This week’s away fixture saw the established Eccles squad take on Blackburn, who were so far unbeaten at home, in the first of a two game double header. The importance of the game was reflected by both sides with the encounter turning into more of a war of attrition, for Eccles at least, rather than a sporting encounter. It was clear before we got to Blackburn that certain players were taking it very seriously, as we passed a convoy of Eccles cars parked up to allow the front row to stock up on pies.
The game could not have started any worse for Eccles as a blind side break from the scrum resulted in a try and conversion for the home side. Now Eccles aren’t in second place in the league for nothing and a typical determined response was forthcoming straight from the restart. Eccles attacked in numbers to provide Joe Dale the opportunity to charge over for a try which Danny Holland converted to level the scores.
Eccles then kept the pressure on Blackburn and soon a Danny Holland penalty gave them the lead. Scenting blood the Eccles team went all out to extend their lead, and only a series of penalties conceded by the home team prevented more scores. So much so that the referee had clearly had enough and produced the first yellow card of the day. Eccles made good use of the numerical advantage with another penalty by the Dutchman and a try out wide by Matthew Parkinson. I’d say more but some people have no sense of humour, the poor lad will be distraught.
All was looking good for Eccles, alas a split moment of complacency allowed Blackburn to reduce the lead with another blind side break which resulted in another try for the home side. A good four man, may be more, charge on the conversion attempt was sufficient to ensure the addition points were not claimed. It was at this moment in time that the Eccles match reporter was asked to go the other side of the barriers, so much for the freedom of the press. Apparently his wit and charm was upsetting the home side’s bench.
Eccles responded well again and were unlucky not to extend their lead with another penalty attempt just before half time. Half time score 12 – 18 to Eccles.
At half time the first of many forced changes had to be made due to injury, with Nemo, who had picked up a damaged fin, being replaced by Jimmy Wright.
Very soon after the restart Blackburn picked up their second yellow card and gave the Dutchman the opportunity to kick over another penalty and give Eccles a 9 point advantage.
You could tell the intensity of the game was picking up, all emphasised by Luke Cullen being carried from the field with a head injury. Now I’m well aware that at times my tact is open to question, but for the Blackburn PA system to announce while Luke was being treated on the pitch and a stretcher called for that today’s raffle was in aid of Callum Crombie from Littleborough. The sentiment of the raffle we obviously have no question with, but the timing of the announcement was outstanding.
With Luke leaving the field the Eccles team once again had to be reorganised, this time with Andy Maddox moving to inside centre. Now whatever Shelly say’s Mad Dog is not pretty enough to play in the backs, but he still gave his all for the team, which I suppose emphasised the commitment shown by all in blue and white.
Alas the commitment at times became too much for the referee and it then became Eccles turn to have a man receive a yellow card. Blackburn made use of the numerical advantage and a sustained period of pressure from the home side resulted in a try. Once again the commitment was shown by the numbers charging the conversion which only just managed to clear the leading players and go between the up rights.
With the score at 19 – 21 in Eccles favour and a good while still on the clock it all became very tense with neither team able to take hold of the game, no quarter was asked for and none given by both teams. Both sides had a failed penalty attempt, with the home side’s falling into the hands of Andy Frost who chose to make a bid for next week’s flyhalf spot and gave the ball one heck of a boot to clear any imminent pressure.
With the clock ticking into single figures Sam Vincent made the mistake of joining a maul populated by more rotund gentlemen which then collapsed upon him, making a bit of a mess of his shoulder. This resulted in the third forced replacement of the day and Nemo making a Lazarus type come back.
With Blackburn mounting wave after wave of attack upon the Eccles line the whole of the Eccles team just got stuck in and asked for more. Two, three or was it four times the home side had an attacking lineout on the Eccles 5 metre line and each time they were repelled. However some got so wound up they even objected to our ever present match reporter answering a simple question regarding the time to go. Well it made some laugh as within a few moments the final whistle was blown and all we could see was well deserved smiling faces.
A great game and a hard fought battle to the end. Final score 19 – 21 to Eccles.
My MoM award goes to the Griffalow for a faultless game. Not one penalty conceded, not one knock on, not one high/late/early tackle, not one collapsed scrum. And why you may ask for such a perfect game, simple, we kept him on the bench under lock and key. This was all to keep him fresh for next week’s return encounter.
Well done everyone.