Annetts Penalty Secures Win
By Andrew Broadbent
Dull day where defences dominated.
This game was settled by the only kick at goal which indicates show the defences were on top throughout the game and the influence that the strong wind had on the game.
For the first game at home in 2019, the team selected for the game against Harrogate had only one change from the team that won at Lymm last week, with DAN HARVEY suffering from a shoulder injury, Ben Brooks
came into the team with Matt Loon
returning to the squad.
The pitch was in excellent condition but there was a strong wind blowing down the pitch towards the clubhouse. In the first half Wirral were playing towards the main road.
For the first 15 minutes of the game, play was restricted to mid-field as Wirral looked to make progress and went through many phases of play as they made some 30/35m downfield. In the first half Wirral had the benefit of a 10-2 penalty advantage but turned down taking kicks at goal as they pursued that elusive try/tries. After 33 minutes Ben Brooks
had to retire with a hamstring twinge and was replaced by Matt Loon
Due to the number of penalties being given away by Harrogate led to flanker, Guy Coser, being sin-binned in the final minute before half-time but even with the away side being down to 14, Wirral was not able to press home the advantage before the break. What was noticeable in this half was that Harrogate did not use the wind to any great effect.
The second half started with Wirral again in possession in mid-field and were awarded a penalty but back chat from Harrogate enabled the referee to advance the penalty 10m. From this position some 41m out just wide of the posts James Annetts
converted the chance and the first kick at goal of the match to give Wirral a 3-0 lead (46 minutes).
The game then changed with Harrogate enjoying territory and possession with the penalties going in their favour. Harrogate turned down potential penalty chances and like Wirral went for 5m line outs. This was followed by a sustained pressure on the Wirral line with the home team defending stoutly, the ball went wide and two occasions the away wingers were tackled into touch just short of the whitewash. In the meantime there were a number of scrum resets. Craig Harvey
was injured when his knee was cut open by a Harrogate stud, Ryan Stead
came on with a back row player moving into the backs. On 62 minutes Rob Pearl
was sin-binned, CRAIG returned at the expense of MATT DALTON.
Still Wirral were under pressure with scrums under the posts and still Harrogate’s thrusts were repelled by the 14 man Wirral side and again the chances for the Harrogate wingers to score were thwarted with pin point tackling. Finally an error enabled Wirral to clear to the half-way. At this stage Paul Lewis
and Jack Yarker
were replaced by MATT DALTON. The amount of ball Wirral had had in this half was minimal and Harrogate were able to make ground to return to the Wirral 20m area and again applied pressure to the Wirral line but the defence held.
Eventually Wirral cleared with a long kick down field; the Harrogate full back allowed this to bounce and under no pressure knocked-on. Wirral won the scrum under pressure and CRAIG then nudged the ball towards the far left touchline and it was now Harrogate who were under pressure as they controlled the ball through phases but could not break through the away side defence. The ball went right and a rare opportunity came to score in the corner but Mark Williams
was stopped 2 m short, still the pressure came but there was no weakening in Harrogate’s resolve to keep their line intact. The atmosphere was tense as Harrogate looked to run the ball out of their 20m area but again the Wirral tackling was keen with no real meterage being made. The ball is lost and yet another scrum as the clock ticked to 47 minutes and then finally the whistle went for time.
Praise must go to both teams for the defensive shifts they put in and it would be difficult to say one team deserved to win but this week it is Wirral having lost by 4 points at Harrogate earlier in the season. Wirral remain in 7th but have closed the gap on the teams above and are now only 5 points behind Harrogate who still lie in 4th.