Manchester 32 v Northwich 33
On the face of it Manchester should perhaps be pretty disappointed with their first home loss of the season, but they should take considerable pride in their overall performance and reflect on the positives both in terms of adding two league points to their total and it perhaps signalling a turning point for their season.
The possible weaknesses were there for all to see in the selection, no recognised locks, missing a prop or two and the absence of Tom Fantom. Consequently, with only Tyrrel the only lineout specialist Manchester had fairly limited lineout options and suffered two or three losses on their own throw which affected their continuity at times.
However the recruitment of Ena’s nephew Jay Saena to the backline has finally put in place a critical piece in the jigsaw of their attack-minded backline which at times looked sublime in this hard fought to and fro match.
This was typified by his first touch for Manchester straight from a ball ripped by Tyrrel, Jay gave a beautifully flighted inside ball to Joe Williams who cut a glorious line off the right wing , returning the ball to Jay as he broke through, he selflessly passed flat and wide to Zak Round who cantered in unopposed.
It looked very slick and accomplished and was typical of several moves the backs performed in a heartwarming performance. All our backs looked far more confident in attack Joe Williams, Alex Marchlewski Zak Round and Doug Day all looking potent.
However in Northwich they found a team with a stiff resolve who drove well in the forwards round the fringes and always seemed to have more players in support when it really mattered. The teams alternated scores throughout the half as a result!
Mccartney had to be subbed due to a back injury with our new kiwi moving to his preferred position of outside half and showing some good positional and switching play in a ten minute cameo at the end of the half.
It finished with two tries a piece but with Manchester ahead courtesy of 3 Doug Day penalties vs one conversion for the visters. 19-12.
Early in the second half Manchester stretched their lead to 12 points with another quickly taken tap penalty by Charlie Ding.
This two score gap unfortunately seemed to lead to the home side relaxing and they started to fall off critical tackles. Northwich capitalized mercilessly gaining considerable confidence in the process as they scored 3 unanswered converted tries in a 15 minute period. The home team certainly not helped by being short handed with a yellow card for deliberate knock-on and an injury temporarily reducing them to 13 on the pitch!
To their credit, facing an uphill struggle in the last quarter
from 24-33 down, Manchester rallied with Jay showing his virtuosity at 10 by kicking a penalty and getting the backline buzzing once again to score the final try. Unfortunately the conversion was missed leaving them a point behind the visters 32-33.
Despite several good opportunities in the last 5 minutes Manchester couldn’t quite keep the ball in hand long enough to break through and register the win.
I left more than a little disappointed but on reflection there was much to take heart in, in a good overall performance. Of particular note in the pack was the effort put in by Luke Booth at 6 who seemed to be all over the pitch and Harry Lewis who was his usual bundle of energy at 7.
Several other members of the pack should perhaps be reflecting on their fitness levels compared to those of the opposition. It’s only something they can personally address!
The future though looks bright for our backline and team ‘if’ they can be given enough quick go forward ball.