Rochdale arrived for their second visit of the season at Grove Park with a much changed side after last week’s promising performance against Blackburn points were needed against the experienced Manchester team who had proved too strong for them in the recent cup tie here.
Rochdale’s defence was tested from the start with strong runs from Brian Ndlovu and Jake Stewart only being stopped by determined tackling and a good relieving kick from Olllie Coldman to halfway , then it was all Dale with only the final pass letting them down. Manchester were content to clear with the boot on most attacks with their fly half McCartney looking to get behind Dale’s defence with high kicks that tested the full back Coldman. From one of these raids they broke through and only a desperate early tackle from Tom Helliwell stopped the rampaging Stewart but the referee decided he was tackled without the ball and penalised the visitors yellow carding the Rochdale 2nd row. From the penalty and line out the ball was again punted over the rush defence and the Manchester winger Doug Day raced in for a try which was not converted 5-0. Travis Townsend was having a great game at scrum half for Dale and made several breaks from the base of the scrum which the home side struggled to stop. It was Manchester who scored next after 15 mins the Dale defence opened up as Ndlovu again powered through to score under the posts the conversion went over 12-0. Good Dale pressure led to Blair Henry being stopped just short of the line. Plenty of Dale possession saw a penalty awarded in front of the posts and Coldman made no mistake 12-3 with 20 mins. gone. Great runs by both Townsend and Josh Schofield kept the home defence busy with Coldman trying the same tactic as the home side, a high kick was taken by Blair Henry coming inside from his wing but he was hit high and late by the Manchester No. 8 Ndlovu although Henry was out cold for several minutes the ref decided not penalise the defender to the amazement of the travelling supporters. After a 5 minute delay the game resumed with Blair off the field. With no backs replacement available it fell to Captain Tom Callaghan to come off the bench and go into the pack a move which strengthen the Dale defence. Schofield was again in action, too quick for most of the Manchester side, only a cynical tackle by the No. 8 stopped him, again with no action taken by the referee. Manchester were back on the attack but a loose pass in their own half led to Josh Schofield getting some justice as he intercepted brilliantly to score from 30 metres Coldman provided the extra points 12-10 with minutes to go to half time.
Following another great run by Townsend the ball was dropped and from the resulting scrum Manchester got the ball to their best player winger Day who scored by the posts despite desperate Dale defence the try was converted to leave the half time score 19-10 and the game wide open.
The 2nd half started with Dale pressing with all the lads playing with a determined look about them Manchester were again penalized for a man tackled in the air at a Dale line out no card again and then another penalty for offside the ref warning the home side captain about repeated infringements without taking sanction with the card.
After another Schofield break, the ball was lost on half way Manchester made the most of their chance it was the ever present Day who scored and converted his own 2nd try 26-10.
5mins later it was the big No.8 who battered his way through the Dale defence to score under the posts 33-10 with 55 mins gone. The free kick count against the home side continued to grow with a penalty for feeding at the scrum a rare event these days followed by a deliberate obstruction on half way again no card, but Dale carried on and finally despite being down to 14 men when Townsend was hurt in a tackle they got a well deserved 2nd try when Coldman fed Willetts to score under the posts 33-17 . Manchester were now throwing the ball around looking for the gaps when a loose pass on half way fell to Schofield who took the ball 30 metres to score a great 3rd try for the visitors converted by Coldman 33-24 game on !
From the re-start Dale had the ball in their own 22 when a sloppy pass led to an almost identical interception try for the home side converted by Day the score with 10 mins to go was 40-24.
Despite their best efforts and being down to 13 men, Dale hung on until finally the Manchester scrum half Ding sneaked in to score in the corner which well converted from the touchline 47-24.Day the winger had a big say in the next try as he broke from a tackle and fed the big No. 8 Ndlovu for his second try 54-24 with minutes to go. The Manchester 8 rounded off his day by scoring in the final minute and converting to make the final score 61-24. Dale were just short of their 4th try and a bonus point when the ref blew the final whistle in a great pulsating match in which the much depleted Dale side battled to the end.
Next Saturday Dale entertain newly promoted Carlisle at Moorgate Avenue hoping for a full side and better luck.
Dave Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.