Bowdon RUFC 22 v 20 Rochdale RUFC
On a bright sunny afternoon in Cheshire, Rochdale were looking to do the double over promotion contenders Bowdon and challenge for second place in the league. On a hard pitch with a strong breeze blowing across it, Dale looked to have matched the big Bowdon pack but from a Dale lineout on half way the ball was ajudged not straight and the home side went on a powerful charge from the penalty, and crossed the line near the posts for an easy 7-0 lead.
The penalty count grew against Dale, and the constant off sides of the home team seemed to be ignored, frustration crept in and after being warned once Andrew Foster was yellow carded for use of the boot in the clearout the Bowdon tackler in a ruck on half way. Bowdon used this to their advantage and from a scrum on the Dale 5m line the scrumhalf found a gap and dived in for the 2nd try which was not converted, the wind now becoming a big factor for both kickers. 12-0 after 25 minutes.
Dale were back on the attack with Jimmy Flitcroft taking a high clearance and racing through the home defence to the 22 were a foul tackle cost a scrum. Bowdon were penalized again at the line out and Coldman had a good chance with the kick from 30m, but the wind blew the ball back yards short of the posts. The Bowdon pack were being dismantled by Tom Callaghan and his forwards Shaun Needham and Ross Hartley in particular tackling everything that moved. Finally the home defence reeling on their line gave away yet another penalty and Needham did the damage passing short to Alex Isherwood to go in for a well deserved try , again Coldman’s kick was just wide in the swirling wind 12-5.
Dale were soon back on the attack but with the ball lost on the Bowdon 22 the home side tried to pass their way out using their big centres to pound the Dale defence but a clumsy forward pass saw the visitors win yet another scrum just over half way. Shaun Needham broke through the middle after a Dale line out and crossed the line only to have the referee pull back play for a tackle on a defender without the ball by Hartley. Needham wins a line out on half way and powers through on the left wing drawing defenders and slipping a short pass to Blair Bomber Henry for the winger to go in at the corner. 12-10 was the half time score with Dale regretting the missed kicks which would have seen them well in front.
The second half saw Dale with the wind at their backs with James Duffy and Ollie Coldman using high kicks to test the Bowdon defence, their full back did well but with all scrums and most line outs going Dale’s way they made little progress. On the hour mark the ever present Ross Hartley linked in with Needham and Isherwood to cross the line for a neat try by the posts this time. Coldman had little trouble converting 12-17 to Dale.
A break by the Bowdon winger was covered well and tackled into touch by Duffy the attack continues to the Dale 5 metre line where Bowdon use a penalty tap and go and the try goes in by the posts 19-17. The game is then spoiled from Dale’s point of view after a Bowdon prop goes off injured and despite being replaced a large forward type player the referee decides that all scrums will go uncontested this causes some consternation in the Dale camp as the advantage of the visitors dominate scrum is lost .
This situation only causes the visitors to re-double their efforts and a penalty goes to Duffy 30 m out, this time he slots the kick well and the score goes back to 19-20 to Dale, both sides go all out for the win Jack Green comes on as sub and is soon in the action being tackled on halfway. The scrums are a farce at this level and have little meaning Bowdon get into position for a possible drop attempt but eventually get a penalty on the Dale 22 right in front of the posts the young full back makes no mistake 22-20 with 5 mins to go.
All out attack by Dale see them win another kickable penalty 35 metres out, Duffy has a go this time only to see it drop just short. The ball is taken by Needham from the drop out and he passes inside to Duffy who takes a high tackle by a desperate defender, the referee gives the penalty but no card the brave attempt from all of 30 metres strikes the upright and bounces down for the full back to heave into touch with the final whistle blowing. Final score 22-20 to Bowdon. They must count themselves very lucky to have won this one and Dale are left rueing their missed kicks and wondering how uncontested scrums at this level can be allowed. Dale slip to fourth and promotion chances are looking slim. Two free weekends then home to Leigh on the 9th of March. David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.