The Mighty Thirds faced a visiting Old Bedians side in a friendly under the tunnel. Having lost the toss the boys in white and blue began the game kicking to the visitors who quickly put together some phases through the forwards to bring Eccles back into their 22. Some strong tackles, in particular from Steve Lillie and Adam Austin saw their attack thwarted and eventually forced a turnover. With some quick ball the Eccles forwards marched the ball up the field only for the backs to spill it passing down the line. Numerous handling errors from both sides saw breaks and counterattacks sending play up and down the middle of the pitch with neither side able to capitalise on their attacks. The deadlock was broken after a long burst from Steve Lillie, bulldozing several of the defence before strong support running and a quick recycle unleashed Craig Wells into the broken defence to cross the line. Wells obligingly slotted the conversion to give Eccles a 7-0 lead. With the confidence gained from the score the ball began to be moved more fluidly between backs and forwards and the pressure told as Eccles came straight back with Nic Hageman squeezing through a gap to score. The conversion was narrowly missed. The Old Bedians defence were worked hard as again Eccles stormed up the pitch with the pack clearly in the ascendancy, turning scrums and lineouts along the way. Sandy Brunt was exceptional on the jump stealing the majority of lineouts faced whilst Dave Roper continued his unstoppable form turning scrums. More PGs hammered the defence back until Danny Mac crashed through for a score allowing Craig to send the fourths running for cover with his wayward kick.
With the lead at 17-0 the home team didn’t let up and continued to mount pressure. Some solid communication and distribution from the breakdown was rewarded when Mike Lewin sucked in the defence and offloaded to Nic who crossed for his second. Craig had clearly decided that it was not his day for kicking with a conversion so wide it nearly hit the corner flag. The visitors came back hard and ill discipline in the breakdown area saw Eccles repeatedly marched toward their own line by the referee. With the attacks coming in hard and fast the defence held firm and a turnover ball resulted darting runs by Jay Wilson, Craig and Mike. At the halfway line Nic found himself alone with the ball and despite carrying the ball in 2 hands for the first time this season and looking for the offload, was left to run the ball in by his teammates who were already salivating at the prospect of a free jug. After much deliberation Jay Wilson stepped up to take the conversion and confirmed what was already suspected, he couldn’t kick. Once again the visitors (aided by the referee) brought Eccles deep in their own half until some scrappy play and a sliced clearance brought about half time.
At half time the changes were rung and several players found themselves experiencing new positions with back rows Lewis Barker at 12 and Johnny Harper on the wing. The second half began much as the first ended with Eccles in control of possession and stealing lineouts, though much to the relief of the visitors (and Dan Thomas stepping in at prop) the scrums were now uncontested. The pack continued to press in offence with all of the forwards taking it in turns to carry the ball up the pitch. Kev Coulon and Phil Stubbs advanced under pressure, getting to within a metre of the line before a one handed overhead lob that Kobe Bryant would have been proud of was snatched up and taken over the line allowing Jay Wilson to score. The list of failed kickers grew even longer with a tough kick from out wide sent into the trees. The next score galvanised the visitors as they started hitting strong running lines with neat inside passes allowing the inside backs to make inroads into Eccles territory. Resolute defence kept them out and slowed the play down yet still the attacks continued, gradually nudging the thirds closer to their own line. A stolen ball in the ruck was popped out to the skipper who made a full length sprint up the pitch to touch down his fourth of the day. Taking the honours himself he duly hooked the conversion far to the right of the posts and ensured the place kicking remained abysmal. Old Bedians fought defiantly until the end and their constant pressure put them back in the Eccles 22 before a pair of missed tackles allowed their fly half to score and prevent the whitewash. Determined not to be outdone the visitors responded to Eccles woeful kicking with a sliced conversion making the score 37-5. With 2 minutes left to play the game was wound down with a series of handling errors from both sides.
Man of the Match was awarded to Shaun Barlow in the absence of Mike Lewin who had sneaked off home. The Mighty Thirds now hope to take the confidence of a win into next week’s home match against Fylde.