After last week’s postponement against Vale of Lune, hopes weren’t high of a fixture this week amid heavy snowfall on Friday night that would have kept Scott of the Antarctic indoors. However, due to the efforts of the Blackburn ground staff, confirmation came through on Saturday morning that the pitch was playable and the game would go ahead.
Arriving at Blackburn, it was clear that although mostly clear of snow, there was generous covering of slush and it was obvious that a tough afternoon was in store.
Starting brightly, a break from stand-off James Atkins was quickly recycled, with Matt Parkinson showing great alertness to chase down Sam Vincent’s accurate box kick and slide in from about fifteen metres after two minutes.
What followed from Eccles was an astonishing defensive effort, with the next 38 minutes spent mostly in their own 22, repelling constant Blackburn attacks with some fearsome tackling and a well-organised defensive line. This effort took a toll, with first Jordan Bromley’s promising start at flanker being cut short with a blow to the head then a try saving-tackle in the corner from Brendan Cullen and Tom Othick coming at a cost and forcing an early end to Brendan’s afternoon.
This meant that Eccles were able to take a 5-0 lead in to half time, which was spent jogging around in an attempt to stave off frostbite and hypothermia.
Into the second half and again the pattern was set, with Eccles fighting like dogs at the breakdown, and competing well in the face of a strong Blackburn scrum. In the line, Pete Lillie, Dec O’Regan and Dave Roper peformed well in what were nightmare conditions for handling.
Andrew Maddocks ran well off the base and good breaks from Nick Spooner and Gareth Lewis, who galloped through two or three defenders before falling short at the final fence, were the extent of Eccles attacking play and finally the constant pressure told, with Blackburn finally breaching the line to level at 5-5.
Blackburn’s fresh legs meant that they were able to press home their advantage, and even though Paul Newton “popping his knee back in” and James Atkins playing on through a broken wrist characterised the grit and fighting spirit, Eccles were a spent force, with the final score being 26-5.
There can be massive positives to be taken from this performance though, and the team spirit and attitude shown in the first 40 minutes was unlike anything else this season. In the worst conditions many of us had ever played in, everyone, from 1-16 should be proud of the commitment shown and take that forward into the game at Orrell next week.