The rearranged game at Rossendale was played on a hard pitch after a week of drying weather but in temperatures just above freezing point, fortunately the sun was out to keep the temperature positive, although the wind chill factor needed to be considered
Wirral had to make many changes due to injuries and unavailabilities (this had been down as a free Saturday). Making their league debuts were Ben Cornford at scrum half (JOSH STEAD- not available) and JOE PATTON on the subs bench. Jamie Thompson came into the back row in place of the still injured KEITH MAHON and with Mark Williams also not available; TOM STEPHENS came into the centre with MARK GIDMAN continuing on the wing. The subs were Paul Lewis and Steve Pendergast joining JOE as RYAN STEAD is out for some weeks with a thumb injury picked up some weeks ago.
Wirral played up the considerable slope and against the wind in the first half with a view of subduing Rossendale and then attacking down the slope in the second half. It was soon apparent that the home side were intent on throwing the ball wide and with ineffective tackling made inroads into the Wirral 20m area. The first score came after 7 minutes when a kick over the Wirral defence allowed left winger Peel to collect easily and score wide out, not converted. 5-0. At this stage MARK GIDMAN was injured when the Rossendale No 5 kicked him deliberately in the face which caused some hold up- the referee nor his assessor saw nothing! (a sending off offence). Peel scored his second try after 18 minutes when the full back broke through and when tackled slipped the ball inside to the supporting winger to score wide out. At this stage it was a question of containment and matters were not helped by a knock-on, on the 22m line which gave Rossendale the presence in the Wirral defensive area and after withstanding the thrusts from the home forwards, the No 8 Ryan McKibbin crashed through to score and was converted on this occasion. 17-0.
Wirral then had their best period of the half and were camped I in the Rossendale 20m area where the home sides defence held firm but in doing so gave away at least 6 penalties which ultimately resulted in 2 yellow cards for the home side, yet their defence still held firm despite Wirral having some promising opportunities. The first half finished after 50 minutes.
The second half saw Wirral with more territorial play but made matters worse by not controlling the ball for lengthy periods as they looked to make inroads. Any ball lost enabled Rossendale to counter attack and one such interception enabled them to score from 70m out as the supporting runners outpaced the Wirral defence and enabled Peel to race in for his hat trick try and the teams try bonus point. 24-0 53 minutes. Ten minutes later a further try was scored by McKibbin from ineffective tackling to score near the posts. 31-0.
Throughout the second half Wirral made a number of changes, Steve Pendergast on for Chris Hughes, JOE PATTON for HAYDN LONG and Paul Lewis for JAMES REEVES. Wirral almost scored when Matt Loon after a good rundown the left was bundled into touch just short of the try line. Rossendale went on to two score two more tries, one of which was converted, the final try being scored in the 46th minute of the half.
This match showed up the lack of strength in depth which other teams seem to possess and an inability to break down defences at this level especially through the middle. Coach, Matt Cairns will be closely looking at his injured players to ascertain when they are going to be fit for selection as he certainly misses his original back row, albeit Matt Dowler was Wirral’s stand out player both in defence and attack.
Next week Wirral have a home match against second placed Hull, kick off 2.15pm.
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Craig Harvey is substituted off for Wirral
James Reeve is substituted on for Wirral
Chris Hughes is substituted off for Wirral
Steve Pendergast is substituted on for Wirral
Paul Lewis is substituted on for Wirral
James Reeve is substituted off for Wirral
Hayden Long is substituted off for Wirral
Joe Paton is substituted on for Wirral
Start of the game
As it happened
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