Manchester 25 v Tarleton 8
Both sides did not have the best preparation for this game, which was switched under league rules to Manchester on the day due to a waterlogged pitch at Tarleton, The fact that it took place at all is a credit to the work the ground staff have done on the stadium pitch to improve drainage.
As the rain gave over to sunshine, Manchester started well with a period of sustained pressure in the opposition half. Good interplay between forwards and backs forced a penalty wide on the right; Freeman took a quick tap and fed Charlie Johnson, who scored the first try, converted 7v0.
The visitors woke up at this point and forced play into the Manchester 22 with a series of close in drives, clean ball allowed the Tarleton 10 to kick cross field where Charlie Johnson could only parry the ball back for the opposition no 11 to touch down, conversion missed 7v5.
Although dominant in the scrum the Manchester line out was miss-firing at times, that coupled with some missed tackles allowed Tarleton to keep the ball well in the Manchester half for long periods of the first half. During this time they breached the Manchester try line but were held up, from the resulting scrum Manchester were adjudged offside in the middle, an easy 3 points from the penalty put Tarleton ahead 7v8.
Close to the half time whistle Manchester did force play into the Tarleton half, forcing a number of penalties or free kicks, Freeman did kick one for goal but missed narrowly to the right. With Seb off for a blood injury Manchester were happy to hear the half time whistle and relieved that their stout defence had not allowed Tarleton to convert their superior possession and territorial advantage into more points.
In fact, Tarleton were made to pay for this in the second half as the Manchester scrum became more dominant, forcing penalty after penalty, which gave ample opportunity to kick for goal or territory, almost at will.
Firstly, Freeman kicked a penalty in front of the post, 10v8.
Then after no less than four scrum penalties in succession, one of which was a reversal for dissent by Tarleton, Manchester finally moved the ball and Michael jordan scored a second try, with the conversion taken the score moved to 17v8.
Although the Manchester bench was emptied and adjustments made to playing positions there was no let up in the pressure on Tarleton and play remained well within their half.Another scrum penalty allowed Freeman to extend the lead to 20v8.
Following a clean break by Michael Jordan which took play once again up to the Tarleton 22, Manchester were able to show that they could also make a cross field kick equally as effectively, with Ollie Dickinson taking a clean catch and scoring in the left corner. Conversion missed 25v8.
Victory secured, all that remained was for Manchester to get a fourth try and secure the bonus points. However, in the dying minutes Tarleton forced a number of penalties that kept play in the Manchester half and thwarted any attempts to score again.
Another strong performance from the Manchester pack, with total dominance in the scrum, led by MJ, who was once again man of the match. It was also good to see that Manchester won the turnover battle in the loose, with both Tom Fantom and Charlie Ding proving a real nuisance at the break down.
Made to work hard in the first half, Manchester had all the possession and points in the second half, another good all round performance and victory.