First XV 38-10 Didsbury Toc H

After four defeats in their last five matches Eccles were desperate to get back to winning ways but knew things would not be easy against a Toc side scrapping to avoid relegation who had seen an upturn in results over the last three weeks.

And it was the visitors who started brightest, working hard to upset the Eccles play. They earned a scrum in the home team’s 22 and from there exploited a breakdown on the blind side to open the scoring. The touchline conversion fell short. This was the wake up call that Eccles needed and the rest of the first half, with a strong wind behind, belonged to them. First Mark Greenhalgh crashed through two would be tacklers out wide to bring the scores back level. Then the surging defence of back row combo Frost, Wilson and Cahill caused confusion in the Didsbury line, allowing Sam Long to swoop on the ball and scamper in under the posts. Luke Cullen added the extras and Eccles were in front, 12-5.

Eccles didn’t relent and they were soon in opposition territory again. More strong running from Greenhalgh and Donovan drew the defence in which created space out wide for Steve Lillie to stroll in (what he was doing out there is another story). With time running out in the first half, and the visitors now desperate to hear the whistle and regroup, there was still time for Eccles to cross again. After good running from Martin Thompson and Adam “I only play at home” Wilkinson got the home team close to the try line, a maul was set up and powered over with Greg Wilson touching down, ably assisted by full back Freddie Oakey. Half time score 24-5.

But having to play into the stiff breeze in the second half Eccles knew there was still a lot of work to do. And that was reinforced a couple of minutes in when a slip in the Eccles defence allowed the Didsbury centre far too much space, and he moved the ball on to support for their second try. Eccles were re-energised by the mistake but for all their efforts they were struggling to make any real headway into the wind, which was compounded by far too many handling mistakes. Time passed and the home team’s defence was called on time and time again to keep Toc at bay.

Eventually Eccles did manage to put a number of phases together and get back into the right part of the field. As the Didsbury defence stacked in again the ball was put through hands and Mark Greenhalgh threw one of his (in)famous dummies to cross for his second of the game. Cullen added the conversion again. In a largely attritional closing quarter there were few highlights, save for Sam Simpson dragging three or four defenders across the line with him for the game’s last score. As Cullen surprisingly landed another conversion in the difficult kicking conditions, the score board ticked over to 38-10.

Eccles will be satisfied with the bonus point win needed to keep their promotion push alive, even if the performance was scrappy at times. They have the chance to put things right over the next two weeks’ training whilst they enjoy their first week off since Christmas during the Easter holiday. They’ll be back in action on April 6th with another long trip to Egremont.