Despite snowy conditions at home, delayed flights, a missing ref and a Dale 2nd row, the game went ahead on a crunchy Douglas pitch. Dale started well with a deep kick off which was only cleared to half way by the home side, for the first 10 minutes it was all Dale with good runs by returning scrum half Danny Joesbury and Spud Green putting pressure on the Douglas line. Penalties were the order of the day with the stand-in referee doing a good job covering a game 3 levels higher than he had expected to be taking at local side Vagabonds. A penalty to Dale saw them being given a scrum on the Douglas 5 metre line with Jake Castree making a good break and scoring the opening try, the conversion went wide so with half an hour gone it was 5-0. Dale had some defending to do as the home side woke up and managed a good passing move following a penalty kick deep into the Dale 22.
A battle between winger Pat Gillan and his opposite number developed with Pat coming out on top. Chris Hodgkinson returning after holiday along with Castree dominated the line out and Dale moved the ball well with Matt Johnston, Ollie Coldman and Josh Schofield all having good chances held by the Douglas defence. With half time approaching Dale had to defend their line as the speedy winger from the Islanders threatened to break through and score … he was held up and the whistle for half time saw the score still 5-0 to Dale.
The 2nd half saw the introduction after a nine hour epic journey of Eddie Shanks to bolster the pack. Dale were having to defend deep but a high box kick was taken on half way with Blair Henry’s break stopped on the Douglas 22 and the ball ran lose, a great cross field kick by the Douglas fly half found the left winger who used his pace to beat the Dale defenders and pass inside for the centre to score a good try. The conversion was missed so 5-5 was the score going into the last quarter. Despite the low score this was not a boring game with both sides giving their all. Dale finally got a penalty in a kickable spot 40 yards out and Johnston took the kick and scored to make it 8-3 to Dale. Douglas re-doubled their efforts and pressure saw Dale give a penalty away after a scrum on their 22 the home kicker took the points so 8-8 with 5 minutes left.
The next action with Dale defending their own line saw Ollie Coldman receive a gash above the eye and have to go off for treatment, Douglas gained a scrum in front of the Dale posts and the referee saw fit to yellow card Spud Green for an offence. Dale used their subs Foster, Fox and O’Connor to
beef up the defence but it was they who after a big kick from Johnston were pressing the Douglas line. The Referee who had been very fair throughout gave Dale a penalty for offside 30 yards out but this time the kick went wide and a draw look the inevitable result, but in a final bizarre twist a chip through by Joesbury was dropped over his own try line by the Douglas full back and in attempt to clean up, his centre played the ball from an offside position giving Johnston a simple conversion in front of the posts which he converted very cooly. 11-8.
A good result on the day and one which due to all other games in the league being postponed left Dale 2nd in the table. A great performance from the players and big thanks to Aaron Howarth for his organization of the side over the weekend. Next week its Firwood Waterloo at home with a 2:15 kick off.
David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.