In Saturday’s top of the table clash, away against Bolton, we had everything. A hard fought game, yellow cards aplenty, controversial decisions and critical mistakes by a few, and a Whirlybird to boot.
Eccles started with total commitment determined to end Bolton’s home record and within 10 minutes the hard work was rewarded with a Greg Wilson try, breaking blind from a maul 5 yards out. The Eccles lead was not to last as Bolton regrouped and came back hard, and despite, may be because of, the determined Eccles defence, the home side took the lead with two penalties.
Bolton were still on the up when Eccles received their first yellow card of the day. This gave the 14 Eccles men a cause to rallying to and so set about an attack of their own. We then had the first turning point of the day, with the Eccles skipper carrying the ball forward a Bolton defender suffered a serious injury resulting in a 30 minute ambulance delay.
The game eventually restarted on the adjoining pitch, once the game on that had reached half time status and shifted onto the Bolton Training pitch. It was now a race against time and the fading light to get the game finished. The interruption had clearly affected the home side more than the away as Eccles mounted a series of attacks which were rewarded with two penalties, each knocked over by James Wright, to give Eccles a 6 – 11 half time lead.
The second half became a war of attrition between the two local sides, with neither dominating, and neither pressurising the others try line. During this period Bolton picked up their first yellow card for persistent offending, then with the Eccles team forcing Bolton back into their own 22 a yellow card was shown to a player of each team. This was a strange one as the Eccles lad was only trying to stop the Bolton player from punching another Eccles player who was stuck at the bottom of a ruck. To add insult to injury the penalty was given against the visitors.
With the fates against them Eccles rallied again and mounted their best attack of the half, a nice break through the Bolton back line saw the home side’s try line beckoning, all it needed was a “simple” pass to the winger to score. Alas the pass was not as required and the opportunity to close out the game was gone. However all was not lost as Eccles had Bolton camped in their own 22 with nowhere to go. Then with a defensive ruck set up 2 yards short of the Bolton try line, all that was needed was to put pressure on the Bolton kicker and mount another attack. Alas someone else chose to have a completely different game plan and brought about the next turning point of the game. And so it was that the “fictional” monster charged into the ruck and gave away a soft penalty to allow Bolton to relieve the pressure and clear their line.
Moments of madness like these are total game changers and this was no exception. This allowed Bolton to make their way up the field and put Eccles under pressure for the last 10 minutes of the game. The Eccles defence held firm again until the fates decided that the home team should score a levelling try out wide. With the scores now level it was important that the conversion was not made and as a man the whole Eccles team went for the charge down. The pressure put on the kicker by the Eccles whippets was so immense he could feel their breath as he put the kick well wide.
With Eccles giving their all to find a score to retake the lead in the final few minutes, one quick tap penalty too many wasted the only opportunity they might have had. Final score Bolton 11 – Eccles 11.
A multiple ways of looking at this result, 2 points dropped or 2 points gained? On the whole a better result for the visitors than the home side. So a positive note to take forward to next week’s away game at St Benedicts and as I said at the beginning of the month we will certainly know where we stand and compare at the end of November.
Final note goes to the Bolton lad who was taken to hospital, the best wishes of Eccles RFC are with him.