On a gorgeous spring morning, earlier than anyone wanted with the clocks going forward, we met at Moorgate Avenue to play LSH, a team we hadn’t played for over 4 years. LSH looked like they had a big powerful set of players so our boys were mindful they’d need to shut them down fast to avoid momentum being gained.
Kick off and after some testing of each others lines, a classic Fred Yearsley read of the line saw a clean interception from near our own 22, and having covered the bulk of the field an effective offload to Noah Wilde in support saw Rochdale register the first points of the game, Finn Johnson adding the extras 7-0.
LSH quickly regrouped and their pack piled on the pressure through a number of phases. Eventually the dominance paid off from an offside penalty, they bulldozed over to score and convert to bring honours even 7-7. Both teams were giving their all at the breakdown, but Rochdale started to control the flow of play, with some crunching turnovers and great work from the pack. The backs were mixing up their attack, keeping LSH guessing with a mix of kicks, well spread passing and direct running. Eventually a wonderful move saw Ben Leaver and WIlde combine to cross the line at a canter, Johnson again adding the extras 14-7.
More dominating play from the forwards saw gaps start to appear as LSH had to move more players in to contain the ruck and forward momentum. Spotting the overlap, Wilde unleashed a sweet cross field kick which was pounced on by Leaver to stretch the score 19-7 and conclude the opening 25 minutes.
The second half is where Rochdale have often come unstuck recently, so nerves were frayed in the coaching team as play restarted. The team had anticipated LSH to come strong and resurgent and sure enough, they put in a blitz attack. A series of forward drives saw their pack back in the ascendency and they drove us back and over the line to close the score 19-12, just short on the conversion. Unlike previous weeks though, Rochdale kept their head, re-grouped and Charlie Beavan needed no further invitation when he spotted a gap in their line to break and re-establish some daylight 24-12.
With Rochdale tails up and LSH heads going down, the forwards redoubled pressure and hard running into their back line eventually paid off, Cameron Stretch reaching well to get the ball over the line and with a further conversion, took the score to 31-12. With credit to LSH they kept at it, playing their brand of well controlled forward drives, and received a just reward by crossing the line with 5 minutes to go, 31-17. But in the dying minutes it was once again a characteristic play encompassing lovely set-up work from the tireless pack, to release the ball and after a couple of recycled runs, Leaver capped off a very solid performance to score the final try and finish 36-17.
A fantastic squad effort, which saw a debut performance from “new” Josh and his feet of fire, and Damian Rose unlucky not to register a try with his solo effort 20 yard drive up to their 10 metre line. Very intelligent play from all the backs, great distribution from Daniel Taylor at scrum half and Man of the Match performances awarded to Fred Yearlsey and Noah Wilde. Next time to back that performance up with our cup game against Heaton Moor at home next week.
Squad: Adam Sanderson, Ben Foster, Ben Leaver, Cameron Stretch, Charlie Beavan, Damian Rose, Daniel Taylor, Ethan Miles, Finn Johnson, Freddie Yearsley, Hari Ghattaura, Jake Johnson, Jonty Whitehead, Josh Jakeman, “New” Josh, Max Evans, Max Rawlinson, Michael Bennett, Noah Wilde, Oliver Husband