ROCHDALE RUFC 33 v 7 LEIGH RUFC
Dale welcomed back Beltus Nonleh and Jonny Mair to first team action at a wild and windy Moorgate Avenue, visitors Leigh had run Dale close in the away fixture and would be difficult opponents if recent results were anything to go by.
Dale started well into the stiff breeze with squally showers blowing across the pitch, the passing was sharp and with the Dale pack dominating most of the first ten minutes was in the visitors 22, after a 5 metre scrum the ball was taken by Shaun Needham who crossed the line only to be pulled back for a forward pass. Dale continued to press and when Leigh were penalized in front of the posts for offside Ollie Coldman stepped up and slotted the kick from the 22 metre line 3-0 with 10 mins gone.
From the re-start Coldman took the high kick and a nice move by James Duffy was just stopped in the corner, the ball being re-cycled and under the crush of players Ross Hartley crossed the line 8-0 the kick being just short from Coldman. Jimmy Flitcroft at full back took the high kick off and produced a massive return that he followed up and a right wing passing move developed that saw the forwards link up well on the 5 metre line with Hartley and Nonleh leading the charge and it was the young wing forward Beltus Nonleh who forced his way over for an impressive try.
With the conversion missed it was 13-0 to the home side who were having all the play defending when needed but mostly in possession taking the game to Leigh who were reeling under a series of attacks from Needham, Nonleh and the ever willing Tom Callaghan .More Dale pressure led to a further penalty on the half hour this time well in range for Coldman who in spite of the howling wind slotted the kick to make it 16-0.
Flitcroft was in the action again as he trapped a high kick with his boot and took the ball to the half way line but was forced into touch , Leigh took the line out but Chris Hodgkinson won the ball in the air and tapped down to Jonny Mair who passed out to Nonleh who broke through the defence but just failed to ground the ball over the visitors line. One last chance for the Dale pack before half time and after a good drive it was hooker Jonny Bradley who came through with the ball crashing over for proper forwards try , the conversion in front of the posts was somehow missed by Coldman so the score remained 21-0 at half time.
Changes in the pack at half time saw fresh legs of Ben Coulter at prop and a welcome return of Gui Desusa in the 2nd row. Almost from the re-start Dale were in the Leigh 22 and Flitcroft linking with Duffy broke through the defenders to score a well deserved try 26-0. With the bonus points secured Dale continued to press the visitors who try as they might could not match the pace and handling of Dale’s backs and the power of the pack with Needham and Nonleh proving quite a handful. Dale had a good attack down the left flank with the ball ending with winger Blair Henry who was tackled high leading to a yellow card for the Leigh wing forward.
Down to 14 men the visitors were struggling and when the scrum half went off with a hamstring injury Dale took full advantage and pressed hard with a series of scrums and penalties taking them into the visitors 5 metre area where after a scum Needham broke from the back and scored a well deserved try converted by Coldman in the high wind this time on his back making it 33-0 with five minutes to go. Leigh finally managed a score when a high pass meant for Henry on the wing was intercepted by his opposite number who raced down the touch line to score a well converted try 33-7.
The final minutes were soured for Dale by the red carding of Alex Isherwood for comments to the ref, as far we could see from the touchline. A good performance from Dale keeping them on track for a top four finish to the season.
No game next week but the following Saturday a trip to Southport should see more points for Dale.
David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.