Rally Against Rylands
By Stuart Cooke
After two very narrow Home defeats in recent weeks, Bolton Mets knew a win was a must this weekend if we wanted to keep our hopes alive of making the play offs.
The opening 10 minutes were pretty even, both sides attacking with vigour and determination to cross the try line. An impressive break by Prop Forward Chris Lane saw three Bolton Mets players attacking the Rylands Sharks Full Back, this didn’t led to the first points of the game however as the ball went to ground after an offload.
Three further Mets attacks picked more holes in the Rylands defence but the final pass just wouldn’t go to its desired target. Four opportunities went begging in the opening 20 minutes for Bolton, and going off past performances this wasn’t a good sign.
Having seen their opposition bomb several chances, the Home side took advantage and opened the scoring. Receiving the pass from his Hooker, the Stand Off spotted a gap in the Mets defence and waltzed through to touch down. An easy conversion gave them a 6-0 lead.
Next up was a couple of breakaway tries. A missed tackle here, some poor positioning there, allowed the Sharks the time and space to run through the defensive line to score two additional tries. With both kicks successful it extended their lead to 18-0 after 30 minutes.
As we headed for the half time break, the Bolton players really had to up their game and get something on the board. Steven Harrison, switching from Loose Forward to Hooker due to an injury to Adam Millington, attacked the blind side before passing on to Centre Paul Charnock. A strong carry by Charnock attracted several defenders to him, this then led to an opportunity from the resulting play the ball. Stand Off Jonathan McMillan took the ball to the line before offloading to the supporting Patrick OBrien who dived over the line to score, despite some last ditch defending by his opposite number.
As the whistle blew to signal the turnaround, we found ourselves 18-4 down with 40 minutes to play. Head Coach Al Scarbrough pointed out the positives from the first half and asked his troops to be more clinical when in the final third of the field. This was going to take an almighty effort to reel in the Sharks, but the character of the Mets players is second to none and we had to believe it was possible.
The second half couldn’t have started any better for us, Full Back OBrien went on one of his mazy runs, bobbing and weaving trying to tempt a defender to shoot out of the line and leave a gap for him to run through. This is exactly what happened and Patrick wasn’t going to let it go amiss, a quick turn of pace saw him break the line and touchdown close to the posts for his second try of the afternoon. This allowed Daryl Devlin the opportunity to add the extras and narrow the gap further.
We had two debutants in the line up this week, Niall Murphy starting at Second Row and 18 year old Ethan Hill at Centre. Niall had impressed in the game so far, several strong ball carries and neat offloads causing the defence no end of problems, whilst Ethan was also working hard out wide in both attack and defence.
It was Ethan that played a huge part in the next try, a break down the left saw him beat the covering defence for pace, before releasing Winger Ben Latham allowing him to score in the corner. As the ball left the kicking tee it looked as though it would go between the uprights, unfortunately, it just swerved at the last second to hit the post and bounce away. Bolton were now within 4 points and the Home side were rattled.
Having come from 18 points behind in our last game we knew it was possible to do so again, another break from OBrien delivered the try that would tie the scores. Having bust through the middle of the defence, he then offloaded to his right to the supporting McMillan who then finished off the move by scoring directly under the cross bar. With the scores now tied, Captain Devlin completed the comeback with the conversion to put his side 20-18 up, and in front for the first time in the game.
A little scuffle broke out in the second half, this resulted in a Rylands Sharks player sent to the sin bin for throwing punches and back chatting the referee. The same player was later sent off for returning to the pitch too soon, and then for some additional disciplinary issues. Bolton remained calm throughout the altercation and were happy to take advantage moments later.
The link up between Ethan Hill and the returning Ben Latham created yet another try, Hill set away Latham before he passed inside as he was about to be tackled prior to making the line. The pass wasn’t the best, but with no retreating defenders it meant Daryl Devlin had time to pick up the loose ball and score his first try of the season. Converting his own try, Daryl improved our lead to 8 points.
Turning the comeback into a victory, Jonathan McMillan finished the game with his obligatory solo try. Spotting a gap and putting his foot down, he out paced the Full Back to the line and doubled his tally for the afternoon. Devlin rushed the conversion and hooked it wide, this however couldn’t take away from what was an awesome performance by the team. The final score ended Rylands Sharks 18-30 Bolton Mets.
The battle for the Top Try Scorer trophy on offer at the End of Season Awards Evening is really hotting up between McMillan and OBrien, but with both players also being named in the Opposition’s 1, 2, 3, it means they may also be up for at least one other trophy too. It was OBrien who took the honours for this game, with McMillan and Devlin runners up, whilst Stand Off McMillan was named as Top Tackler for the fifth time this season, despite tackling not normally being that high a priority for players in the Half Back positions.
There were many positives to take away from the game, these include the debuts of Murphy and Hill, the try scoring return of Ben Latham, and the double father & son pairings of Darren Robinson Snr & Jnr, and Gary and Ethan Hill taking to the field. That is now four father & son pairings that have turned out for the club on the same day, adding to the Roberts and Evans partnerships from recent years.
Bolton Mets return to Greenhalgh’s Pavilion on Saturday 8th June when we host Division Four side Blackpool Scorpions in the NWML Shield, 2.30pm KO. This will obviously be a tough encounter, but we will be aiming to cause a shock and progress to the Quarter Final stage.