Fleet finally find their feet!
By Vaughan Evans
With a memorable second half in the their minds from last week against Della the green and gold contingent were in a buoyant mood as they headed to Manor Park of Oldham for the final game of the season
Despite key players missing and with coach Steve Woodburn playing in his alternative position of fly half Fleet were keen to finish on a high.
Right from the whistle Fleet were quickest out of the traps taking the game to a laboured Oldham who appeared to be wilting in the spring sunshine. Youngster Alex Ogden was in the thick of the go forward play making plenty of yards with ball in hand, flankers Jordan Brocklehurst and George Orry were hitting anything that moved in a red and white jersey. To say it was one way traffic was an understatement, Fleet finally bagging a try as number 8 Scott Richardson wriggled over to score, Canadian lumberjack Gavin Rowell added the conversion. Woodburn was the oil in the mechanics from a backs perspective, both centres Karl Bowling and Brad Chicklet Stapleton were finding plenty of space to run and beat their men. The set piece was being dominated by the visitors, in particular the lineout as veteran Rob Brookfield was taking charge of everything. So, it came as no surprise when Fleet notched up another try courtesy of Richardson, again Rowell nudged the extras. At times Oldham did waken up and went on the attack, however Fleet were equally as good without the ball, tackles counted and pressure forced errors. The first half concluded with the green and golds leading by 14-0, in all honesty it should have been at least double that as chances had been squandered.
Whatever the Oldham coach had said to his players during the interval had clearly paid dividends, within ten minutes they were back in the contest at 14-5. By now the game was becoming a battle in the middle of the park, both sides making useful breaks only to spill the final pass. However, it was Oldham who then scored again making it 14-12 with the conversion. Was the comeback on and could Fleet hold out? Instead of sitting back Fleet went straight back on the attack, Bowling again showed the lively crowd his blistering pace, he broke and fed the eager Stapleton who galloped half the length of the pitch winging his way to score , conversion added to make it 21-12. That should have been the end of Oldham, sadly not the case as they hit back again with a try and conversion to make it 21-19. Despite wave after wave of Oldham attack Fleet held on to see out the game, victorious in the sun at 21-19.
Without doubt the first half won the game for Fleet, as it was probably the best half performance of the season as all the team functioned well. From a forwards point of view, prop Pete biscuit Benny carried well in the loose, second rows James Lilley and Brookfield were again dominant, as was the back row trio of Richardson, Orry and Brocklehurst. Backs wise, Stapleton and Bowling treated the crowd to some excellent running rugby. However, the star that burned brightest was youngster Ogden who beat numerous opponents in attack, made plenty of yards and never stood back in the tackle, so takes the man of the match accolade.
Overall this performance reflects Fleet for the season as a whole, on their day they can beat and challenge any team in this league, however performances have been erratic and at times frustrating. The talent is clearly there on show, hopefully with some additions during pre-season the mighty green and golds will realise their true potential and challenge for a promotion spot next term.
That wraps up the season, for Fleetwood and for me.
Report from Dan Jefferson