Full of Christmas Pudding and other over-indulgences, we played our first game in weeks on Twelfth Night, which reminded me of two characters in the play: Sir Toby Belch (Olivia's drunken uncle. Olivia lets Sir Toby live with her but does not approve of his rowdy behavior, practical jokes, heavy drinking, late-night carousing**); and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (a simple-minded companion of Sir Toby. Sir Andrew Aguecheek attempts to court Olivia, but he has no chance of success. He thinks that he is witty, brave, young, and good at languages and dancing, but he is thought to actually be a complete idiot**).
**according to Wikipidea!
Could these 2 characters share a resemblance to a couple of our parents?
1. Archie Irlam-Mowbray
2. Christian Dolan
3. Monty Weatherby
4. Ollie Taylor
5. Harry Taylor
6. James Parry
7. Alex Walker
8. Cameron Beech
9. Callum Darlington
10. Luke Pickles
11. Jake Meredith
12. Josh Brookes ©
13. Matt Reel
14. George Morgan
15. Jordan Ravenscroft
Replacements: Jack Bayes, Tom Stock, Thomas Lea, Alex Wardle, Oli Sorensen, Joe Beckett
Scorer(s): Tries: Brookes (3) Cons:
Always a pleasure to go to Winnington Park, they play good rugby and the two sides are well matched, and today we were not disappointed. The starting line-up mirrored the side that took Crewe to the sword, so continuity was in place, with the only issue being fitness. We knew this would be the same for Winnington though, and we trusted in our talent.
The first 10 minutes was a cagey affair, with neither side giving much ground, and on a sticky pitch, the backs struggled to get their running game going against a solid defence. Our forwards were met with a brick wall in the contact areas, and we really took our time to get a foothold in the game.
We probably just shaded the first 10 minutes’ territorially, but we didn’t have it all our own way, as Callum Darlington showed us how much he has missed playing over Christmas, with a couple of thunderous tackles. George Morgan with his first start of the season after his broken arm, also showed he has lost none of his nerve, with a couple of solid ones. Winnington, after failing to find a way through our defence with their running game, tried a couple of deep kicks, which were fielded excellently by Jordan Ravenscroft and Jake Meredith, and returned with interest on a couple occasions.
My thinking after 10 minutes, was that whoever scored first would go on and win the game, as both sides were giving it their all both mentally and physically. We did take the advantage after 13 minutes through Josh Brookes. Kicking on, he used his searing pace to put pressure on the Winnington Full-back, who hesitated and conceded the ball to Josh, but didn’t give up on it, so Josh could only score in the corner- a deed which would have an impact on the game, showing wonderful determination.
From the ensuing kick-off, James Parry fielded the ball, and set off on a powerful run. Evading a couple of tackles, his pace took him away and looked to score only for the linesman to thwart his efforts after a foot in touch.
Many teams would have struggled with our form at this point in the game, but Winnington rallied and their forwards got a rumble on. Jake Meredith again showed his defensive qualities with a great tackle to null one attack, but Winnington had the momentum, and equalised the score after a series of driving rucks.
We have, several times this season, handled re-starts really well, and this one was no exception. With moments to go before half time, our forwards retrieved the ball from the kick off and fed Josh Brookes, who in turn fed Jordan Ravenscroft. His pace took him clear of the Winnington defenders, but he was just caught at the last moment, and despite the score, we ended the half on a high.
From the restart for the second half, we again pressed forward, with Cameron Beech occupying an unfamiliar role at prop. This gave Winnington something different to deal with in the scrum, and they simply couldn’t handle our front row. A scrum to Winnington in their own 22, saw us take it against the head, and only a slight error in handling saw us denied a try, but from the resulting scrum again, we took it against the head, to set up the backs, and Luke Pickles laid on Josh Brookes to crash over the line in the corner for us to regain the advantage.
Again, Winnington showed us their class, and came back at us. A great kick and chase, put Jordan Ravenscroft under pressure, and he was unlucky with the bounce and then the consequent tackle from the Winnington player when he wasn’t in possession of the ball. The ball went loose and the Winnington player took advantage of Jordan’s prone state to again score an equaliser.
Again our forwards responded in devastating fashion, and set up a great platform once again for the backs. Josh Brookes kicked long and we piled on the pressure. After taking lessons from Winnington in the rucks, we responded with some great play of our own to maraud up the pitch, eventually setting up Josh Brookes to slip through the Winnington defence once more for his Hat-Trick.
Winnington are a great side with wonderful spirit, and they were not yet beaten, and in the dying embers of the game, they claimed an equaliser once again after a break from defence, their support play was Macclesfield-esque, and they deserved a share of the spoils.
All in all a great game, played in great spirits. It is testimony to both sides that all the tries were scored in the corners, showing defences were at their best.
Several players acquitted themselves magnificently, especially in the forwards. Our front row was again excellent, with Monty Weatherby catching the eye, and Cameron Beech showing his versatility. Ollie and Harry Taylor are improving week by week, but James Parry just shaded it for the forwards MOM, with some searing, powerful runs. In the backs, Callum Darlington tackled like a demon, and Josh Brookes again took full advantage of the space he enjoys at Centre, but Jake Meredith got the nod for MOM in the backs for some great defensive wing play (watch out Cueto!).