New league, new opponents
Forward superiority hands Ben Jones a hat-trick
For their first league game at home this season, Moor hosted Widnes, a side they had never played before in a league match – the last game between the sides being a national cup match some 11 years ago. In fact, records show that on the rare occasions that they had met over the last 50 years, Moor had never ever beaten Widnes, so the outcome of this game was somewhat of an unknown quantity.
Having drawn their opening game the previous week, Moor were hopeful that they would improve on that, especially as their opponents had lost theirs.
Within minutes of the start however, the visitors had opened their account following a lineout only five metres from the Moor line, which the latter did not defend very well, allowing the catcher to drive through almost unopposed to score the softest of tries, followed by a conversion. The home side had to wait until midway through the half before they equalised. This came after repeated phases of play by their forwards just short of the Widnes line, but stout defence kept them out. Eventually, No. 8 Ben Jones managed to bore his way over, with fullback Pat Chatterton kicking the conversion.
Almost from the restart, Moor put themselves under huge pressure by conceding three penalties in quick succession deep in their own half and Widnes took full advantage by successfully kicking two of these. Moor did not help their cause soon afterwards, when a couple of handling errors led to play again ending up not far from their try line, where they gave away another penalty. This was quickly taken, catching Moor unawares, and following a few interchanges, the visitors scored a converted try in the corner. On the stroke of half-time, the deficit was reduced with a penalty kick by Chatterton, leaving Moor looking as if they would have an uphill struggle in the second half as they trailed 10-20.
The interval talk by coach Mark Edwards must have worked as, from the restart, the home side seemed to go up a gear and immediately put pressure on the opposition. This resulted in a turnover ball and the Moor forwards then produced a number of drives, resulting in Jones getting his second try, with the conversion by Chatterton.
Moor continued to press, but were let down by a series of missed lineouts, which had up until this point, been exemplary. One of these was overthrown and gathered in by Widnes, who immediately ran it along their back line and ended up with an unconverted try in the corner. This was very much against the run of play and to Moor’s credit, even though they were again two scores down, they continued to have the edge, resulting in another converted try, this time by prop Sam Ireland, following the same pattern as before with numerous phases of play from the forwards.
Moor continued to exert pressure on their opposition and it led to one of their number being yellow-carded following one too many indiscretions; the chance to take the lead from the resulting penalty did not materialise, as the kick was just wide. Nevertheless, Moor did take full advantage of this numerical superiority to score their fourth and bonus-point try when a few minutes later, Jones scored his hat-trick from a scrum on the Widnes line. With this being converted by Chatterton, Moor now took the lead for
the first time in the match and with less than 10 minutes left, it produced a nail-biting finish.
Now returned to a full compliment of players, Widnes put in a determined effort to wrest the lead back and did so from a clever chip over the advancing defence and with Moor failing to deal with the awkward bounce, the opposition player collected the ball to touch down, providing an easy conversion. Moor immediately returned up-field and deep into injury time, an attempted drop-goal by Chatterton went wide, but the clearance kick by the opposition was sliced and unfortunately for Widnes was handled by one of their number in an offside situation, presenting Moor with the simplest of kicks in front of the posts.
With thoughts of the Don Fox missed kick in the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final of 1968 going through the minds of Moor supporters old enough to remember this, Chatterton calmly slotted the kick through the uprights. Despite having to withstand a last minute onslaught by Widnes for a further two minutes, Moor held on to win a thoroughly absorbing game of rugby, 34-32.
This was a hard-fought game by two well-matched sides and is hopefully indicative of the standard of the new ADM Lancashire Premier League.
Next week, Moor are away at Tyldesley, k.o. 3:00 p.m.