For their first game in the post ‘Woody’ era, The Greens travelled to the Potteries to face a team that has been their nemesis in the past and whilst they have beaten them at Heslam Park, they have never won at Trentham Fields. They travelled without 3 influential players in Jack Leaning, Nick Syddall and Chris Donk all suffering from various ailments.
On a crisp bright day the home boys started the game full of endeavour and a great sense of purpose. They pinned Scunthorpe back in the own ‘22’ and took only 10 minutes to back themselves with a ‘catch & drive’, touched down by Richard Thompson for the first score. Grant Hallam failed with the conversion but the Potteries boys were in the ascendant.
The Greens were struggling to break out of the home strangle hold which was not helped by some poor handling, with forced passes meaning lost possession.
Longton continued to put some good phases together with their pack to the fore, using strong driving play led by the example of ex Green of a decade ago, Joel Booth. An alert home scrum-half broke down the blind-side of the ruck, some 35 metres out and fed to his supporting player, hooker George Glenn for his sides second try. The extras were again missed but Longton now held a 10 points to nil lead after 27 minutes of play.
The Greens were now gradually coming more and more into the game and following a driven maul which travelled some 35 metres and to within 10 of the home line, Tom Foster used Sam Morgan coming into the line at an angle which cleared the first line of defence and although stopped just short he found Will Harrison in close support for the scrum-half to dive over under the posts. Steve Johnson converted in the 34th minute to bring The Greens into the game at 10 points to 7 down. The dynamic of play and now changed and it was the home boys on the defensive and when they conceded a penalty just before the half-time whistle, Johnson stepped up to put his team level at 10points each at the break.
Scunthorpe maintained their impetus from the end of the first half and after 5 minutes won a penalty on half-way. With speed of thought and deed, Will Harrison set off with Longton in pursuit and managed to win the race for a great try. Johnson missed the conversion but The Greens took the lead for the first time in the game at 15 points to 10 after 5 minutes of the second period. Further pressure brought a penalty 5 minutes later and Johnson converted for an eighteen points to ten lead. Another penalty was gained on 20 minutes but Johnson was unable to extend the lead.
Scunthorpe rather harshly lost Phil Jepson to the bin during this period and did very well to withstand several close line-out drives even though a man down.
Longton eventually made pressure count when they got away with a lineout throw to the front which, in many opinions, did not travel the required 5 metres but nonetheless the referee allowed play to continue for George Glenn to complete his brace and pull his side back to 15 points to 18. The conversion once more failed and it took only 3 minutes for Johnson to convert another penalty and increase the lead to 21 points to 15 after 35 minutes of play.
The last 5 minutes was quite fraught with The Greens again repelling late pressure and take play down the pitch. Intent mainly on ball retention, Scunthorpe went through the phases and eventually Tom Foster broke through the home defence for a try half way out on the right of the posts. Johnson failed with the conversion but his effort proved to be the last kick of the game as the final whistle signalled a good win for the Heslam Park boys by 26 points to 15.
Match Report by LWJClayton