By Martin Lancaster
An away game at Hoylake was Sefton’s final match, and a must win game to guarantee safety in the League.
I was looking forward to some quality rugby, with precise passing and accurate kicking to enjoy on this cold, but sunny day. We needed entertaining!
Sefton couldn’t have had a better start, dominant in the scrums, and carrying the ball confidently. A lineout inside Hoylake’s twenty-two was caught comfortably by Caine, and the pack drove the ball forward. As the maul came to a halt Jay Keegan peels from the back and charges for the line. A dummy pass to Alex Evans allows him space and Keegan crashes over for an unconverted try.
The restart was a mess, void of any responsibility, with several players seeming to move out of the way to avoid the ball hitting them. Possession was gained by Hoylake and they quickly moved the ball into Sefton’s half. After several crash balls, they were able to break through to score a converted try.
Another kick for the line put Sefton back inside Hoylakes twenty-two, but this time the maul was pulled down. The ball was released to the backs, and Clarkson broke through to score. Liam Brown converted.
Again Sefton perform a masterclass on how to avoid the ball at restarts, allowing the opposition to steal the ball. Luckily, Hoylake give away a penalty and Sefton get a chance to clear the ball.
---- Kicking Update ----
Centre field, but with the wind behind him, Liam Brown attempts to kick for touch. I’m unsure whether the ball goes forward at all as it slices off his boot, but it didn’t make touch, instead landing in the grateful wingers hands. A penalty puts them deep in Sefton’s half and from the lineout they crash the ball through for another converted try,
Sefton’s effective lineout was again used with Tom Fletcher catching this time and setting up the maul. A quick break down the blind side allows Alex Evans to go over in the corner for a try.
An injury to Johnathan James ends his game, though what happened is unclear, going down as if shot from the crowd. I was unsure who did it, but I suspect they were on the grassy knoll.
A ten metre lineout allows Hoylake to execute their devastating crash balls, which had the same result, a converted try under the posts. However, the last action of the half belonged to Sefton when Alex Evans takes a quick tap penalty. The ball goes out to Tebbs who steps back inside, but is caught short of the line. The ball is recycled and Jay Keegan is through and over for his second try.
Half time came and although Sefton had the lead, they now had to deal with the wind. This led to a bad start for Sefton when Osborne’s kick failed to make touch. The ball was run wide, and a number of tackles were missed with exorbitantly impressive air tackles, which allowed Hoylake to score an unconverted try in the corner within the first two minutes of the restart.
It is only four minutes before Sam Gallear decides he needs a rest, and picks a fight with one of Hoylake’s players. You have to admire Sam’s planning, probably realising that Keegan was preparing for his own ten minute rest, and getting in there first.
Another poor kick failed to make touch, and again Sefton were put under pressure out wide. A step through the middle of the ruck allowed a break, and it was an easy two on one, to score a converted try.
If Sefton’s kicking wasn’t producing results, it was the opposite for Hoylake, using the wind at every opportunity. With Sefton’s defence up, the ball was kicked into the space behind them and Sefton seemed unsure what do with it as it bobbled towards the try line. Hoylake read the bounce better, and are able to collect the ball, and dive over the try line.
Could it get any worse for Sefton, although behind, they seemed confident and they still had the upper hand in the scrums. Another devastating drive puts Hoylake on the back foot, and the ball is released to the backs in a rare attacking moment. Liam Brown gets the ball and attempts to pop it out, only to gift the ball to the opposition with an interception, which they ran through and scored.
With fifteen minutes left, Sefton finally strung some moves together. A break by Wayne Osborne on the half way line puts him in open space, and we watch as he outwits the opposition with his deceivingly slow pace. It is either that, or Craig Johnson confusing them by zig-zagging back and forth behind the veteran half-back trying to persuade him to pass the ball. Osborne’s refusal to surrender the ball, allows enough doubt in the opposition’s mind for him to make it to the try line under the posts. Sefton finish their dismal kicking performance when Liam Brown misses the conversion from in front of the posts.
Sefton continue to have a surge in performance for the remainder of the game with some excellent off-loads to supporting players. It made me wonder why they bothered kicking the ball at all, until it became all too apparent.
---- The Pass ----
Sefton were cutting Hoylake apart by keeping the ball away from contact, even Harry Bailey was involved! Then Wayne Tyms gets the ball, flinging it out without even looking, unfortunately there was no one there, and it roles harmlessly out of play. Who he thought was out there, I don’t know, it was possibly his hair getting in his eyes.
We did see some quality rugby, but it was from the wrong side, the kicking was dubious, and the tackles were too high against a side that enjoyed running at the opposition. A disappointing finish to Sefton’s season, however, the good news is Winnington Park did Sefton a favour by beating Collegiate in their final game. So it is Collegiate that takes the final relegation spot.