This week saw Eccles host Della in a reversal of what was originally supposed to be an away game, but was switched last minute to Gorton Street. This late change was a fitting turn of events considering the numerous selection headaches that left Eccles without their regular 8, 9, 10, 12, Captain and Vice-Captain.
Still, showing true Eccles grit, the remaining 2’s, bolstered by several players making their first appearance for the seconds this season, put all the confusion in the run up behind them and set out to return to winning ways.
Starting strongly, the Eccles pack created a great platform from the set piece for Sam Long, one of several impressive debutants, and Jimmy Mac to control the game from halfback. The early running was all Eccles and with a penalty advantage signalled by the referee, Jimmy took his chance to show us how it should be done from the pocket and slotted a drop goal. However, after a penalty extended the lead to 6-0, Della struck back with some poor tackling allowing them to score under the posts to give them a 7-6 lead going into half time.
In the second half, the arm wrestle continued and although there was much more structure to their rugby than last week, Eccles were still guilty of over-committing to lost – or already won – causes at the breakdown and this ultimately left the new look backs line-up exposed and again, a couple of missed tackles allowed Della through to double their lead.
Eccles stuck to their task, and after a Della penalty, Eccles were able to end strongly, with a concerted period of pressure on the scrum resulting in a penalty try, just desserts, given the Eccles forwards dominance in the tight to leave the final score at 17-13.
While you should never be happy with a defeat, there were at least positives to take from the performance, particularly in terms of the way the game plan was conducted and the improvement in communication. Thanks to Dave Roper, who stepped in as captain on the day and did a great job as well as Pete Lillie, whose experience in this fixture helped the home side settle early on. Thanks also to Nick Hageman, Sam Thompson and Jack Walton for stepping up from the third team and all putting in a solid shift for the team.