In their first competitive game of the season the First XV welcomed Ruskin Park (of St. Helens) to Gorton Street in the first round of the Lancashire Trophy. After two defeats in their two warm-up games Eccles were keen to turn things around. But after Sean Griffin dislocated his thumb in the warm up, causing Rich Owen to be an emergency call up from the Second XV game, the omens didn’t look good.
The disrupted warm-up was dismissed from their minds and the home side started brightly. Strong running from the forwards and assured handling from the backs allowed them to build pressure, and from a driving maul Mark Greenhalgh peeled off the back to crash over from close range and give them a 5-0 lead. But this score seemed to awaken the visitors and they took control of the game for the rest of the first half. Serial indiscipline from Eccles was giving Ruskin plenty of opportunities but unfortunately for them their kicker seemed to have brought the wrong boots, as they could land one of the penalties. The lack of possession was also taking its toll as cracks started appearing in the home side’s defence. They were breached wide on the right and then again, straight from the kick off, on the opposite side of the field. The conversions couldn’t be added so the half-time score was 13-5 to the South Lancs/Cheshire side.
Despite the poor performance in the first half Eccles were still in the game due to the missed kicks, so came out in the second half with their confidence restored. After a close fought 10 minutes the ball was moved out wide quickly and Freddie Oakey was on hand to touch the ball down. A few minutes later the home side were on the offensive again, and after coming up short on a couple of occasions Mark Greenhalgh was able to power across for his second and restore the Eccles lead. James Wright kicked the extras to make it 17-13.
Everything was still to play for for both teams and they were both making yards with some strong running. James Radcliff, in his last game for the team before moving to London, typified this as he was brought to the ground twice but regained his feet before the tackle could be completed to get across for the next try. Wright again with the conversion. Eccles were now on the front foot and building wave after wave of pressure. Ruskin Park conceded a penalty which Wright was able to convert (the joys of having a kicker!) and the lead was extended to 27-13. With time running out the St. Helens-men threw the ball around to try and find space but when it went to ground Luke Cullen swooped to recover and ran in from 40 yards. James Wright’s third conversion made the final score 34-13.
A far from perfect display from Eccles but their fitness came good in the second half as they ran out comfortable victors. Glen Cahill was named Man of the Match but emergency deputy Rich Owen also contributed massively. The team will be working hard in training this week to become even more polished ahead of their first league game, when Keswick come to Gorton Street on 07/09/13.
Elsewhere in the Lancashire Trophy, Liverpool St. Helens overcame Widnes 31-29 in the tie of the round, defending champions Rochdale beat Didsbury Toc H, and there were also wins for Blackburn, Vale of Lune, Leigh, Heaton Moor and Littleborough. A difficult tie awaits Eccles when the draw is made in a few weeks time.