventual scrum to Fleet deep in the visitors half allowed Richardson to pick up from the base and score his second try making it 17-14 at half time.
Into the second half the early exchanges were pretty even, scum half Gavin Rowell was distributing plenty of good ball, however cold hands were not catching the ball cleanly. Within a few minutes Wigton drew level courtesy of a penalty, 17-17. At every opportunity the visitors were looking towards opting to scrum against the weary green and gold men. Despite being under pressure Fleet continued to press for more points, sadly a handling error in midfield gifted Wigton further points by way of try and conversion making it 17-24. Further go forward between second rows Rob Brookfield and the energetic James Lilley failed to pay dividends, each time the ball was booted back into the Fleet half. Wigton extended their lead with a penalty, the gap between the sides was now ten points at 17-27. To add further salt to the wounds Fleet conceded another penalty try from a rampant Wigton who were now relishing every scrum, taking the score to 17-34. With little over 10 minutes remaining could Fleet mount a response? Indeed, centre Bowling showed his pace and beat would be defenders before passing to the flying win Ogden who scored in the corner, no conversion making it 22-34. Once again, within the closing moments it was centre Bowling himself who showed his quality, jinking his way to the try line to make a final score of 29-34.
Although the final score was fairly close this game was lost predominantly in the scrum, as Wigton sucked the life out of Fleet. Alongside this handling errors cost Fleetwood dearly. From a forwards perspective flanker George Orry was busy in the tackling department whilst second rows Lilley and Brookfield were industrious. Backs wise Rowell showed plenty of promise, Bowling excelled in attack with a classy brace of tries. However, for his overall work rate and two try contribution it was Richardson who shaded the man of the match honour. Next week Fleet host the metrovites of Trafford and will be keen to show their bouncebackability having not savoured victory since January.
Report by Dan Jefferson