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Tarleton RUFC 5 v 53 Rochdale RUFC 

Sunny breezy afternoon at Tarleton a ground where Rochdale senior side had not visited before.  Dale were missing James Duffy, Shaun Needham and Gui Sousa, Jack Green started at fly half with Harry Hayes and Rob Wadsworth on the bench.

Tarleton knocked on from the kick off Dale were awarded a penalty at the scrum and made good yards down the left flank eventually winning a line out that was judged not straight and Tarleton won the scrum, trying a high box kick  which was taken by Jack Green who squeezed a grubber kick through the home defence. Tarleton gave away a penalty for offside in front of the posts and Ollie Coldman stepped up to score 3-0. The breezy conditions caused both sides to try high kicks and the hard pitch caused some strange bounces for both full backs to deal with, Dale had Jimmy Flitcroft back to his best collecting two high kicks and returning them with interest to put the game back in Tarleton’s 22.

Coldman had a second chance to extend the score when Spud Green was tackled high but this time the kick drifted wide. The home side were back on the attack using their big pack but ill discipline caused the referee to send them back twice a further 10 metres for back chat, Dale used kicks to pen Tarleton back in their own 22 and the pressure was such that both Green and Travis Townsend were unlucky not to score. Jack Green was then forced off with a hand injury and Dom Macklin took over at scrum half.  

Beltus Nonleh was causing all sorts of trouble for the home defence and as he broke through 10 metres out a nice inside pass found Andrew Foster on hand to cross the line for a neat first try the conversion was just wide 8-0 . Tarleton now began to gain some ground and from the high kick off Dale were defending in their own 22 for the first time, they held firm but the referee gave two penalties in quick succession for slowing  down play and on the third he yellow carded Chris Hodgkinson who had been doing some sterling work in defence.

So with 14 men and 10 minutes to half time the pressure was on but Dale held on and  came back at the home side Nonleh and Foster linking with Townsend and Serridge for a couple of excellent moves on the break. Dale looked faster and more assured than their opponents and as half time approached Harry Hill won the ball in the maul and started a five pass move that saw Alex Isherwood crash over for a fine try converted by Coldman 15-0 at half time. 

The second half saw Harry Hayes and Rob Wadsworth come on  and with Chris Hodgkinson restored  they  started to up the pressure on an increasingly ragged Tarleton defence a good break by Blair Henry down the left wing saw the ball move inside to Foster who broke through to score his 2nd try of the day Coldman added the extras 22-0. Again the kick off from Tarleton failed to go 10m and Dale took the scrum on the centre spot excellent work by Jonny Bradley saw the ball come to Tom Hindle who has proved to be a real force in pack since his return from injury,  the inside pass to Nonleh was a judged to be crossing and Dale were penalized on the Tarleton 22. The high kicks and penalties from both sides disrupted an otherwise entertaining match but in Flitcroft Dale had the perfect deterrent as he caught and returned or ran through his opposite numbers with ease, one of these runs led to another Dale scrum on the home side’s 22 and Nonleh battered through three tackles and laid off a fine pass to Jonny Mair at centre to storm over for the 4th try and the bonus points Dale so badly needed  27-0. Dale still had some defending to do and when another high kick reached Travis Townsend in the visitors 22 he made a mark only to see his return kick not quite find touch Tarleton made the most of this chance and Dale found themselves back in their own 22.

With ball in hand Dale were really sharp and the hard running Ollie Coldman broke from defence to beat three men and find Hodgkinson in support the big 2nd row made no mistake crossing by the posts to give Coldman a good chance to convert and make it 34-0 with the last quarter to come. The attacks kept coming with Rob Wadsworth unlucky when his charge down the right wing with a nice chip over the defence was met with a cynical block which only led to a Tarleton line out, again the high kick clearance falling to Flitcroft who ran through the tiring Tarleton defence to score a well deserved try,  Coldman converted 41-0. 

The home side saved a little face by finally scoring after a knock on by Dale on their 22 and overlap developed and the winger scored wide on the right the kick went wide 41-5. Chris Hodgkinson who had had a fine game came off with a blow to the head so Alex Isherwood returned to the fray linking up with Macklin and Serridge in a show case passing move to score in the corner 46-0. The Dale pack were now running amok and a  try in the 80th minute saw the final score 53-5, with Harry Hayes making the final try conversion. This was one Dale’s best performances against a side known to be hard to beat on their own ground. Next week the final home game sees Rochdale welcome league leaders Altrincham Kersal in a game the home side would dearly love to win, 3pm at Moorgate Avenue.

David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.