On Saturday 21st April Trafford played host to Bolton for the penultimate game of the league. MV were aware that nothing less than a win was necessary to keep their playoff hopes alive, and although being confident going into this game, they knew they were going to be in for a tough afternoon.
Trafford won the toss and elected to play into the strong wind which was going directly from one end of the pitch to the other. The boggy conditions on the tanners pitch didn’t help with MV’s game plan either, and the home side struggled to impose any authority on the match for the opening twenty minutes.
Bolton dominated possession, but ultimately didn’t seem to have a plan of what to do with the ball when they had it. Traffords defensive line was immense at times at tough tackling saw the Bolton team driven back. Unfortunately MV were often guilty of over competing at the breakdown and frequently gave Bolton penalties which were kicked into the MV half.
Botlon’s main weapon was clearly the driving maul from the line out, which they used to good effect. They came within a whisker of opening the scoring with a drive to the line, however a gargantuan effort from the MV front eight stopped the Bolton forwards in their tracks and Trafford could clear their lines.
This gave the home side some much needed territory and they soon made Bolton pay for an infringement on their 10 metre line. As so often has occurred this season, skipper Wheeler stepped up to the mark and slotted a tremendous penalty into the wind. Much against the run of play, the home side were up and running 3-0.
Bolton responded almost immediately. Again a foolish penalty saw Bolton kick deep into MV’s half, and this time Trafford’s pack were unable to halt the driving maul, and this saw Bolton cross the try line and convert their score to take the score to 3-7
Some stern words were shared between the forwards, who it seems decided to cut out giving away silly penalties, and this was where the game shifted in momentum. MV began to apply some pressure in the Bolton half, ad didn’t offer them an easy escape route. The pressure eventually told when Pat Eccles
sniped around the blind side of a ruck, and shrugged of a weak tackle to run in MV’s first try of the game. The conversion was good and MV led 10-7.
A further Wheeler penalty saw MV extend their lead to 13-7 at half time. With a change in direction, and the wind now behind the home side, MV’s plan was to keep Bolton pinned deep in their own half and wear the opposition down. Bolton obviously didn’t read the script however and started the second half much the stronger side, and nearly scored straight after the kick off. MV managed to narrowly avoid this and were soon attacking wide out.
On a rare passage of play where Trafford managed to move the ball wide, Chris Eccles
managed to evade his opposite winger and dive over in the corner for an excellent finish which stretched the Trafford lead t 18-7.
Trafford’s forwards were soon in on the act, and began to exert some dominance of their own and played Bolton at their own game with the driving maul. It was Paul Hodgson
who eventually touched down after a great rolling maul which saw Trafford advance over twenty metres. Again Wheeler converted and the game was almost won at 25-7.
With MV thinking of the bonus point, Bolton came straight back at them and started to dominate the scrum. MV had been holding o in the scrum throughout the game, but a loss of concentration saw Bolton get their noses well and truly in front and they drove the front eight backwards at a rate of knots. Bolton soon scored again and brought the total back to 25-14
With time ticking MV were looking hard for the bonus point, but if any team looked more likely to score it was Bolton. Wheeler cleared the lines, and the Bolton fullback misjudged the bounce. Bevan saw his chance and fly hacked through. The footrace was won by Bevan and he dived on the ball to secure the bonus point and the win for Trafford. Final score 32-14
Trafford later found out, that both of their rivals for second spot had fallen by the wayside. Eddies lost to Littleborough and Hutton were beaten at home by Tarleton. With these results going Trafford’s way second place and a play off spot were secured with one game still to play. Finishing second has been a massive achievement for this young Trafford side. At times throughout the season it appeared they were heading for mid-table innocuity, but as individuals, and as a team, they have rallied together and stood up to be counted. A really tremendous effort from everyone involved and the lads should be extremely proud of themselves.
The season is by no means over however, and it is imperative that everyone attends training this week and next, first off to complete the double over Birchfield, and then to be fully prepared for the play off final.