Football matches were being called off left, right and centre due to poor weather, but no such worries at Grove Park as the last 2 undefeated teams in pool 2 came together. It’s certainly the first time I can remember Manchester playing Bolton (at this age group) so a good game in prospect.
Following the ko, Manchester took a line out, but it was stolen by Bolton. Manchester retrieved from the ruck and kicked for territory – Bolton kicked it back and Manchester knocked on. This was the story for the majority of the first half. Bolton had most of the territory, and the majority of possession, but both sides were committing handling errors – it was certainly very cold. Bolton pressed for openings, but found the Manchester tackling very effective. From one such scrappy piece of play, Manchester sent the ball out to the backs – Macca broke through the tackles and headed for the line. Great covering by Bolton stopped him short of the line, but Luke Mc was on hand to pick up and go over for the first score. TJ slotted the extras – 7-0 Manchester.
It’s probably a measure of the scrappy nature of the first half that TJ’s ‘comedy penalty’ gets a mention. Manchester were awarded a pen inside their own half. TJ, ever eager to spot a gap taps it to himself ……unfortunately kicking it straight into his own face and knocking on. Of course his team mates were full of sympathy!!
Bolton were still pressing just inside the Manchester half and moved it down their line. They tried a kick in behind the advancing cover and were unfortunate to see it just roll dead. From the resulting drop out another ruck formed, and like the first score Manchester moved it down the line to Macauley who weaved his way through the tackles to score. TJ missed the conversion – 12-0 Manchester.
Again, a similar pattern ensued with Bolton pressing but not being able to make it count. Bolton kicked to touch from a pen, and from the resulting line out had pressure on top of the Manchester line. After a number of phases Bolton tried to force the issue, but kicked the ball dead.
From the ensuing 22 drop out Manchester gained possession, moved it to Mason who ran the ball down the right wing to score under the posts – TJ added the extra’s. Half Time 19-0 Manchester
For the second half Manchester welcomed 2 long term injury victims back – Walshie and Will C, and with a breeze at their backs the second half was underway.
Manchester were trying to run the ball as much as possible. From a Manchester penalty, Luke Mc set off down the middle – was superbly tackled by the Bolton full back – scrum to Bolton. Both sides had taken scrums against the head, and from this Bolton put in Manchester took it and Walshy had the chance to weave through a number of tackles before, again, being tackled by the Bolton Full Back. The run had opened the defence, though, and Ciaran was on hand to pick up the pieces and drive over the line. TJ added the extras – 26-0 Manchester.
From the ko Bolton were awarded a pen for holding on, but from the resulting set piece knocked it on. From that scrum Manchester were awarded a free kick for pushing too early. TJ fed Ciaran who slipped Walshy in, but he was tackled into touch short of the line. Manchester won the ball back but were guilty of holding on and Bolton had a series of pens which they endeavoured to run. Bolton knocked on and with advantage being played to Manchester TJ kicked ahead for Walshy to pick up and score. Conversion missed – 31-0 Manchester
Bolton kept going and finally got the score their efforts deserved when they went over in the corner following a period of sustained pressure under the Manchester posts. Conversion missed – 31-5 Manchester.
Full Time whistle blew.
Bolton will feel, with justification, that they did not get the rewards their pressure and territory deserved. Manchester, on this occasion, were able to take their chances and that, ultimately, was the big difference. Well done both sides for putting a game on in very cold conditions.