Squad: Rowey, Adge, YFS, 1 Kid, Foz, Miss Marple, Buster, Tim, Hoff, Brinny Bummer, Tidge, Brownie, Stealth, Woody, Marko, Alastair, Jono, Gilly, Alec, H, Dobbo.
After a walkover victory, a weekend off & a postponed fixture, Manchester 3rds finally returned to action in 2014 in the 1st round of the North West League Plate against Congleton.
Pre-match, the Hoff was able to name a useful looking squad consisting of youth & experience. Upfront, the excessive calorie munching brigade of Rowey, YFS & Adge started as the front three with the consistent Foz & the returning Miss Marple making up the 2nd row engine room. In the back row, Communist Tim Harper started at 8 with 1 Kid & the Hoff completing a rather handsome looking back 3! Rich ‘Gatling Gob’ Brownie & Tidge started as half backs & the centre pairing saw the improving Stealth at 12 with Marko Bolton at 13. Field Marshal ‘San Tropez Dobbo Dobson’ finally emerged from his mid-season sun bed hibernation to make up the 3 quarters with Woody and ‘H’. Jack, Jon, Alec, Alistair & the on-loan Zak Bremner keep the side-lines active with Manchester 3rds mascot, Azzer Grahamslaw.
Congleton took to the field with a youthful looking team of colts & old heads. The general rule of thumb in senior rugby is that any team fielding a youthful colts set up will automatically try to play an expansive running game. The sneaky Hoff was well aware of this & the pre-match instructions were smash, smash, out, out, out – or something like that!
From the kick off, Congleton started well but Manchester’s defensive line was more than a match for their enthusiasm. Initially, Manchester slowed the ball at the breakdowns to re-group (a breather really!) & gradually built a strong platform to allow quick ball out to the backs through Brownie’s hands. At this stage of the game, Brownie’s hands were functioning much faster than his tongue. Quick ball allowed for aggressive running from the backs and back row, which challenged the younger Congleton backs time after time & only some last ditch tackles stopped Manchester breaking through on a number of occasions.
Then a dark shadow appeared in the distance; slowly lumbering towards the pitch! Grown men cowered! Is it a bird the crowd roared? ! Is ita plane some else yelled? Afraid not…….. It was Manchester’s secret weapon, Mark Buster Grahamslaw timing his entrance into the back row just perfectly! ‘1 Kid’ moved back to hooker & the back three became a Communist, a ginger bearded man & a tanned back come forward!
Manchester built again & a well worked try followed with backs and forwards combining to allow the creosote looking Dobbo to swallow dive over! The conversion went over.
Manchester controlled the game for the following 20 mins & continued to look dangerous on the attack. Their 2nd try came from a well worked training pitch set piece which saw the Hoff’s place kick go wide, forcing Congleton to shin kick the ball out to the wing for H to collect & sprint back to score in the corner after zipping past two defenders.
Then the strange phenomenon that haunts Manchester 3rds returned in that some players thought the game was won as a few made merry. This allowed the experienced Congleton forwards back into the game through a good old school rugby try.
Half Time – Congleton 7 v 12 Manchester
The half time team talk focused on Harry’s previous night’s activities & the rash he had acquired. The focus then drifted back to the importance of winning the game through more of what the Manchester boys had shown in the first 30 minutes.
Congleton made a number of changes to start the second 40 & immediately took the game to Manchester. Past teams may have crumbled but the away team’s defensive commitment & co-ordination continues to grow & this inevitably took the sting out of Congleton’s tail. Manchester once again got the bit between their teeth & with the backs hitting rucks to save gas in the forwards tank, their game became more expansive. With Gatling Gob distributing the ball well, Manchester were always a threat out wide & this finally showed when Mark was released to run in a well worked try from the half way line. Dobbo converted an impressive penalty 5 mins later.
With the game getting scrappy and tempers getting shorter, Manchester dug in. The Hoff had a senior moment when he forgot that he is now playing in the fwds instead of the backs and put boot to ball. All the lads love him off the pitch.... & he was forgiven as Manchester saw out the game.
Overall, this was a good performance from the 3s after such a lengthy lay off; which has seen a few extra pounds being gained in some quarters. Up front the forwards built a strong platform but have to learn to keep their feet on the gas. More work is required on the line out, which stronger teams will exploit. The backs showed what they can do with a good ball from the forwards & there were some great performances from Stealth, Brownie, Mark, Tidge & H, particularly in the first 40 & with the experienced Dobbo guiding them. The replacements all contributed well when needed, especially Alastair & Jon who made some great runs as wingers in the last 20 mins. Manchester 3rds continue to improve and with a few players to return in the next few weeks, they could potentially be in place for a good final run in to the end of the season.
Well played to the Congleton lads who battled all day & never stopped trying until the final whistle.
So it was the changing rooms & back to the club for a well-earned beer. In the showers the lads discussed the Hoff’s tan and the attempted quarter-back try by Foz. Dobbo shaved his legs and Brownie sought to explain his behaviour on living down South for the past 7 months. Harry was handed some E45 cream and the address for the local GUM clinic.
With YFS and Adge fantasizing about the new Homemade Pie selection back at Grove Park, a convoy speed North before the 2s returned to devour the Steak and Kidney ones & to stop both Adge & YFS wasting away. However, the 3s will return to Congleton next week for part 2 of the thriller in Manila!
Next Game: Congleton 2nds away (League Game)
2nd Round Cup: 01st Feb
Tries: Dobbo, H, Mark
Conversions: Dobbo, Tidge
Skippers MOM: Seb Cole (what commitment from the aging warrior!)