Rochdale 28 Dronfield 17
Due to the freezing weather Dale were forced to transfer their home game against Derbyshire side Dronfield to the all weather pitch at Burnedge RFC. This was the 2nd attempt to play the game as the match in December was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch at Moorgate Avenue. Dale with a full strength side out determined to keep their good run going which has seen them climb to third in the league and with no other games being played consolidate their position.
Dronfield started well and looked good going forward but it was Dale who drew first blood when a pass was intercepted on half way and the ball passed to captain Josh Schofield who sprinted through the defence to score a great individual try, Stevie Collins converted so the score after 5 minutes was 7-0.
Dale had some defending to do as the Dronfield fly half made some telling high kicks into the Dale half and only resolute defending and a good break from Ethan Poole saw the play back in the opposition’s half. The referee awarded the visitors a penalty on half way at the line out Chris Hodgkinson disrupted the throw and Dronfield knocked on, the scrum which was to prove to be Dale’s greatest asset was won and Collins hoisted a massive kick deep into the opponents half.
Dronfield kept coming and looked good going forward Dale’s defenders matched them at every turn with Jake Castree and Olly Mills leading the way this coupled with Collins’s deft kicking took Dale back to the Dronfield 22 and a penalty in a kickable position however Collins elected to go for the corner the line out led to Hodgkinson breaking through and being held on the line the ball was lost forward but from the resultant drop out Collins chipped over the visitors defence for ever present Schofield to nip through and score his second try of the afternoon converted by Collins 14-0 with 25 minutes gone. Dale still had a lot of defending to do and sadly Castree who had been at the heart of the Dale defence was forced off with a twisted knee and on came Declan Connor, his first action was a scrum on half way and he made good yards only to lose the ball in the tackle. The first half ended with a good charge down from Collins and another deep kick pegging Dronfield back to their own 22 . So half time saw the score 14-0 to Dale .
Again the half started with a determined attack by Dronfield but solid defence saw them lose the ball in the tackle and from the now totally dominate scrum Dale pressed forward with scrum half Danny Joesbury using the ball well to set up Eddie Shanks and Olly Mills to go rampaging into the opposition’s half and after one such break Mills crashed over for Dale’s third try ably converted by Collins 21-0 with 20 minutes to go.
Coach Danny Collins now rang the changes bringing on old hands Harry Hayes and Jonny Bradley in the pack for James O,Connell and Ben Sunderland who had both done sterling work in the scrums and defence. Dronfield continued to probe the Dale defence and one high kick was well taken at full back by captain Schofield who elected to run the ball as is his style but found himself caught on half way and penalized for not releasing, the resulting scrum went to the visitors and only a great take by Bradley with a relieving kick into touch saved the day. The ball was soon back in the Dale 22 and following a nice passing move Dronfield had their try, the kick was missed so 21-5. This was a bit of a turning point as Collins turned the screw he and his opposite No 10 traded deep kicks and from one such move centre Matty Johnston got clear to feed Bradley who performed a classic hand off bringing a cheer from the travelling supporters and after some solid play from Travis Townsend and Cliff Howard the ball came to Harry Hayes for a nice burrowing try to make it 28-5 after the regulation conversion from Collins.
Despite being well beaten in most parts of the game Dronfield were never completely out of it and with 5 minutes left they got a 2nd try after a good passing move 28-12. The non stop end to end game continued until the final minutes, a couple of silly penalties had Dronfield in the Dale 22 but great tackling by Bradley and Collins held the attackers off, eventually and with the help of several penalties the visitors were again the red zone and crafted a 3rd try the conversion struck the post confirming this was not their day ! Final score 28-17 to Dale in a thoroughly entertaining match thanks again to our hosts Burnedge R.F.C.
Next week a clash of the Titans as Dale take on leaders Old Brodleyans in what could be a deciding game at Moorgate Ave 2-15 kick off. David Rhodes R.R.U.F.C.