Bowden 26 Rochdale 17.
After last week’s great win over Birkenhead Park Dale travelled to 2nd place Bowden without Ross Hartley but welcoming back Matt Johnston and Chris Hodgkinson.
On a blustery day in Cheshire Dale knew they would be in for a tough time looking at Bowden’s impressive home record. Richard West was back at centre and with Ollie Coldman and Josh Schofield the backs all looked well as Dale won a line out on the Bowden 5 metre line but the ball was lost in the wind and a big clearance kick saw Dale back on half way. The pack did well with Jake Castree leading by example well supported by Eddie Shanks and Chris Hodgkinson in the air and Harry Hayes and Ollie Bateman on the flanks.
The game was very even when 10 minutes in and after two penalties against Dale saw them on their 10 metre line defending well with the Bowden backs moving the ball wide to let in the winger for the opening try in the corner the conversion went well wide so 5-0. From the re-start Bowden knocked on and from the resultant scrum Joesbury got the ball wide to Coldman who beat two defenders and passed wide to Pat Gillan racing down the wing to beat the full back and score 5-5.
A series of penalties for off side and killing the ball led to the Bowden No.12 being yellow carded and gave Dale an advantage which they took and pressed for a second try, a high kick by Johnston was taken and a mark called by the Bowden full back, his poor kick was taken on half way by Coldman who beat two defenders and placed a fine chip kick over the on rushing Bowden backs for Ayrton Campbell to collect and crash over for Dale’s 2nd try, the conversion fell just short 5-10.
The home side bounced back and after a series of penalties found themselves on the Dale 5 metre line where a wide pass let in the speedy winger to score a 2nd try which was converted to make it 12-10. Dale were soon back on the attack with good drives by West and Castree pushing the home defence back into their 22 a great break by Schofield supported by Pat Gillan coming in from the wing saw Dale win a scrum on the Bowden 5metre line a good push by the pack allowed Richard West to peel off the back of the scrum and go in under the posts and leave an easy conversion for Coldman 12-17.
There was just time for another penalty to Bowden but their attack was snuffed out on half way. Worryingly injuries to both Ayrton Campbell and Harry Hill saw the half ending with Ethan Poole and Brad Fox Having to come on for the last 5 minutes but the score remained 12-17 to Dale as half time was blown.
The second half saw Bowden restored to 15 men but that would not remain the same for long as the referee took an increasingly severe line with Dale in the tackles and in querying any of his decisions which appeared to go against the visitors most of the time. So as yellow card followed penalty Dale were reduced to 14 as Richard West went off for 10 minutes followed by Matt Johnston and with injuries again forcing Harry Hill and Ayrton Campbell off the Dale defence suffered and after a well held scrum on the line a drop out under the posts went straight to the Bowden full back who scampered through to score under the posts 19-17.
With their noses in front Bowden continued their pressure but Dale responded well with good breaks by Hayes and Castree testing the home defence just as West came back on another yellow card this time to Joesbury who had been the subject of a head tackle the referee missed moments before and Dale were down to 14 and then Schofield was involved in a rumpus after he was brought down by a high tackle and was shown a card for retaliating. So with 13 men fit and Campbell having to return even though injured Dale battled on until with minutes to go Bowden found the inevitable hole in Dale’s defensive line and scored a converted try 26-17.
This was not the end of the drama as Dale pressed into the Bowden 22 a maul turned into a brawl with several players throwing punches and in struggling to regain control the referee turned to Chris Hodgkinson who had not got involved save trying to separate players and gave him his first red card in 20 years of playing rugby. A very sad way for what was otherwise been a good very tight game of rugby to end.
Next week our last game of the season at home to Vale of Lune with a 3pm kick off and fourth place guaranteed.
David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.