Westhoughton Lions Open Age started their new summer campaign with a hard fought victory over Crosby St Mary's. Played in gale force winds, the Crosby team didn't look out of place in their first ever league game while the Westhoughton team were nearly caught out napping in defence.
With former captain Howard Newton
now 'retired' new captain Nick Bullough
lost the toss (good start...) and was asked to kick with the wind. The opening exchanges saw plenty of hard tackling from forwards Mark Lovett, Jimmy Haydock
and James Waite
. The Lions collision proved too much for Crosby as they coughed up the ball on the third tackle. The resulting scrum showed the Lions are now starting to put their training moves into practice, a sweeping move involving Tom Price
, Neal Kitson
, Jason Markland
and Shaun Markland
saw the latter dive over in the corner to give the Lions an early lead, Price missing the conversion, 4-0.
Not to be outdone, Crosby responded with a sweeping move finding their winger out wide. Conversion missed 4-4. Crosby then put the Lions under pressure and in an action replay of events, moved the ball out wide before scoring under the sticks, 10-4. In the midst of the action, John Thompson (JP or Bourbons) was injured and gave young hooker Dom Quinn
the opportunity to show his talents. After good work from ChrisThrelfall (Lance) and Alex Fishwick (The Fish), Quinn jinked his way over from 20 metres. Bullough pushing the conversion wide to go in at half time, Crosby 10 - 8 Westhoughton.
What followed was a 40 minute point fest in which the Lions seemingly wrapped up the game in the first 15 minutes. Good play from Johnny Evans
, Tom Hardstaff
and debutant Andy Bowling, allowed The Fish to power over out on the touch line. Bullough curling the ball over, 14-10 Lions. The pressure was starting to now show on the Crosby line, another debutant Jamie Buchanan making good yards, supported by Jack Butters
to set up good field position. Price finding Bullough to send Bowling crashing through on the inside, 20-10 Lions. Crosby made good use of the second half wind to pin the Lions in their own half, excellent tackling from 'Ade' Hayden Cooksey, Bullough and Threlfall extinguished the attack by powering the Crosby winger into touch. In a team reshuffle, S.Markland pushed to Stand off partnering Price, debutant James Hammond moved into the centre, Damien Windsor occupied the wing and Matthew Meehan
pushed into Prop. Improving week on week, Meehan crashed over from 10 metres taking three defenders with him, Price adding the extras 26-10 Lions. This is where spirited play and lazy defence took over.
Crosby using home knowledge to find good field position before adding 14 points onto their total, special mention to Crosby's 'old man' Houghton Sr, rolling back the years to dive over in the corner, 26-24 Lions. The Lions realised that the Crosby team was far from killed off and found an extra gear in attack, more good yards from Bowling, Evans and Lovett set up a quick play the ball for Quinn. In trademark fashion the young half back darted from dummy half creating space for loose forward Haydock to power over giving the lions breathing space, Price dropping the conversion short, 30-24 Lions.
The final five minutes saw the Crosby team run hard and the Lions defence tackle harder. With minutes left some ferocious tackling saw the Crosby team lose possession and the ref blow the final whistle. Crosby St Mary's 24-30 Westhoughton Lions.
Credit to Crosby who pushed the Lions all the way, the Lions know that they cannot afford to switch off against more experienced sides. With a tough game against Bury Broncos next week, the Lions will go into the game on a high.
Man of the Match
Westhoughton: Kitson, Threlfall, Ade, J.Markland, S.Markland, Price, Bullough, Waite, Thompson, Lovett, Hardstaff, Evans, Haydock
Replacements: Meehan, Butters, Quinn, Jamie, James, Windsor, Fish, Bowling