WORDS: SEAN SUNDERLAND PHOTOS: BRUCE MYERS
Rochdale Senior Colts 20-23 Kendal Senior Colts
SUNDAY 23RD APRIL 2023
With the League title secured, Rochdale travelled to Heaton Moor for the Lancashire Cup Final where they faced the strong Kendal team that pipped them by three points earlier in the season. Both teams were clearly up for the contest and the initial collisions were seismic. Rochdale applied the first pressure and, after a good break down the wing from Gabe Fraser, Zac Baker was on hand to take a quick tap and cross the whitewash. Mitch Holt was up to the task with the conversion (7-0).
Kendal fired a few shots of their own but Rochdale were in the ascendancy and, following more sustained pressure, secured another 3 points from a penalty close-in (10-0).
Rochdale were now pressing for another score; Tom Hesketh came close but the ball rolled agonisingly out of play before he could ground it. The forwards were constantly pounding the Kendal line but unable to make the telling breakthrough.
Kendal eventually got a foothold in the game right on the stroke of halftime when, from a scrum close-in, their fly-half was able to crash over the line (10-5). This gave Kendal the belief that had been missing and they came out much more focused in the second half, securing another score when a penalty sailed between the posts (10-8).
With the flow breaking up, the Kendal 10 found his kicking game and was pinning Rochdale back into their 22m area. From a throw-in close to the Rochdale line, the Kendal pack forced their way over to take the lead (10-13).
Rochdale are nothing if not resilient and marched straight back down into the opposition 22 where, after more forward drives, Holt was able to slice through the gap to retake the lead (15-13).
Kendal’s response was immediate and, on the back of a few soft penalties, their Number 10 again put Rochdale under pressure on their goal line where the Kendal forwards repeated their previous visit and drove over (15-20).
Rochdale again showed tremendous spirit to drag themselves back into the contest and it was the turn of the Rochdale forwards to give Kendal some of their own medicine, driving Olly Mills over the line to even the score. The conversion from wide-out hit the crossbar and bounced out. There were only five minutes left and the scores were tied 20-20.
Kendal secured the restart and played keep-ball until Rochdale infringed, giving them a go-ahead penalty, which the Kendal 10 duly converted (20-23).
There was just time for the restart; all Kendal needed to do was catch the ball and get it off the pitch. However, Rochdale were not ready to take defeat and fought to successfully turn-over possession and move down into the Kendal 22. After a couple of infringements by Kendal, Rochdale had a succession of catch and drive lineouts, with several players getting just short of the line. After a period of intense pressure, Kendal turned-over the ball and were able to clear to touch, ending the game and taking the spoils (20-23).
A real classic of a final that could have gone either way; the whole Rochdale team played with passion and determination in the squads last competitive match together. Personally, as a coach of the team, along with Dan O’Connell, Pete Simmons, Steve Candler, Jason Holt and Team Manager Nikki Holt, we could not be more proud of the young men and rugby players that these lads have become. Over the 13 year period, many boys have left to peruse other sports and interests, new players have been welcomed, and some of the team have been there for the whole adventure – all of these boys, past and present, were an integral part of the ‘2004/2005’ squad’s long development and eventual success.
From where we have come from, to being crowned North West League A Champions and playing in the Lancashire Cup final is a massive achievement. It has been an absolute pleasure and an honour to coach the squad and watch them grow and develop together as a team. Thank you to all the parents, guardians and family members who have supported the squad over the years and to Bruce Myers for recording their progress in his excellent photos. As the players now move on to the Senior Club and University rugby, we wish them every success for the future and know they will always be part of the mighty 2004/2005 Rochdale squad.
The Rochdale 2004/2005 Colts: Zac Baker, Alex Barry, Ralph Buckley, Daniel Collins, Max Cooper, Aidan Corless, Alex Dowd, Tom Drennan, Gabe Fraser, Noah Greenwood, Ben Hankinson, Tom Hesketh, Mitchell Holt, Jake Hopkins, Jacob Jackson, Ben Kershaw, Aiden Marland-Lord, Olly Mills, Garrett Myers, James O’Connell, Declan O’Loughlin, Paddy O’Loughlin, Will Rawlinson, Adam Rawsthorne, Joel Rigby, Nathan Robinson, Tom Shaw, Will Simmons, Oli Simpson, Oskar Sipowicz, Theo Standford-Campbell, Ben Sunderland, Nick Wright