Billingham Defence Thwarts Wirral
Given the weather we have endured over the past few weeks, the pitch was in excellent condition for the match against Billingham, who were lying one place above Wirral in the league.
Following a shoulder injury incurred at Morley, SAM BROADBENT was replaced in the centre by Tom Stevens
for his first team debut, James Annetts
returned at full back. In the pack, KEITH MAHON is out injured so Paul Lewis
joined HAYDN LONG in the second row, with MATT DALTON moving to blindside. On the subs bench we welcome back Ryan Higginson
after injury, Ryan Stead
, to join JAMES REEVES on the subs bench.
Wirral played towards the clubhouse in the first half and thus had the benefit of the breeze. As the game unfolded it quickly became apparent that Billingham were looking to get the ball out wide quickly to release their wingers. In the scrums Wirral had the advantage but it could only be used to their advantage by getting enough of the ball in the opposition 20m area. Wirral were using the wind effectively although Billingham were counter attacking well. On 9 minutes it was Wirral who took the lead from a 5m scrum when Josh Stead
went blind to score wide out and his first try of the season. There followed an incident which the officials, including authorised linesman “did not see”, which at the very worst should have been a penalty to Wirral on the restart. The conversion from near the touchline was made by James Annetts
On 22 minutes Billingham should have scored but the try was disallowed for a forward pass when only 3 m out. Billingham had the territorial advantage but stern Wirral defence kept them out. On 33 minutes, Billingham had ball in mid field and passed left with winger Tom Briggs then breaking the first tackle before weaving his way through the Wirral defence to score from some 45m out. The conversion from 10m wide of the posts was missed as the ball fell over as Dan Finney was about to kick, the attempted drop kick was then charged down. 2 minutes later the same player put Billingham in the lead when a short kick over the Wirral defence gave Billingham a 3 on 1 chance and with the ball bouncing in their favour, the winger had an easy run in, the conversion was missed. 7-10 (35 minutes). The Billingham second row, Ben Walton was substituted due to injury.
Just after half-time, Ryan Higginson
came on for Jack Yarker
. On 45 minutes, good interplay from Billingham enabled their influential No. 8, Dan Dixon to score with DAN FINNEY making his only conversion of the match. 7-17. Dixon was now playing a bigger role in the match and on 53 minutes made substantial ground before off loading and enabling Matthew Kirby to score wide out, this gave Billingham their try bonus point. 7-22.
Wirral were trying to break down the Billingham defence with kicks over the defence and on one occasion the Wirral fly half was late tackled after such a kick but not even the linesmen saw this- “they were following the ball”. Ryan Stead
came on for Paul Lewis
. Rob Pearl
was injured (ankle) which held up play for several minutes, the stretcher was used to help him off the field. He was replaced by JAMES REEVES.
Whilst Wirral were getting themselves organised with a new back row, Billingham burst through the space close to the scrum, which split the Wirral defence and enabled centre, Adam Gardner to score. 7-27 (63 minutes). Gradually Wirral came more into the game and a series of penalties in their favour took play down to the Billingham 20m area. Jack Yarker
came on for Chris Hughes
. Wirral maintained their presence in that area and were rewarded with a push over try scored by, Stuart Gratton
, the conversion just missed. The game finished with Wirral again pressing in their half.
Next week Wirral are away at Sandal.