Setting the Scene
After such a momentous season it should only be right to take a few moments, and I can assure you it’s taken more than just a few to put all this down, to reflect on the past eight months or so and take a note on just what the lads have achieved. Having watched every minute played, with the exception of the odd few when I had to play jailer to Tom Coe, I feel I’m better placed than most to do so. Many factors would suggest that this was going to be a hard season to just compete, never mind achieving any significant success. For a start we had a new Club Captain, with far too many additional capacities to fill for his own good. We also had a well-known aging set of forwards, verging on the geriatric, with known significant holes to be filled in a number of positions. Plus, as it would turn out, a very young back division, verging on the pubescent. All these factors make the success achieved even greater than we realise.
Now, not being one for clichés, I could say “cometh the moment, cometh the man”. The only trouble is we had so many moments it’s difficult at times to make sure I make mention of every man that came forward. So let’s see what I can do in that regard, without over emphasising two individuals. You know me, totally impartial and honest to a fault.
On the Road to Nowhere
First we had two warm up games with a depleted squad due to apparent injuries, holidays and other feeble excuses. The only one no one had the imagination to try was early Christmas shopping. First there was a battering by Cleckheaton who ended up Champions of North One East, and then a good contest against Leigh, who were one league above Eccles, for this season at least. However these games were not wasted as it gave us a chance to see who was ready to make the step up, and who wasn’t. The Lancashire Trophy draw, thankfully for once, gave us home advantage against Ruskin Park. An advantage the lads made full use of with a 34 – 13 win. This was all done with a young team including some making the step up from the seconds for the first time. So much for some being the Second Team captain. Other notable new boys were Danny Mack and Richard Owen, who had been dragged out of the 2nd/3rd team squad the week before.
The first two league games could not have been much worse than they were, with a home 20-20 draw against Keswick and a home 23-26 defeat against newly promoted Hawcoat Park. These games were supposed to be early season bankers. It was clear that far too many league points had been thrown away in these two games. The feeling started to be one of, this is just a bedding in season for the new younger team. Anyway we were now set up for the first of many long trips into Cumbria against keen rivals Aspatria. Not only was this a long trip, it was a none stop one as no one had asked the coach driver to stop off at Tebay services. The organisation did not bode well for the coming months. After taking the Cumbrians by storm, including one pick-pocket by a certain winger, we came away with a 26-19 win, including the bonus point. This gave us all renewed hope for the rest of the season. The only downside being a red card for one of the young forwards (see above), yet this just opened the door for another to step through, which Connor Thornley did eagerly. The month came to an end with a comprehensive home 69-19 win against Workington. This also saw the introduction into the squad of another young player, who all agreed was one for the future, but not quite yet. Yet, due to injuries, needs must, so step forward he did, in style.
Back on the road again the lads travelled to Whitehaven and after a hard fought 28-14 defeat they had to come back with nothing to show for their hard work except a lot of bumps and bruises. During the journey back I had a deep and meaningful discussion with Glen and we all had to put up with another Standish detour. Next up was Upper Eden at home, where despite early worries a 31-10 win was achieved. The conversation with their coach at the end was along the lines of, “I had you down as favourites at half time”. To which he replied, “yes, so did we, that was the problem”. Then came Fleetwood at home (yes another home game) who quickly demonstrated that rumours of discontent in the fish cake factory was no exaggeration, as the lads romped home with an 86-0 win. With many tries being scored that day, four by one winger alone, Sam was not impressed at all when it appeared that the ref had blown up with 10 minutes to go. Finally in October we had a quick dash up the M60/62 to Littleborough, via a local burger bar for James Wright to get his Brunch. Remembering last season’s throwaway the lads secured a 34-18 win.
November and the kick-off time change started with a home 40-18 win against another newly promoted team Tarleton. The highlight of this encounter being an over ambitious lad at fullback trying to run the ball out from behind his own try line, then following a woeful clearance kick knocking himself out against a hooker’s hip. The following game was away to Aldwinians, the club with the worst set of visitor’s changing facilities in the world, when you compare it to the ones they use themselves. Another game and another knock-out, this time our aging prop, AKA The Griffalo, was savagely attacked by Ginger Lightning. No one cared. We also won 36-16, but not without Glen getting all excited when he saw the line unguarded in front of him and then fumbling the easiest of pick-ups and Thorpey forgetting we had a backs replacement that day . The following week gave us a break from league duties and a home National Intermediate Cup game against Aspatria. Any real hopes of a repeat of last season’s heroics were quickly dashed with a 17-21 defeat. I understand this was because that last thing the lads wanted to do was read another blatantly obvious Spying Report by Fat Boy Jones. Now the biggest issue of this week was not what happened on Saturday afternoon, but the night before, when field surgery was carried out on someone’s finger. All thought this was very funny, with one exception. Next up was an away game to local rivals Bolton who had started to make the early pace at the top of the league. Despite having the lead for most of the game the lads could only come away with a 10-10 draw. Many things happened this day, an Air Ambulance turned up, a change of pitches half way through the first half, Tom Dutton “passing” to his dad in the crowd when a better option would have been to the winger who was open for a regulation touch down, then The Griffalo giving away a soft pen on their line when we had’em on the ropes. The final game of the month was an away day, and what a day it was, to St Benedicts, or in this case Lowca ARL. A sloping pitch, RL markings, James Wright travelling direct then breaking down, at Bolton Services, it just goes on. Anyway, I mustn’t rant. Enough to say we came away with a 16-10 defeat.
The year came to an end with first a resounding home 36-12 win against Littleborough then on a wind swirling day an away 15-6 win against Tarleton. To make sure James arrived on time and with his head in one piece I collected him and drove him there direct. These two wins put us back in the hunt and kept spirits high over the festive season.
Just before the holidays and on Brass band day we had another home tie in the Lancashire Trophy against Heaton Moor. This was won comfortably 39-12 to put us into the semi-final and saw a few faces reappear from university and the like. On the Saturday between we all had our annual roll around in the mud, normally called the “Chris Tickle Cup” games. Great fun all round.
To be continued.