With Eccles still scratching their heads about the one that got away up at Hollingworth Lake, Littleborough travelled to Gorton Street for the return fixture. There was also some confusion over why the first team pitch had been ploughed before the game. Perhaps it was to make our visitors feel more at home.
Eccles started the same way they’ve started too many games recently; making mistakes and conceding penalties. Littleborough were doing what they do well, keeping it tight in the middle and trying to roll their way forward. But a more positive part of Eccles’ recent play has been their defence, and once again the line looked keen and aggressive, limiting the visitors to a solitary penalty.
When Eccles had the ball they looked lively. The reworked back line (following Will Hamer’s life-threatening case of Littleborough Larynx) was combining well, and the forwards were starting to poke holes in their opponent’s line. Mark Greenhalgh was held up over the line before fellow prop Sam Simpson crashed over for his second try in two weeks. Lee Robson added the conversion, and followed it up with a penalty a few minutes later to make the score 10-3.
Eccles were now on top of the game and playing well. However their flow was disrupted when Tom Chapman had to be helped from the field with a badly broken arm. We all wish him well in his recovery, #prayforchappy. Just before half time the changes looked to have bedded in as a flowing backs move was finished off in the corner by Luke Cullen. The conversion was missed so the half-time score was 15-3 to the home side.
In the second half Littleborough came out strongly and applied some real pressure to Eccles who were struggling to clear their lines. They were aided by Lewis Cooke spending 10 minutes on the sidelines (about three feet wider than where he spent the rest of the game) and some questionable #8 play from James Radcliff (he’s obviously learnt from the master). But James’ tackling made up for it, as did the rest of the boys, and the line held firm again. This obviously took a lot out of the visitors as they noticeably started to tire, particularly in the scrum. The Eccles pack pounced on this opportunity and started to dominate. A Littleborough scrum was turned over and pushed over, allowing Glen Cahill to touch down. And with time running out the scrum charged over again, this time James Radcliff touching down, to secure an important bonus point (especially with rivals Aspatria failing to get one at Whitehaven). Both tries were converted by Lee Robson to make the final score 29-3.
Another solid result from Eccles and, perhaps even more impressive, another game without conceding a try. They’ll hope to keep that going next week when they make their second visit of the season to Upper Eden, before returning to Gorton Street for a cup game with New Brighton on 23/02.