Wirral Pack Push to Victory at Rossendale
By Andrew Broadbent
A windy day at Marl Pits produces a tight game where the forwards won it for Wirral.
Despite last week’s cup game being cancelled against Park due to the frost, there were a number of changes to the team for the game at Rossendale. With JAMES REEVE ill, DAN LIGHT and JOE MURRAY unavailable due to work commitments plus there were a number of positional changes. MATT DALTON was moved to blindside and Ryan Stead
came into the second row. The backs were: 15. James Annetts
14. DAN HARVEY 13. Chris Speed
12. Sam Broadbent
11. Matt Loon
10. Craig Harvey
9. Chris Crowley
. The subs were Mike Warren
, HAYDN LONG and James Adams
Notwithstanding the rain during the week we encountered rain on route but on arrival it had stopped but we were faced with a very strong wind which for those who know Rossendale was blowing up the field. Wirral lost the toss and were faced with playing downhill in the first half on a slope which the home side says “is a 20 point advantage!”
Immediately, Rossendale made a break and only a last ditch tackle by James Annetts
prevented the home side scoring. From the first scrum it was apparent that Wirral had an advantage as they pushed their opposite numbers back an aspect that was to prove vital in this match. A line out steal by Rob Pearl
saw Wirral make ground downfield to the half way line as kicking into the wind was bringing no advantages at all.
In the 14th minute, Rossendale took the lead when from a line out the ball was quickly passed down the backs and a long pass enabled right winger, Matt Blackman to score in the corner, the try was not converted. 5-0 (14 mins). The wind was having quite an effect on the game as any loose ball allowed Rossendale to make long kicks to touch in the Wirral half. Rossendale were enjoying the territorial and possession advantage but the Wirral defence were holding firm especially when defending in their 20m area. In the minutes before half time the ball came down the Wirral back line which ended with Matt Loon
being tackled short of the line, several thrusts later ended with Jack Yarker
being deemed as being held up over the line. From the resultant scrum Wirral edged forward only for the scrum to be reset and on the second occasion the pack rumbled over the line with Rob Pearl
being awarded the touchdown. 10m from the touchline the try was converted by James Annetts
to leave the score at half time 5-7.
Playing uphill was easier with the benefit of the wind behind. Wirral had much of the territory and were creating chances, Tom Parry
with a neat kick through forced a 5m line out whilst on the right wing; James Annetts
was in the act of scoring when tackled from behind forcing the ball to be knocked forward. Wirral during this period had a number of chances to score but strong defending prevented them from adding to their total. Rossendale only having rare excursions into the Wirral half and on regaining the ball kicked long back in to the home half. On 67 minutes such a kick left Rossendale unable to clear any meaningful distance which led to a succession of scrums which enabled Wirral to make some metres only for the home side to infringe, after 3 scrums, the last been collapsed left the referee with no alternative other than to award Wirral a penalty try. 5-14. HAYDN LONG came on for Paul Lewis
Rossendale came back in the final 10 minutes and a kick through nearly resulted in a score only for Wirral to win the race to touch down. On 75 minutes, Rob Pearl
came off with a knee injury and only time will tell on how bad this is. He was replaced by the spritely Mike Warren
. The Rossendale resurgence continued with the hooker, Jacob Sutton making a clean break from 20m out and it seemed inevitable that he would score but a great covering tackle by Chris Crowley
under the posts prevented a score, however the referee came back for an earlier infringement and Rossendale took the penalty seeking at worst a losing bonus point and converted by Lewis Allen, 8-14. Referee advised 2 minutes to go. Wirral then proceeded to kick off direct in to touch giving Rossendale advantage on the half way however Wirral recovered and were awarded a penalty 56 m out. James Annetts
attempted the kick which fell short and with Rossendale having to keep ball in hand were thwarted at the first tackle when the ball was knocked forward and the referee blew for time.
Wirral had the better opportunities to score but to come to Rossendale who are lying in 7th and come away with a victory was a good result for the coach and the team given the changes made and positional alterations to the side. Wirral remain in 5th with all the teams above them also winning except Billingham. Next week Wirral are away at ILKLEY where they will be looking to seek revenge for the defeat at home earlier in the season.