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ROCHDALE RUFC 18 v 22 ALTRINCHAM KERSAL RUFC

Dale christened their new electronic scoreboard kindly donated by Russell Bros builders but couldn’t start with a winning score against league leaders Altrincham Kersal.

Missing several key players such as Travis Townsend , Chris Hodgkinson and James Duffy, Dale brought in scrum half Danny Joesbury winger Matty Buckley and had Andy Redfern and Pat Gillan on the bench. Altrincham only needed two points to be sure of the title and automatic promotion but Dale were determined to make them work for it and matched the visitors in the early stages. Dale won two penalties that took them down the left flank and from the second line out they challenged in front of the posts on the visitors 22, the ref blew for offside and Ollie Coldman stepped up to slot the penalty 3-0.

This prompted Altrincham to launch a high re-start kick which Dale failed to gather cleanly, the ball went into touch and from a neat line out the visitors pack pressed on to the Dale 22 where they were awarded a scrum. The ball was kept in and the Altrincham pack rolled over the line to score, the conversion was well short in the strong wind so 3-5 was the score after 15 minutes, Dale had defended well and considering the possession they had the visitors did not look like breaking through until the 35th minute when another line out on the Dale 22 was taken well and moved across the field for the winger to go over in the corner again, the conversion attempt went well wide 3-10.

Despite going offside from the re-start Dale defended their line well and a series of high kicks from Coldman and Jimmy Flitcroft took the pressure off until the ref blew for half time 3-10.

The kick off from Dale failed to get 10 metres against the wind and the visitors took a scrum on the centre line a high box kick was fumbled by Flitcroft and Dale were in danger again but solid tackling by Foster and Hindle saw the ball back with Jimmy Flitcroft taking a high punt on his own 22 and charging through the Altrincham defence with only lack of support and a poor final pass stopping a Dale try. The visitors were clearly rattled by this rare Dale attack and when minutes later Flitcroft fielded another monster kick he repeated his run only to be stopped by a high tackle in front of the visitors posts Coldman made no mistake 6-10 and the game was on.

Coach Danny Collins now made two subs with Andy Redfern and Pat Gillan coming on for De Sousa and Isherwood both of whom had done sterling work in the pack. The kick off went straight into touch so Dale had a great chance to get back into Altrincham territory with Beltus Nonleh pounding the visitors defence and  Harry Hill and Tom Hindle supporting.

No breakthroughs were coming when against the run of play the visitors were given two penalties which took them to the Dale 10 metre  line the throw was again well taken by the tall 2nd row and with quick ball coming the Altrincham prop stretched out a hand to place the ball over the line 15-6. Some teams would have be daunted by the way play was going penalty after penalty against them but Dale kept driving at the big Altrincham pack and in young Beltus Nonleh they had a weapon that the visitors   could not handle. He got the ball from a rare line out on the 22 and powered through the defenders to stretch a hand over the line for a fine try.

The conversion was blown back by the fierce wind 11-15  with 15 mins to go. Dale won a scrum on their own 22 and were awarded a rare penalty which took them to half way the ref decided the throw was not straight which in the prevailing windy conditions was a harsh call. Matt Buckley came on for Jonesbury who had done a great job at scrum half and Dom Macklin took that roll. Altrincham reverted to an all forwards game and eventually pushed over the Dale line to score their first converted try, 11-22. The home side were not done yet and after a clumsy knock on by Altrincham the Dale pack won the scrum and the ball came back to Flitcroft and in a repeat of his two first half runs glided through the visitors tiring defence to score a well deserved try ably converted by Coldman 18-22 was the final score.

Altrincham were Champions but only after a severe test by Dale who again proved they can complete with the best at this level. The next big test will be Blackburn in the final of the Lancs Cup at Moorgate Avenue on the 5th of May

The new scoreboard ably controlled by Nigel Skilling worked well  apart from the final tally but many more winning scores to come next season.

David Rhodes  R.R.U.F.C.