29 unanswered points against 3rd place in the league table and away from home showed the dominance Rochdale had on this match. Rochdale have now gone three games out of four with clean sheets and are beginning to knit together as a team. Danny Collins has brought in some younger players from the Colts section who have not disappointed in any way, and they have been complimented by the mixture of youth and experience.
Ben Coulter, one of the youngsters who is blossoming in the front row had his reward which was the day’s first try as he crashed over the line from close in on 8 minutes. Ollie Coldman to his credit converted in the very strong wind and Dale were off. To be fair, from the start Dale took the game to Bolton, winning constant possession and crushing any attempt at the home sides attacking play. The Dale forwards overcame the set pieces and attacks were set from every position.
Scrum Half Townsend was alive to every opportunity and made several darting runs pushing the Bolton defence backwards, Beltus Nonleh and Josh Grundy worked hard up front and were repeatedly testing the Bolton defence. Tom Helliwell had a try disallowed after a great run and pass from Dom Macklin only for Ross Hartley to finish of the next move from the 5 metre scrum, once again an excellent kick from Coldman adding the extras. Dale were 14-0 up at halftime and had rarely put a foot wrong, Bolton had only desperate defence to manage to keep out further scores and to their credit managed to keep it that way to the break.
The weather continued to have an effect on the game with strong winds and heavy driving rain persistent throughout. The Dale forwards did seem to relish the adverse conditions and never eased up in their attacking play with Nonleh, Needham and Helliwell making continued progress through the Bolton pack and Jonny Bradley collecting any loose ball. As the pressure mounted on Bolton they managed to give away penalties , one of which was in Coldman’s range and he duly slotted home, 0-17.
Scrummaging went only one way and the resulting pressure led to Blair Henry racing over for the third try, unconverted this time. 02 and Dale were looking for a bonus try point. Ross Hartley again finished off a superb move and he scored to complete an excellent all round performance for the afternoon. Converted again by Coldman. Rochdale had once again overpowered Bolton in the second half and had given them no chance of a comeback. James Duffy kicked well positionally to keep the home side in their own half.
Harry Hayes and Jack Green came on and kept the side fresh and looking for more opportunities. Macklin and Flitcroft showed their experience in keeping possession and Mitchell van Zyl and Henry looked dangerous down each side.
With 10 minutes left to play the light was deemed too dangerous to carry on and the offer of an early finish was offered to Bolton who by then were unable to stem the Rochdale tide. The offer was accepted the match finished. A tremendous performance on a bitter cold and wet afternoon and now ten consecutive wins. Rochdale must carry this form into 2019 to enable them to keep tabs on the two teams above them. Rochdale had good support from their own ranks eager to see them improve after the Christmas break.
Steve Helliwell RRUFC