After a disappointing performance against Bolton last weekend Rochdale travelled to Sefton buoyed by the return of Shaun Needham to the club.
Rochdale made a much more determined start to the game than last week and applied a lot of pressure to the home defence in the first ten minutes. Just when it seemed Sefton had ridden the early storm and won good possession Ross Hartley performed a little bit of magic and ripped the ball free in a tackle and quick, accurate passing gave Dom Macklin the chance to draw the midfield defence and put Blair Henry over out wide on the left. Young Matty Buckley added the extras for a seven-point lead for Rochdale.
Sefton were stung onto action and mounted their own ten minutes of pressure, but they were thwarted by an alert defence and sound tackling. Rochdale finally broke free on their own 22 and a neat kick ahead by fullback Bomber Henry was well cleared by his opposite number, just winning the race to the ball. Rochdale won the line-out through Tom Helliwell which eventually gave Buckley, on the left wing a chance to drive infield and his supporting forwards put Needham over wide out. This time Buckley was just wide with the conversion attempt; 0-12 to Rochdale.
The next ten minutes saw an exciting spell where both teams moved the ball well and the advantage ebbed and flowed with each defence proving up to the task until the influential Sefton centre was able to draw the Rochdale midfield and give his right winger the overlap and score out wide. Sefton missed the conversion attempt so 5-12. Rochdale swung back into the game and taking a quick tap penalty caught the home side by surprise. Another kick ahead was well chased, catching the home defence in possession and out-numbered, allowing an alert Dom Serridge to pick up and fall over the line for Rochdale’s third try, Buckley again adding the extras. 5-19.
From the restart Harry Hill fielded the ball and drove hard to set up a platform for scrum half Louis Singleton to launch his backs once again. This time a splendid tackle by the covering Sefton defence halted progress as the ball was knocked forward. When the home side won the scrum their lively scrum half broke blind and passed inside to his centre who was eventually well tackled by Henry, to bring the half to a close.
Rochdale opened the second half with a real determination and found touch deep in the home 22. When Chris Hodgkinson won the line out the Rochdale pack drove towards the line, but the maul was pulled down, penalty Dale. The Quick tap from Singleton saw him crash over for is first try for the club. Buckley added the extras to his tally; 5-24, the score. To add to their woes, Sefton had a man yellow carded for verbal abuse to the referee. From the restart Needham caught the ball and ran magnificently to cross the halfway and on to the home sides 22 before being hauled down. The Rochdale backs gave Jimmy Flitcroft the chance to round his man only to be bundled into touch just 5 metres short of the line. Sefton managed to clear their line but soon found themselves under pressure again. Rochdale, taking the ball against the head courtesy of late replacement hooker Johnny Bradley, (thank you Richard for driving him over at such late notice), Dale broke from the scrum through Hodgkinson, Harry Hayes was on hand to carry it on before releasing the backs with a two man overlap only to see the chance bombed for the lack of full concentration.
Sefton had shown a lot of spirit when playing a man short and now it was Rochdale’s turn as they suffered from a yellow card shown to Ross Hartley. The Home side were getting more ball to attack with and running well, but Rochdale’s tackling was managing to stifle and frustrate the enterprise. Eventually, as forwards drove another line out towards the posts Harry Hill was the next man to cross the whitewash. This time Buckley missed the extras; 5-29. Sefton showed their spirit once again and held Rochdale in their 22 as they threw everything into attack.
Rochdale were under the cosh but a measured gamble by Macklin, in the centre, saw him intercept the opposition pass and race off. He handed onto Flitcroft with veteran Jon Mair in support but young Jack Green on first team debut was beaten to the touch by excellent home cover. The pressure was still on Sefton in their 22 and another forward drive saw Mair receive the ball in open play, he danced around the full back to score under the posts. Buckley had no trouble with the extras; 5-36.
Back came Sefton and this time they moved the ball quickly and accurately out to the right and their quick-footed centre found the gap and ran in to score a well deserved try. The kick was charged down by Buckley; 10-36.
Rochdale put Sefton back on their own 5 metre line and as they bravely tried to run the ball out Macklin was again alert to the possible intercept and held on for a walk in and final try of the day. Buckley slotted the kick; 10-43 and the end of the game.
Well done men, a bonus point win was satisfying; in terms of the result and performance. Now, we must be in the right frame of mind for every game going forward. This season is already proving a lot harder than a lot of people imagined and we need to prove our worth in every game.
MATCH REPORT BY TERRY COLLINS.