Winnington Park RFC 20 v 15 Rochdale RUFC
On a windy cold afternoon in Mid-Cheshire Dale, in a game punctuated by free kicks and stoppages failed to score a try for the first time since their last encounter with Park in September, which ended in a boring 3-0 loss at home. From the outset the referee was out to stamp his authority on the game and awarded the home side a penalty on the Dale 22 in front of the posts 3-0 to Winnington after only 3 mins.
Dale were soon back on the attack and again the referee intervened with a penalty for offside 30 metres out which Ollie Coldman converted 3-3 after 5 mins. The next attack saw the irrepressible Shaun Needham break away from his tackler with an old fashioned hand off and streak 30 yds to be stopped on the home 22 another penalty to Dale at the break down and Coldman, cool as ever slotted the kick 3-6 with only 10 mins gone. This could have been a classic game as Winnington using their big pack to batter the Dale defence but great tackling from forwards Ross Hartley and Beltus Nonleh held them firm.
Hartley was having a good game in attack too and from the base of the scrum he fed Needham who broke through only to be stopped just short of the line. Hartley had come to the referee’s notice and after several warnings for creeping offside he was yellow carded and had 10 minutes to cool off.
In this time Winnington Park came back into the game and only great tackles from full back Jimmy Flitcroft and wing Blair Henry stopped powerful breaks into the Dale 22.
On the half hour the big Park wing forward Treacy burst through to score an unconverted try 8-6. Dale bounced back with a great steal from Nonleh from the re-start, the ball got to the winger but he was tackled into touch. Another offside penalty saw them back in the Dale half but they in turn were penalized and Dale reached half way and battled forward to the 22 were the whistle came out again, and Coldman had a good chance to make it 8-9 as half time approached he stroked the ball over despite a driving shower and high cross wind.
Dale had a great drive forward led by Travis Townsend and Needham on the 22, penalty against the home side , tap and go Dale pack forcing the game 5 metres out and one pass too many but Park penalized for collapsing the scrum right in front of the posts Coldman obliged and the half time score was a healthy 8-12 to Dale well deserved but no tries despite Needham’s best efforts.
Tom Callaghan and Alex Isherwood came on to bolster the pack although it must be said the young front row, especially Josh Grundy had held their own against more experienced opponents. Dale reached the Winnington 22 and yet another offside penalty all be it from the touchline no problem for Coldman who had his kicking boots on as he slotted with ease 8-15 things looking good for Dale.
Dale had some defending to do against the drives of the home sides huge pack, a series of penalties saw Park creep ever nearer the line the referee had been watching the Dale tackling and seemed to find something wrong in all their efforts he spoke to both captains but the next ruck Dale were seen to have brought the play down inside the 5m area for a third time and he awarded a penalty try. 15-15 this changed the game as Winnington urged on by their supporters pushed Dale hard, a high kick was knocked on by Flitcroft and the 5m scrum saw Park drive over for a forwards try. 20-15.
Minutes later a second yellow card saw substitute Isherwood given his marching orders the last 10 minutes with 14 men was a credit to Dale as they battered the home sides try line with a series of great attacks which saw them camped in front of the opponents posts and despite a series of penalties for the same offences they had been deemed guilty of in the first half no cards were issued and a penalty try not given. In a final scrum and push the ball was fumbled at the back of the scrum and the referee blew for time much to the relief of the home supporters.
A great game spoiled by constant stoppages Dale will feel aggrieved but tries win matches and this time they had none to show for a lot of effort. Shaun Needham and Travis Townsend excelled with Ollie Coldman’s kicking faultless.
Next Saturday its Glossop at home and another must win affair with the Derbyshire side snapping at Dale’s heels.
David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C