Colts battle on but loose to kicks. 


img_2213-1Sunday saw the Senior Colts welcome Wilmslow to Gorton Street, who arrived without a kit, so we loaned them one, a gesture which surely moves Eccles off the bottom of the ‘Colts Coiled Spring’ League.

Injuries, apathy and Lancs county commitments reduce the team once again to the bare bones with Forwards deployed to all but two positions.  A beacon of light is Rory McGrath’s return from injury, playing at fullback for the first time since the opening day of the season and now a protected member of the endangered ‘backs’ species within the squad.

The Colts began with much better focus and intent than in previous weeks. Prop Antony McNally took a solid catch from the kick off and Eccles enjoy good possession in the opening 15 minutes, though struggle to make territory or break into the opposition half. Despite missing weight in our pack due to our reorganisation, Eccles compete in the scrum and little ground is conceded by either side. From a bullet pass out the back by acting scrum-half Louis Ayre,  Zak Brooker makes an break up the blindside flank, handing off Wilmslow tackles and we look to be headed for an opening score, Kayne McNally in close wing support is unlucky not to gather the offload.

20 mins in, with the match evenly balanced at 0-0, disaster strikes for Eccles as Number 8 Harry Melia suffers a blow to the head and once regaining consciousness exits the field. With limited options the Colts reorganise themselves.

ZB’s kicking from the ball in hand continues to be accurate and assured. From a penalty he finds touch deep into opposition territory. Fin Cox and Edward Mather combine in the line out, Joe Gaffey secures the ball, the maul is formed, we drive to the line. A very determined, resolute Wilmslow hold out on their own goal line. The equally determined Eccles forwards pound away, with several attempts to breach the defence. Through a pile of strewn bodies Captain Chaos, Cami Higgingbottom PGs from the ruck 1 meter out, spins the tackle and scores to the right of the posts. EM takes the conversation but miskicks off the tee hitting the post. 30 mins 5-0.

Straight from the restart, we misjudge the Wilmslow kick which finds touch, we loose focus, we miss tackles in the midfield and, after all the considerable effort expended to break the deadlock, we concede a try of our own making within minutes of the break.    HT 5-7.

Eccles begin the second half with renewed vigour and enjoy good possession and field position, containing play in Wilmslow’s territory. RM is unlucky not to fly through on a flat pass from LA, but sloppiness around the breakdown and inaccuracy at the line out punishes us. With 10 minutes played Wilmslow win a penalty for an infringement at a ruck and from 40m out their number 10 slots home the kick.  5-10.

Eccles now win a sequence of penalties and we run them. John Nicholson smashes through the opposition like skittles and is eventually hauled down short of the goal line. Joe Gaff takes the next one in like an express and is derailed by a strong Wilmslow defence. This spurs him and fellow Flanker Matt Small into a period of ferocious hunting and tackling, disrupting Wilmslow’s robust 10 and giant 13.  The visitors endure the sustained Eccles pressure and succeed in breaking out to form a rolling maul in the centre of the pitch. Eccles are penalised for an infringement and with 10 minutes to play, the Wilmslow 10 steps upm and strikes another accurate kick between our sticks from almost the same spot as his previous. 5-13.

The bit between our teeth, Eccles attack again with purpose and grit. After a strong challenge from the restart, JN has another burst through the centre and again is unlucky not to wrestle free of his pursuers as the ball is released to fellow prop AMcN and the advance is halted. After much wrestling by the forwards we retain possession and ball is whipped back to ZB who lofts a deep high kick towards the corner. Damola Ayanlaja-Lowo gives chase and out powers the fullback to get his hands on the ball and score our second try with 5 minutes remaining.  We miss the conversation and Wilmslow see out this close contest as winners, benefitting from some excellent kicking from their very capable Fly-Half. We score two tries to Wilmslow’s one, but ultimately it’s the kicks and penalties that decide the result.  FT 10-13.

Another disappointing defeat and more injuries, but an improved team performance over recent weeks.  Eccles showed great spirit to the very end. The inexhaustible work rate of the back row impressed yet again, with tackle counts of 12 and 14 respectively for Matt and Joe.  Zak and John also had great games, contributing numerous tackles and courageous attacking runs. Many players deserve credit for their efforts to embrace unfamiliar positions and Louis deserves a mention in dispatches for a valiant performance at scrum-half.

Our thanks to Wilmslow, who made it a fair and competitive contest and the Referee Mr Jim Johnston who stepped in at late notice with the scheduled official injured and kept the game in motion and well-disciplined with no cards issued. Onwards.

Eccles Colts next fixture is Away vs Macclesfield, Sunday 4th Dec, KO 2pm.