After two successive home defeats it was imperative that Eccles got back into the winning habit in their next home game against St Benedicts. The only problem was St Benedicts are having the best season in their club’s history and only last week reached the final of the Cumbria Cup. So all knew a hard game was in hand.
Having travelled down the night before, the conversation over the pre-match meal centred on the time the St Benedicts committee had spent in Canal Street the previous evening. They also came up with some lame excuse for being late, something about the taxi’s taking them to the Salford City Stadium. Now some of us at Eccles may have delusions of grandeur but filling a 10,000 seat stadium, come on, Sale Sharks can’t even do that.
To keep matters highbrow, during the warm up Spik Nooner was telling all about the Sémillon he had enjoyed the previous Wednesday night after training.
The game started with the wind blowing across the pitch away from the club house. Now even little old Ernie cannot remember that happening. It was so strange for all that it took time for Eccles to settle down into a rhythm which they did in rather strange circumstances. Fielding a clearance kick from St Benedicts on the half way line Will Parkinson ran the ball back at the opposition, then before anyone could lay a hand on him, he decided to do his very own impersonation of Ashley Young, falling to the ground as if there was a sniper on the balcony. This lulled the visitors into a false sense of security and from the resultant ruck a James Wright cross kick followed by a concerted chase by Matt Parkinson (who was still laughing over his brother’s swan dive) and Luke Cullen put the St Benedicts defence under pressure allowing Tom Dutton to scoop up the loose ball and run in unopposed for a try.
Taking the lead Eccles went straight back into the visitors territory and soon had an attacking scrum 5 m out. From the scrum Joe Dale picked up, far too early for my liking, and drove over to score another Eccles try which Danny Holland converted. Now Joe claims the reason for his early pick up was he heard the rest of the pack telling him to do so, however on further enquiries it became clear than no such call had been made. This only tells me one thing, young Joe is hearing voices, Demonic or Angelic I know not.
After conceding these two early tries the visitors regrouped and started to lay siege to the Eccles line and only determined defence by all prevented St Benedicts from reducing the deficit. With Eccles stuck in their own 22 for what appeared to be an uncomfortable period it was apparent that something had to give. So first we had Connor Thornley winning two balls in succession against the head allowing the pressure to be relieved, at least to the halfway line. Then while all was watching the ball go into touch a fracas broke out at the scum. My initial assumption was the visiting front row had taken exception to Connor’s cheek, most people do. So to see one of the visitor’s back row being shown a red card was very confusion.
With the numerical advantage to Eccles you would have expected things to settle down and the Eccles scrum to take control. On the contrary, everything started to get frantic with rash decisions being made by many; all punctuated by Will Parkinson breaking the visitor’s defence, just inside his own half, with a deft grub kick. The following kick on by Will resulted in a foot race with the St Benedict’s fullback with only the roll of the ball denying the Eccles winger.
We next had Joe Dale picking up again and breaking blind this time feeding Freddy Oakey who made a strong run down the wing. This stretched the visitor’s defence to the extent that penalties were conceded resulting in a yellow card. This gave Eccles the opportunity to mount an attacking lineout which drove the visitors back to their own 5 m line and from the driving maul Sam Simpson broke free to score.
With half time only seconds away Eccles decided to switch off far too early allowing the visitor’s tall second row to swoop onto a dropped ball and opening his long legs he showed all his credentials to set up a deserved St Benedicts try and conversion.
Half time score Eccles 17 – St Benedicts 7.
The second half started with Eccles enjoying a two man advantage but for some reason unable to make use of it. This was emphasised by the fact that for the first ten minutes they were stuck yet again in their own 22 unable to come to terms with the strange conditions. Eventually someone worked out that all that was needed was to boot the ball down the pitch and the wind would take it out of play and allow the pressure to be relieved. The fact that it took two or three goes at this, by more than one person, before James Wright actually got it right makes me wonder what I’m watching at times.
With the pressure relieved it all turned ugly for the visitors as Eccles had finally worked it all out and started to put together the style of rugby we were hoping for in the first half. With another 5 m scrum set up Joe Dale again went for the early pick up and drove over again for his second try of the day and the Eccles bonus point fourth. The Dutchman converted again.
With Eccles dominating and the play still scrappy an opportunistic kick, OK aimless, by James Wright set up a scramble in the mid field as no one wanted to deal with the bouncing ball, a theme throughout the day. The ball eventually made its way, somehow, over the visitor’s try line allowing Will Parkinson to sneak in and pinch the try. # shirt number.
With this the flood gates were open and soon we had Sam Simpson going in for his second try in almost identical fashion to his first. Eccles then picked up the pace and were relentless in searching for more glory and with a little bit of good fortune a loose pass to Luke Cullen has met with his flinging boot which allowed the young centre to pick off a try of his own. At this stage I was trying to open up communication lines with the scoreboard attendant to inform him the score was wrong. Alas the evil dictator did his usual and ignored people who were better informed than he was.
The game came to an end with Freddy Oakey rounding off a great team effort with a try under the sticks which James Wright converted.
Final score Eccles 46 – St Benedicts 7.
Joe Dale was nominated MoM by the visitors much to the annoyance of the rest of the forwards. Following post match discussions with our Classical Historian it’s clear that he thinks he has the body of Adonis, the trouble is he doesn’t realise he has the face of Medusa to match it.