Kirkby Defeating Thriller at Home
Report by Johnny Bridges and Robert Mangan. Fleetwood looked to bounce back from a disappointing result to Bury last week. Fleet looked optimistic, but their task would not be an easy one.
Fleetwood looked to bounce back from a disappointing result to Bury last week. ‘Fleet’ looked optimistic as they fielded 24 players at home with some new faces amongst some older wiser heads. Their task would not be easy as Kirkby also had an impressive squad themselves.
A strong start from Fleetwood with some excellent defence forcing Kirkby into some early mistakes saw the home team on the front foot. Strong runs from Loki, Barkworth and Keano send Fleetwood deep into the opponents half. A short dart from Joe Mac and a pop pass to the advancing Phil Wood saw Phil smash through a hole. He had just three men to see off. As Phil reached contact, he offloaded it superbly to new recruit, Carl Reynolds, who touched it down under the sticks. Paul Van Hesp with the 2 points. 7 - 0 Fleetwood.
Kirkby restarted, it was all Fleetwood in the early exchanges again securing ball as the forwards made good metres. A few attempts to move the ball wide from Fleetwood ended with unfortunate knock-ons and Kirkby established a foot hold. However just as it seemed the game was levelling out in position, Fleetwood struck. An individual effort from Paul Van Hesp, beating 5 tackles and stretching his legs to score in the corner. No conversion added. 12- 0 Fleetwood.
Kirkby restarted and almost immediately gained their best position of the game. Some excellent work by their pack forced Lonsdale into Fleet’s 22. All marshalled superbly by their excellent 9 who lifted their team. Fleetwood were not shy in defence, they themselves held out for 5 minutes until Kirkby crossed for the line for their first try of the match. Conversion scored. 12 - 7 Fleetwood.
Fleetwood restarted with 15 minutes to go in the first half. Both teams were getting into the game now. An excellent contest as both defences were not in the mood for conceding anymore points. Eventually Fleetwood got back on the front foot again with some strong carries by Loki, Ben Reynolds, Keano and Gaz Conway. Joe Mac, again fantastic at 9 for Fleet got engaged into great contest with his opposite number. He spotted a gap and Fleetwood are in behind. Good support play by the forwards at the breakdown sees the ball end up in the hands of Carl Reynolds, who crossed the line to score. Excellent conversion from Hesp, score 19-7.
Kirkby restarted and looked to get back to attacking ways with 5 minutes to go. Kirkby played their part in a see saw battle, and looked to score before half time, they were rewarded with a penalty. The 9 blasts the kick into Fleetwood’s 22, the line out was good. The ball moved inside towards the sticks. Fleetwood infringed again and from the resulting penalty Kirkby put a move on and scored a deserved try. Conversion added. Fleetwood’s lead cut, half time, 19-14.
Half time team talks done and the game restarts. Kirkby kicked off with great intent. They ended up beating Fleet’s defence, try scored. Lonsdale missed the conversion, 19 apiece.
Fleetwood restarted and both teams were in a battle. For Fleetwood, the next score was vital as Kirkby had their tails up following 2 unanswered scores. Time for some experience as Fleetwood’s back row applied pressure, with some excellent carries from the debutant Max (Wendy) as he is nicknamed. He was put into the pack where he belongs get Fleetwood on the front foot. Fleetwood possession sucked in Kirkby’s defence. Fleet then went wide, with Van Hesp making the break again. This time he was well supported by Benn Crick and he scored. The conversion added, Fleetwood back in front 26-19.
Kirkby restarted and we all guessed it, Kirkby looked to hit back. Both sides were excellent. Kirkby just got over the line again. Their 9 was excellent as the contest heated up even more. This time though the conversion missed could that be the difference. 26-24 Fleetwood.
Onwards for the Fleetwood pack as the injury’s set in, this time to the excellent Paul van Hesp, a worrying moment which almost strangely galvanized the experienced pack. Fleetwood this time earnt the penalty. Joe Mac nudged Fleetwood into the 22 as the cry’s go up for a Mangan ball. An excellent catch and set with 15 yards to rumble. The ball found its way to Ben Reynolds who orchestrates the maul brilliantly towards the Kirkby line. Ben touched it down himself. A team try and one for the excellent pack. My moment of the match. No conversion was scored, 31-24, 12 minutes to go.
Kirkby restarted the game very well, again bashing against Fleetwood. A very tired Loki was sadly guilty at the breakdown leaving the well-schooled and very fair referee no option but to give the Fijian 10 minutes. This meat that Fleetwood would see the game out with only 14 men. Surely Kirkby would score, however with Fleetwood determined in defence and 4 minutes to go a, penalty was given under the sticks, scrum called. The ball was in and out in a flash and the 9 deservedly was under the posts. Well done Kirkby, the conversion added scores even 31 -31. 3 minutes left.
I think both sets of supporters, substitutes and coaches would’ve settled for a draw but Fleetwood, down to 14 men, had other ideas. Joe Mac delivered a long kick at the restat which was followed by an excellent chase by Keano and Max Labada. Both making good tackles to put Kirkby under pressure. The turnover of the game was by Joe Mac who again gave Fleetwood one final chance to score. Again the pack was as keen as they were in the 1st minute ploughed their way to the sticks. Max labada with the telling rumble which Kirkby had no answer but to infringe. A penalty was given 15 yards out bang in front. Paul van hesp now back on steps up, he placed the ball nervously on the tee. Surely he couldn’t miss. He must not miss, and he doesn’t but only just. Final score 34-31 Fleetwood.
I must say watching as a coach or even a over exuberant supporter as I am, it was a great game and an advert for lower standard rugby. One in which neither team deserved to lose. This day was Fleetwood’s however, how Kirkby were bottom based on their performance is beyond the supporters and myself. I’d like to wish them well for the season and look forward to the return fixture. The game was heated at times but overall was played in great spirit. The team was fantastic Loki, Max, Barkworth and Reynolds both of them. A really difficult task for man of the match. It could have been any of the 24. Having narrowed it down to 2 players though it really was a toss-up. However Paul van Hesp, I apologise, but for me Joe Mac just nicked it with his turnover in the last minute following the kicks to the head. He really did lead from the front and was an excellent battle with Kirkby’s number 9. Well played lads. Again me, thank you for your support and I will see you at home vs Colne and Nelson.