Thanks to Daniel Stenstrom for this week’s match report.
After a comfortable but well earned win away at Leigh it was time for Eccles 2nds to play their first game at home this season. With the 1st and 4th team also at home the 2nd’s were banished to the pitch under the tunnel and were chomping at the bit to utilise the pace of Ryan Chattington and Matt Parkinson on the wider pitches to mask Alex Binnington’s arthritic hips in the centres.
The change in personnel was unlikely to affect the forwards as the long awaited return (by whom?) of Daniel “the Ox” Stenstrom and Chris “The Brains” Wilson to second team rugby was imminent.
On first sight of the Blackburn squad it became clear that our forwards were up for a tough game as the Blackburn pack having an advantage of at least 10 stone on the Eccles pack. With the Sun shining and the extra width of the pitches under the tunnel the sensible game plan would have been to use the youth and pace of the wingers. However, with Stuart “Hands like Feet” Grieves it was unlikely that the other backs were going to get ANY service and it looked destined to be a forward game. It did however show that Stu was an adequate replacement for “hands like feet” Tommo after all.
In typical Blackburn style, with their strong pack and fast back line, they made life very difficult for Eccles. The first 20 minutes were a scrappy affair with neither team grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck. The scoring didn’t open until 25 minutes in when Eccles made ground up the pitch off the back of a penalty. With the lineout easily won a textbook catch and drive formed heading towards the try line, with Blackburn on the back foot they had no choice but to bring the maul down. The referee played advantage and after two or three phases Tom Wilson popped to Stenny who took the ball at pace and crashed over the line. With Carl Wilkinson slotting the conversion, Eccles were up 7-0.
It looked like Eccles were going to go on and dominate from this point but it was Blackburn who turned up the tempo with their backs starting to run at Eccles back line and pile on the pressure. It wasn’t long before Blackburn levelled to make it 7-7, however it could have been more if it wasn’t for the stern defence from Eccles back line particularly Stu and Alex who were happy to prove that youth and pace isn’t everything.
The second half started how the first half finished; with Blackburn on top. The Eccles pack failed to retain possession and use the pod system that they usually use so well. Eventually despite the efforts of Eccles defence, particularly MOM Chris Wilson, Blackburn scored again including conversion to make it 7-14.
This was the wake-up call that Eccles pack needed and with an inspiring team talk from veteran Pete Lillie, they finally started to use the pods and make good ground up the pitch. With Blackburn heavily outweighing Eccles in the scrum, Eccles were being pushed back, in the words of Chris Wilson “at over 5 knots an hour.” However with some great hooking by Connor Thornley, Eccles continued to be a threat from the set piece by turning over scrums and throwing well in the lineout.
Eccles eventually scored their second try off the back of a maul formed from the line out with Connor peeling off to score on the portside. Despite continued pressure and breaks from Chris, Connor and Stenny, Blackburn’s defence held. Against the run of play, Blackburn scored a penalty and the game ended at 12-17.
Although defeated Eccles 2nd’s can take a lot from this game; play the pods, discover your strengths over the opposition early on and use them, Chris now speaks only in nautical terms and Stu is definitely not a centre; with these realised, then a win away against West Park next week can be achieved.