Birkenhead Park 27 Rochdale 30
On a cold and breezy day at Birkenhead Park, Dale took on 2nd in the league with only Flitcroft missing from the 1st XV squad. The pitch was hard and the bouncing ball suited the Dale backs as they tested the home side’s defence in the early stages. Park rely on a big experienced pack and they did their best to break down the stubborn Dale defence, during the first 20 minutes Dale had several good breaks through Dick West, Travis Townsend and Josh Schofield, passes went down and efforts were stopped just short. On the half hour, Park won a line out on the Dale 10 metre line and with the help of a rolling maul got across the visitors line, the try was converted 7-0. Almost from the re-start Dale gave away a penalty and the Park No. 10 slotted from 40 metres 10-0.
A long re-start by Park was launched into the Dale 22, the line out was lost by the visitors and after a good passing move Park went in for a second try which went unconverted.15-0.
With half time looming Dale took a high ball and broke through Dick West, it came out to Townsend on the wing and he was stopped on the line, the ball came free and backing up was Ross Hartley to score, the conversion attempt by Oli Coldman went just wide 15-5. Half time.
Right from the kick off, Dale had the bit between their teeth and West broke through the centre breaking two tackles, well supported by the pack and getting the ball back in a nice move he crashed over under the posts for a well deserved try which Coldman converted 15-12 Game on ! On 50 minutes an exchange of high kicks ended with Dale taking in the ball which was filtered back through to West in an overlapping move to Josh Schofield who outpaced the defence and scored a great try 15-17.
Dale had to defend now as Park piled on the pressure to get back in front , another penalty on half way led to a line out on the 10 metre line which Park took and again used their sizeable pack to pile over for a converted try 22-17. 10 minutes left. Dale were back on the attack in this pulsating match and a classy passing move saw the ball fall to Captain Tom Callaghan to go over for the 2nd week for a well deserved try converted by Coldman. 22-24.
The home side were rocking now and gave away another penalty on the 22 up stepped Coldman and kicked with ease 22-27. 5 minutes left.
Another twist now as Park won a scum 5 metres out the ball came through to the centre who crashed over wide on the left. The kicker placed the ball high and it veered away at the last minute one linesman gave it the other contested it the ref decided it was wide 27-27.
Dale went on the final attack to secure the points Park forward deliberately knocked on and was yellow carded, the kick was 30 metres out and right on the touchline but Coldman cool as ever took aim and planted it over much to the joy of his teammates and the travelling supporters 27-30 final score.
This was a great team performance and with a bonus point too was all coach Mick Gould could have asked for. Next week a home fixture against 3rd in the league Wilmslow with everything to play for.
David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.