Higginson Try Seals Bonus Point Win
By Andrew Broadbent
This was by far Wirral’s best performance of the season where all 18 players tackled themselves to a standstill as they thwarted second place Billingham who are chasing the play off place and still leaves Wirral with a faint chance of achieving that pla
For this crucial game Wirral were able to start with the same starting XV as last week, the only change being on the bench with Sam Broadbent
returning to the bench in place of JAMES ADAMS. Following the weather earlier in the week the pitch was in excellent condition but with rain falling for most of the match, the pitch was cutting up towards the end of the game.
It was Billingham who started the stronger until they lost the ball in a tackle by Ryan Higginson
, which enabled Wirral to kick downfield. From here the ball went right and Matt Loon
ran down the wing only to be tackled close to the line. The ball was quickly recycled and Chris Speed
was on hand to cross over close to the corner flag, the try was converted from the touchline by James Annetts
(7-0,7 mins). This did not deter the away side who had possession close to the Wirral line but again the Wirral defence held out as we have seen in recent matches. Their opportunity to score was missed when the potential scoring pass was dropped but remained in the Wirral 20m area for the next 5 minutes until Wirral eventually cleared.
At this stage the passing by both passes was good but with defences on top, it was difficult for ground to be made and play was centred between the two 20m areas. On 31 minutes, Craig Harvey
from halfway kicked downfield with the ball stopping 1m from the try line with the Billingham full back first on the scene but he fumbled and prop, Jack Yarker
was first there to pick up the ball and touch down. Again James Annetts
converted from the touchline to extend the Wirral lead to 14-0. Both teams continued to put pressure on each other but there was no more scoring before half time. It had started to rain and this was going to make conditions more difficult in the second half.
The half started with Wirral in control on the Billingham 20m line and after one such thrust, there was a skirmish, which resulted in players trying to pull players aware. It resulted in the Billingham hooker, Jason Foulds, being red carded for foul play (punching), from the 20m area, James Annetts
, slotted over the penalty-17-0 (45 minutes). Three minutes later, Billingham got on the score card with a penalty from Peter Evans 17-3. Ryan Stead
came on for Paul Lewis
(50 mins) and then after 58 mins, DAN LIGHT came on for Jack Yarker
, followed by Sam Broadbent
for Chris Speed
At this stage it was difficult to keep a record of the game due to the rain which was now falling more steadily. What was noticeable at this time was the number of penalties Wirral were appearing to concede for minor reasons but fortunately Billingham did not take full advantage, as they did not find touch on every occasion and invariably found full back, Chris Crowley
who was able to make back good meterage up the field. Gradually Wirral were getting on top and making progress up field and on 62 minutes with play just outside the Billingham 20m area, the ball was spun left and slick passing saw Chris Crowley
in the line and managed to squeeze in at the corner, the conversion was missed. 22-3.
As the time passed, Billingham pressed the Wirral defence but were not making progress until the final minutes of the game when the Wirral defence eventually succumbed to a Billingham try from 1 metre out by Dan Burns and converted by Peter Evans (22-10- 78 mins). Billingham rushed back to the centre looking to score again and in the hope of achieving a losing bonus point.
At this stage of the game, the Wirral coach thought their performance deserved a try bonus point but had been concerned at the number of penalties that had been given away which prevented this being achieved. From the kick off, Wirral kept Billingham in the 20m area as they had to keep the ball in hand if they wanted to achieve their objective but the Wirral defence held firm. Many phases of play resulted in no ground being made, the ball was dropped 18m out, this was picked up by Ryan Higginson
who made progress through would be tacklers until crashing over the line with tacklers not able to prevent his progress. Mobbed by his team mates as the try bonus point was secured, the conversion was missed and with that the referee blew for time.
A deserved win for Wirral but it was the manner of the win which emphasises the progress the team has made over the last few weeks with 5 wins out of the last 6 matches (only losing to league leaders Hull). Next week is the semi- final of the Cheshire Vase against neighbours, Birkenhead Park, be down early to get a car parking space.