On a glorious afternoon at Bamford, Rochdale entertained North Cheshire side Northwich in a North West one league game for the first game of the season. Rochdale who are fielding a young side faced opposition-who beat them both home and away last season were looking for a good start to their campaign.
It didn’t turn out to be the start that they were hoping for, within a couple of minutes they found themselves trailing by seven points when they allowed the visitors winger to glide through some very poor cover tackling to go 60 yards to touch down near the posts for a converted try. It did not bode well for Rochdale as the visitors managed to maintain possession for long periods and were moving the ball about with some slick and accurate handling.
To Rochdale’s credit they tightened their defence and kept the visitors at bay, the pack was working well and were shunting the visitors around the park in the set pieces and managing to get a good share of possession. The game was being played out in the middle of the pitch with no team taking the upper hand although Northwich did look more dangerous when in possession.
The game suddenly changed within a matter of a few minutes, Northwich who were still throwing the ball about sent out one pass to many and Dom Macklin the Rochdale centre was on it in a flash with a fine calculated interception, he took the ball 50 yards down field before he was overhauled by the defence but was able to offload to support runner Oli Coldman who touched down near the posts for a converted try. No sooner had the game restarted than it was Coldman’s turn to make the break he also made the hard yards to the try line before handing on to support runner Josh Schofield who went over for the try. Twelve seven to Rochdale.
The visitors were still playing open rugby and looked dangerous on a number of occasions with the Rochdale defence looking more vulnerable as the game went on. It was scrum half Matt Poste who broke the deadlock when he scampered over from twenty yards out on 38 minutes for a converted try to put the visitors back in front. However Rochdale were not finished they went straight back on the attack and gained a scrum five meters out and successfully shunted the Northwich pack over the line for a try to Danny Joesbury and the teams went in at halftime with Rochdale leading seventeen to fourteen.
The second half continued in the same vein with both sides testing each other out, the Rochdale pack were keeping them in the game with total dominance in the scrum and a fair share of the line out, and the Northwich backs were keeping up the pressure in open play. It was the referee who turned out to be the game changer when he harshly awarded a penalty try against Rochdale for pulling a maul down near the try line, there had been no previous warning or similar type of play and it was more than doubtful that The Northwich pack could have pushed anybody anywhere let alone over the try line. Not only did it give an automatic seven points to the visitors but he sin binned the Rochdale number 8 Tom Helliwell for ten minutes. This in turn put a totally different slant on the game and whilst Rochdale did have a couple of half chances to get back into the game the numbers eventually told and Northwich got a try in the corner. Helliwell came back on but the damage had been done by then and just to rub salt in the wounds Northwich scored again after a fine cross kick which saw the winger touch down in the corner. The Northwich goal kicker had a good game landing some good conversions, the Rochdale pack as a whole played well and whilst the backs moved well individually but lacked cohesion at times and some of their handling and ball retention left a lot to be desired. Burnage are the opposition next week and they got well beaten on Saturday and no doubt will be looking to rectify matters in front of their own fans.
Match report by Phil Sunderland.