Following the difficulties with team selection last week, Wirral made 9 changes (both selection and positional) for this week’s important league match against BP. Matt Brown, Tim Hodson and Craig Harvey returned to the team, this was coupled with MARTIN BENNETT and Matt Slater coming in at centre and scrum half respectively. colin dyer joined Tim in the second row and Phil Donaldson playing at blindside. The subs were Steve Pendergast, Jack Yarker and Mark Gidman.
The match was played on the front pitch with the pitch in excellent condition but there was a strong breeze in evidence and BP had the benefit of the wind in the first half.
The opening minutes saw play contained in the Wirral half with play being punctuated by a number of injuries, which held up the flow of the game in these opening exchanges. Aided by a penalty, Wirral managed to work their way downfield. From play in the BP 20m area, the ball was quickly passed down the line which resulted in Chris Speed scoring in the corner, the conversion from the touchline against the wind was converted by Craig Harvey. 7-0 (9 mins).
Almost immediately BP equalised when a quick ball out to the left gave the rapid BP left winger, Adedayo Titiloye the chance to show his pace as he outpaced the defence to score in the corner, the try being converted by Michael Stevens. Within 3 mins BP had taken the lead when from a quick maul gave BP an overlap which allowed Pat O’Donnell to score near the posts but the conversion was missed. With the manner in which BP were playing it was difficult to believe that this would be there final scoring in the match. 7-12 (16 mins).
On 27 mins, Wirral took the lead when play was taken down to the BP 20m area through a penalty and again went down the backs where Ollie Atkinson in support from the other wing cut inside to score 15m from the posts and again Craig obliged with the conversion. 14-12 (27 mins). Five mins later with Wirral camped in the BP 20m area, a series of forward thrusts were halted close to the line and with a number of players in close proximity, the ball came out to Craig Harvey who side stepped and jinxed his way over to score close to the posts and again he converted. 21-12 (31 mins).
In the final minutes of the first half, there was a collision between the heads of the BP full back Warren Duffy and Craig which left the former dazed and the latter suffering a broken nose which bled profusely for the rest of the game, with Craig playing on until 10 mins from the end, when the win was in sight.
At half time, Steve Pendergast came on for Gareth Burkes, who had been injured in the first half. With the wind advantage, play was contained for the majority of the time in the BP half. Wirral were able to apply pressure but BP defended stoically. A grubber kick by Danny Harvey was scrambled away by BP with Wirral players bearing down and this was followed by a good tackle in midfield by MARTIN BENNETT which allowed Wirral to counter attack and with a try in the offing they were brought back for a forward pass. BP were having difficulty in getting out of their half and were looking to engineer the ball to the right in an attempt to get the speedy winger , Titiloye into open space but were thwarted by Wirral’s defence.
A half break from Chris Speed saw him stopped a few metres from the line, where the forwards then made a number of attempts to cross the BP line and finally Matt Brown powered over from 1 metre out to give Wirral their try scoring bonus point and again Craig converted. 28-12 (53 mins). On 62 mins Jack Yarker came on for Graeme Phelan who received an ovation from the crowd for his contribution in defence.
BP continued to play 15 man rugby but had difficulty in breaching the Wirral defence. Any progress up field was made with the occasional penalty (only 5 given away by Wirral during the match) but Wirral replied with long angled kicks to touch to regain the ground, in particular two kicks by JAMES ANEETTS and Danny Harvey stand out gaining over 60m. A long kick down field by James stopped just over the try line and BP to their credit attempted to run the ball out but a follow up tackle by Chris Speed 10m from the line allowed Wirral to gain turnover ball. James Annetts ran wide before straightening up, drew the defence before passing to Tim Hodson who ran round to score near the posts. Craig converted 35-12 (70 mins). At this stage Craig was replaced by Mark Gidman.
The final minutes of the game saw Wirral continuing to exert territorial advantage but could not add to the score. Wirral fully deserved this vital win and gives them an excellent chance to now push on and secure another year in this competitive league. With other results going in Wirral’s favour, Wirral climbed to 7th in the league but there are a number of teams in mid table covered by a few points but further wins are still required.
Comment should be made of the referee, Gary Spengler who was refereeing his first game at this level and overall allowed the game to flow and had in my opinion, a good game.
Next week Wirral do not have a game but on the 24th, Wirral have a tough away match at Northwich who will be keen to reverse their narrow loss earlier in the season. The team would welcome as much support as possible for this game where both teams look to play 15 man rugby.