The November wind, rain and sunshine provided a full rainbow welcome for Widnes at Gorton Street on Sunday. It would appear that the weather was forecasting a game that was going to be a mixed bag with some notable highlights. When the lads put their skills into practice and beat the challenges of winter chilled hands to keep hold of the ball, a few Guy Fawkes firework moments were also thrown into the mix.
With a number of players absent as a result of County duty and Half term holidays Eccles fielded a squad of only 16 so everyone had to be switched, alert and up for it. Play began with Wiggi putting in a good catch from the kick off, leading into a spell of attacking play from Eccles with Wes passing to Jack who off loaded onto Ivan but the attack wasn’t quite enough to get over the visitors line. Then Widnes fancied ago and booted the ball down field , but Cammy stepped in to show his competent full back skills with a cool collection under pressure, play continued, then a penalty kick was awarded to Widnes but wasn’t converted 0-0
Play restarted with Daniel Smithan off on one of his strong runs, passing to Jack who put in a brilliant box kick, then Widnes broke through and were on the attack for the line, and despite Omar and Graisdon’s best efforts (stretching as far as they could to put the attacker off his balance by tapping his ankles) Widnes were over the line but missed the conversion 0-5
Play restarted as Wes broke through heading for the line under the sticks, he passed to Daniel Smithan, who offloading to Daniel Wilson kept the attack going with Dean who passed onto Wes for him to finish what he had started. 5-5 as the conversion missed.
The kick off started another Eccles attack, but the flow of play was interrupted by the referee awarding a penalty to Widnes, but as Goso went in for the next tackle he managed to turn the ball over to Danny Wilson, who was off on one of his runs. Jack put in another ground gaining kick as Eccles continued with their attack. Widnes came back with a spell of their own, but then there was another line out, Goso won it and onto Daniel Wilson, Eccles continued to build the pressure and Daniel Wilson was off again from the tap and over to Jack who jinked round the Widnes defence and he was in under the sticks 12- 5 as he converted it too. Brilliant solo effort on his part.
The first half came to a close just after Widnes came back on the attack, gaining another penalty along the way but were met by the Eccles forwards who’s defences remained strong, Stephen putting in his try saving tackles, the Daniels on runs and tackling too, Bob winning the ball at the scrums, Goso & Dean ripping balls at the mauls and Wes linking in with the backs from the flanker position. The backs Ivan, Graisdon and Omar were chasing kicks from Jack, Cammy with Jordan and Nathan putting in some tasty tackles to keep the score 12 -5.
Following the tussle of the forwards in the first half the second half started with both teams trying to gain advantage by kicking, which resulted in a line out where Goso won the ball and passed it out to the backs, Omar was off, passing onto Graisdon, then to Cammy back to Graisdon for him cross the line under the sticks, and Jack coolly converted making it 19 -5 and it was beginning to feel very comfy.
Wiggi collected the ball from the kick and passed onto Dean then Widnes sneak possession and Wiggi and Dean both had to switch into defence mode quickly, giving Widnes no other option than to kick the ball downfield in an attempt to gain advantage resulting in another cool collection from Cammy who booted the ball far down field back into the Widness half. Aaron came on from the bench on the wing just as Widnes launched an attack down the wing fortunately having breached the Eccles defence Widnes fumbled their chance of a try under the sticks. Jordan stepped in to take the ball from one of their kicks and started off another Eccles attack but was pulled back by the referee awarding a penalty for offside. Stephen rescued possession from an Eccles fumble, which then possession fell back to Widnes again for one of their players to put in more of a football than a rugby pass which was followed by a quiet word from the referee.
Some frustration was beginning to creep into the team, possession was fluctuating between both sides but once Jack got the ball at the next scrum he was off on a darting run, ducking round the Widnes defence linking with Daniel Wilson, who was backed up by Wes, who then generously off loaded to Graisdon who capitalized on the team effort by going over in the corner to bring the score up to 24-5.
After another spell of fluctuating possession saw Jack on the floor with a knee injury with a splash of the magic water he was soon to be up and off again. The pressure was soon on with Wiggi to Bob, going for the line passing back Jordan ending just short of the line. Ivan and Stephen then had to concentrate efforts with their defensive positions however somehow Widnes broke through and were in under the sticks and landing the conversion to make the score now 24- 12
There then followed a period where Eccles appeared to lose both shape and form resulting in Nathan getting a yellow card and to spend the next 10 minutes on the touchline. Widnes took advantage of the extra man were over again on the far side of the pitch with the conversion in the bag making it only 24-19 and it wasn’t feeling so comfy now.
Another attack from Widnes which was foiled by their fumble, but Daniel Wilson got the ball from the line out and went for it with a fast dash for the line, passing to Bob, onto Graisdon who ran for what seemed like 3/4 s of the pitch ending with his 3rd. try of the day, which Cammy kindly converted to make it 31-19.
Despite the score line feeling slightly more comfortable the pressure from both sides continued to build, Stephen and Wiggi continued to put in some big tackles , and all of the forwards concentrated on maintaining the defence. Jack had to leave the field through injury meaning Cammy had to step in at scrum half and the backs looked totally switched on primed and waiting for another chance to attack. But as the minutes were ticking it looked like Widnes were going to have the last say going in over in the corner but were denied by some good defence by Eccles and Dean Fellows grounding the ball only to have a member of the opposing team knee him in the back which caused some frustrations to boil over into a few fireworks which needed the referee to intervene before he blew the whistle on the final score 31 -19.
Mums summary – today appeared to be a taster of the possible challenges which may lay ahead, the team continue to show they are at their best when they play for each other, the forwards strong and dominating in the scrums and line outs winning the possession for the backs, who are eager to convert into points, everyone putting in the work in defence with many text book tackles, there is a BUT!, the unnecessary lapses of discipline are an area for improvement as it could cost the team dear if it’s not sorted sooner rather than later.
Roving Reporter Lynn Goslin