Wirral blown away at Billingham
By Graeme Phelan
Wirral blown away at Billingham
Leaving Clatterbridge at 9.00am on Saturday in pouring rain we at least knew the Billingham 3G pitch would be in an ideal condition. The driver took a different route than normal and we were there in less than 3 hours driving time to be greeted by a warm sun and blue clouds but a strong wind blowing down the ground.
For once there were fewer changes than we have seen of late to the side although PAUL LEWIS was left out of the squad nursing a calf injury, Ryan Stead
joined MATT DALTON in the second row, Chris Crowley
recently returned back from his gap year down under joined the subs bench along with Sam Broadbent
and Mike Warren
This is a ground where we have not had much success over the past 5 years and matters were not helped that Billingham elected to play with the strong wind advantage in the first half. Within the first two minutes, Billingham were ahead when turnover ball was won by the home side and the big and powerful No 8 Dan Dixon powered over from 5m, the conversion was missed- 5-0. 7 minutes later a Billingham backs move down the middle caught Wirral out and winger Matt Kirby scored under the posts, converted by Peter Evans. 12-0 (9mins). Wirral were able to make progress downfield and were rewarded with a penalty from 20m by James Annetts
At this stage, Billingham looked threatening whenever their backs had the ball and Wirral were able to make some ground when keeping the ball amongst their forwards. In the 12th minute Billingham scored their 3rd try when good inter passing was finished off with wing forward Dan Burns crossing and duly converted, 19-3 (12 minutes). Wirral were then pressing the Billingham line but could not get over the whitewash, the ball was dropped and the home side were grateful to clear some 60m downfield. From the next scrum 30m out the back row quickly broke and fed centre Luke Wilson who running at a great angle broke through and scored without any Wirral player touching him, scoring their bonus point try already. 26-3 (24 minutes). Sam Broadbent
came on for Chris Speed
(elbow injury due to G3 pitch burn). We kick off and ball is collected and the ball passed through several hands, No 8 creates a breakthrough down the middle and ended with Matt Kirby running in under the posts to score, duly converted 33-3 at half time.Craig Harvey
retires from game with knee injury which needs a scan and possible operation, replaced by Chris Crowley
. With benefit of the wind Wirral make progress downfield and advance towards line but lose control of the ball but keep Billingham in their half. A half break by Joe Murray
takes play into the Billingham 20m area bit again ball is lost following strong tackling from the home side. A small break by James Reeve
who then passes to Stuart Gratton
and the latter powers over under the posts, with the try being converted by James Annetts
. 33-10 (47 minutes). Although back in the game, Billingham respond in the next minute where great inter-passing sets up Luke Wilson for his second try, again converted. 40-10. Mike Warren
on for James Reeve
Wirral again pressing the Billingham line 1m out only to knock on when pressing, Billingham clear but in the next minute, Matt Loon
is tackled 1m from the line and at this stage unlucky not to have added to their score. On 64 minutes with Wirral in possession some 30m out, a Joe Murray
nudge over the Billingham pack was collected by DAN HARVEY who scored in the corner, the conversion was missed. 40-15.At this stage of the game Wirral were winning a lot of the Billingham balls at the line outs through MATT DALTON. A good break by James Annetts
set up a good field position, from here the ball was spun left and DAN HARVEY was on hand to scoot in for his second try in the corner, the conversion was missed. 40-20 (72 minutes). Wirral were now pressing for the fourth try and a bonus point but a couple of penalties in a match where there had been few enabled Billingham to have a presence in the Wirral 20m area. Captain, Peter Evans managed to wriggle over from 15m with the aid of poor tackling and his conversion took the score out to 47-20 and his personal tally to 17 points.
In the 79th Minute, Stuart Gratton
was sin binned for being off side in mid-field, a decision which surprised all. In the final seconds of the game, Wirral were again pressing but could not come up with that decisive play.
Billingham observers said that this was the best that they had played all season which is of little consolation to Wirral who although arriving at the ground in plenty of time obviously still at the effects of the journey in their legs. For the next two weeks Wirral have home matches against, Rossendale and Ilkley, starting with Rossendale next week with a 3.00pm kick off.