Before the day started we were under pressure, 7 players down through injury, operations and other commitments left us with just 17 for a tough fixture vs. Sefton.
Manchester lost the toss and played the first half into the wind and the sun, both of which were strong and had an effect on the game.
After a fairly even start Manchester began to apply some pressure down the left wing , the ball came to Ciaran who ran strongly and finished the move with a try in the left corner after 5 mins, Manchester were up, the conversion into the wind was tough and unfortunately missed by TJ, (5-0).
The game resumed and again was physical, just after the restart, Luke Boon took a knock to the ankle and was subbed off and replaced by Joe Corbelli at flanker. Manchester allowed themselves to be drawn into a game that they would have been better avoiding and using the pace that they have in the backs. A silly mistake by Manchester was pounced on by Sefton, a strong run, a try under the posts and a conversion left Manchester trailing 5 – 7.
Not long after the restart, holding on the ground gave Manchester a penalty just to the right of the posts, the strong wind meant that TJ was unable to steer the ball between the uprights. Still trailing 5 - 7
Play was generally with Manchester at this point in the game and there was some good rugby played Luke M made a break that was well supported, contact was made and as a result Sefton won the ball but knocked on. From the resulting scrum Aden made a strong run down the wing but was eventually tackled into touch, the lineout gave Manchester ball and good hands had Joe H striding to the corner only to be tackled into touch on the other wing. Manchester won the lineout, more good ball to the backs resulting in pressure on the Sefton backs ending with Luke M being tackled short of the line and the whistle blowing for half time. Score 5 – 7.
Manchester were out of the blocks faster in the second half and had the advantage of the sun and wind at their backs. Soon Sefton stepped up and some silly mistakes from Manchester cost them a couple of penalties and the unnecessary pressure that resulted from them. After a breakdown, Sefton were penalised for not releasing the ball, TJ found a good touch. Lineout won, a strong drive from Luke M, foul play from Sefton gave Manchester a penalty, taken quickly, Ciaran was passed the ball, a strong run and he was over for his second try of the game, converted by TJ (12-7)
An injury to Will, having spent the day making some great hits and taking out many of the big Sefton players, meant moving around a few players, Laurence to flanker, Ross and Alex in 2nd row, Luke M to centre and Aden to full back.
From the kick off Manchester knocked on and put themselves under pressure again, solid defence and a good recovery of the ball allowed TJ to kick over the Sefton defence, good support meant that we were unlucky not to win the ball from retreating Sefton who eventually grounded the ball in their own goal area, 22 drop out.
Manchester applied further pressure with TJ kicking over the Sefton backs on a couple of occasions one of which left Sefton holding on to the ball after a tackle, Manchester penalty -unfortunately not converted.
20 mins into the second half the next spell of open play saw good hands across the pitch from Luke, Joe H and Ciaran, good support meant Luke was in a position to receive a pass and go over to score Manchester’s 3rd try of the day TJ was very unlucky and bounced the conversion off the right post. (17-7)
From the kick off Sefton made a break and Manchester were caught offside. Sefton's quick thinking and good play allowed them to break out and score their second try of the day which they again successfully converted (17-14) with 2 minutes to go.
Sefton support was roused and they felt they may have the edge, needing just one more score, Manchester were calm from the kick off and applied gradual pressure pushing Sefton back toward their own try line eating up the time on the clock. With a knock on form Sefton near their own line, the referee blew full time. Manchester 17 - Sefton 14.
Considering the players that Manchester had missing today all in it was a good performance and good experience and exposure for our newer and less experienced players to be involved in.
Roll on Macclesfield next Sunday for a very tough fixture
I’d just like to say all the best to our injured players, Tom W., Hamzah (who are both now out of hospital), Sean and James after he has his operation and we hope to see them all soon.