The two most predictable teams this season, i.e. relegated Aspatria and champions Sandbach, performed to form with the former losing to Vale of Lune and the latter beating Carlisle late on in a boozy afternoon at Bradwall Road. Few others performed to expectations. Anselmians defeated Rochdale 32-11 and Broughton Park became only the second team to take 4 points away from Northwich this season. Wirral took a couple of points back from Leigh in a rare draw while Wilmslow just got home (to safety) with a single point margin over visitors Wigton. The top end of the table clash between Widnes and Liverpool St Helens saw the home side win 15-8.
So, any 2 from 5 could still mathematically join Aspatria in the relegation places. Anselmians will now fancy their chances against a fading Northwich at Malone Field next Saturday. Wigton will also back themselves to overcome Leigh at Lowmoor Rd. Broughton Park entertain Wilmslow at Hough End with every chance of a positive result. Wirral, therefore, could be in danger and they might not get very much at home to promotion chasing Widnes who themselves need a 5 pointer. It would take an amazing combination of results to put Leigh into the basement places but a 4 try loss at Wigton could possibly leave them also vulnerable.
At the top, any 1 from 3 could still go to the play offs although the bonus point system will probably be the decider with LSH firm favourites to play Percy Park from North 1 East. Percy Park were just losers in last season’s play-offs against Burnage. A five pointer for LSH against Aspatria would probably seal the Moss Lane side’s runner up spot. If they just get a 4 point win and Widnes get 5 points at Wirral then Widnes go forward. The conclusion to this very competitive season will be played out next Saturday.
Anselmians 32-11 Rochdale
Not a lot to show for much effort after 40 minutes with two Mason penalties to one for Rochdale who looked tanned and maybe a little “tired” after their exertions in Gibraltar over Easter. Well done lads on the performance against their national side. After the break Hellier managed to cross for The Saints after good work by Ha’unga. Rochdale came back with a penalty. The home sides influential Hu’anga first put Mahe Pepa into a scoring gap and then repeated the dose by setting Loa Tupou up for another. Rochdale hit back with a try but The Saints were not to be denied and a catch and drive saw Neale cross after the maul was collapsed and the ref went under the posts to indicate a penalty try and a vital bonus point. Mason converted. Anselmians receive Northwich next Saturday, needing another good win.
Aspatria 10-46 Vale of Lune
Aspatria went down by 7 tries to 2 as high scoring Vale of Lune ran amock at Bower Park. Damon Hall scored first for Vale and Carter converted. The visitors then kicked a penalty to the corner and Sam Wallbank once again got his radar correctly aligned and scored from the 10m line out with 7 colleagues in close attendance. Aspatria had their moments and, after a good scrum, flanker Lawrence Brown found enough space to cross the chalk. Wallbank for Vale then scored again but this time from open play as he ran over the sole defender to cross. Tom Carter converted and shortly afterwards Damon Hall was quickly onto a clever kick-through by Doyle to go over.
Shortly before the break Vale’s Hesketh was binned after a poor tackle and Heine Jonker immediately got a try back for the home side. Still time though, for Tom Carter to kick a long range Vale penalty.Aspatria took charge after the break and threatened but in the event were well held by the Vale defence. The irrepressible Darren Wilson then regained the initiative for Vale with a score from a typical mazy run with Carter adding the extras. A smart run by Hall who went through most of the Aspatria team resulted in his passing to Hodder who crossed with ease. Indeed it was Hodder who got the 7th for Vale and Carter sealed the victory with a long conversion.
Leigh 14-14 Wirral
A hard won draw for Wirral when they might have expected to have lost against a Leigh outfit who are a tough prospect at home. Leigh were first on to the scoreboard when Forshaw kicked a penalty and added a further 3 points when Wirral were down a man to the sin-bin. As the first half neared its close Leigh decided to kick a penalty to the corner and it paid off handsomely when Crompton crashed over in the corner HT 11-0. With the elements behind them Wirral hit back and Colin Dyer crossed after good work by Pearl and Craig Harvey. Harvey converted and at 11-7, with most of the half to play, Leigh connections will have been a tad anxious. It was not until the 70 minute mark however until Wirral scored again and it was Danny Harvey who jinked his way past a couple of static Leigh defenders to score well. Craig Harvey was good enough to convert a difficult kick and the visitors were 11-14 ahead. A couple of yellow cards awarded against a desperate Wirral defence and Leigh kicked the levelling penalty
Northwich 7-10 Broughton Park
Northwich lost their 3rd consecutive match after last week’s Easter Saturday reverse against Caldy in the Cheshire Cup final. They were 7-0 ahead against Park after an excellent Cass Walding 5th minute try. Grant Hallum’s converted but then missed a kickable penalty. Broughton Parks forwards held the edge at scrum time but Northwich had plenty of the ball and territory without threatening the line. It was deep into the second half before the home defence was breached and second-row Jon Beardmore crossed for Park. Substitute kicker Connor Mitchell converted from a difficult angle and then with 5 or 10 minutes left an innocuous penalty was awarded to Park on the half way line. Backchat by, of all people, the home skipper and the referee walked forward ten metres with Mitchell saying thank you very much and knocking the winning penalty over to great cheers from the substantial Park following. Park now need to beat Wilmslow at Hough End to stand a chance of “getting out of jail”
Sandbach 28-10 Carlisle
Visitors Carlisle certainly did their best to be party poopers on a day of celebration at Bradwall Road, Sandbach. They were on top for long periods of this match. They scored a penalty try and a conversion and a second half penalty from Glen Weightman. Sandbach still had their heads in front 9-7 at the break courtesy of three Ben Elliot penalties. After the break Jack Leech crossed for Sandbach after a long run for the line with plenty to do “en-route”. Mike Egglestone returning from army duties in Afghanistan crossed for the second home try and Sandbach started to stretch away at this point. It was, perhaps, fitting that Simon Verbickas scored the final try at the Sandbach ground in this league. He has contributed much to the organisation, as well as to the coaching of our champions over the past two seasons. Presentation of the trophy was to follow.
Widnes 15-8 Liverpool St Helens
This was a titanic struggle at Widnes with both sides absolutely committed to the cause and little wonder that defences reigned supreme. LSH got on the scoreboard first with a Worsley penalty after 15 mins. Play carried on in midfield through the half It was not until 38 minutes when a long LSH clearance was fielded by Glover who ran it back very well, unloading just at the right time to allow Leadbetter to cross. HT 5-3.
Stanley started off the second period with a very good run and put Neil Hull into a gap and he scored well. LSH, now ahead, took control of midfield in a good period of play. Whilst they went close they couldn’t break through and it was Widnes’s turn to be frustrated when a “try” was pulled back for a forward pass. Kevin Leadbetter kicked a penalty for the Wid’s to bring the scores level. Then came the crucial score for Widnes as Leadbetter put Crithley clear and he crossed joyously and Leadbetter converted to complete the double over a hard working LSH. The deflated Moss Laner’s must have been staggered to find themselves not only still in the promotion race afterwards, but favourites after Northwich’s capitulation to Broughton Park at Moss Farm.
Wilmslow 20-19 Wigton
Two sides with much to play for, met at The Memorial Ground with Wilmslow favourites to beat a Wigton side who travel badly as a rule. It turned out to be a very close match. Wigton have a vastly experienced pack and a talented but young back line depending upon selection but Tane Manihera has returned from rugby league duties to add steel and guile to the half backs. First Wilmslow’s Ben Day over ran a good pass by his inside man Mike Black after a great early move by the Wolves. It was then Manihera who set up a good chance for the greens with a good kick-through. It was a try scoring opportunity but knocked on by the visitors in what was to prove a costly error. Eventually, as Wigtons heavies gained the ascendancy, the inevitable score came. No 8 Matthew Atkinson picked up and generated a bit of diagonal pace to cross wide out. Gregg Smith kicked a very good conversion. During the ensuing period Wigton really should have put the match to bed but their dominance was not translated into points and Wilmslow held out. It was close to the break when Wilmslow worked their way up field and first Taylor and then Donaldson went close before Mike Black took quick ball to go over. Still time for Gregg Smith to go close with a long range penalty attempt but it was MacCallum who kicked a late penalty for The Wolves.
After the break Wigton went ahead when a sloppy pass bobbled loose. Tom Gardener collected and a great inside run from Dave Hanabury was rewarded when Gardener found him, and the centre sprinted home. Another MacCallum penalty and, at 13-14, it was Wilmslow’s turn to press. With the clock running down Wilmslow found a score when Day atoned for earlier eagerness to get across for a try that MacCallum converted. 20-14. The greens were not phased and a Wigton scrum saw the big men rumble up field and twice were illegally brought down. It was touch and go as to whether the try (that was eventually scored by Wigton’s Jordan Wood) might have been a penalty try but it wasn’t and the kick was missed. A good contest and Wilmslow will take the 4 points that leaves them safe but Wigton were so unfortunate to miss out.