This report is dedicated to Joe, Joe Dale that is, who constantly bemoans my efforts at putting down what little I can remember about the first team games. Unlike Joe who only has to turn up on time and in the right gear, usually finding both of those too difficult, and playing a game of rugby, I have the pleasure of Running Touch, Valuables minder/hider, Match Reporter, Team Sec when “she who must be obeyed” is not here, Bank Manager for a pair of parasites, and general punch bag for those who I apparently don’t understand. Joe’s biggest complaint is I never mention him enough and over report on others, well I hope I’ve made some attempt at righting that wrong, read on.
The penultimate league game of the season saw Eccles take a rare short trip to Cumbrian side Hawcoat Park (nee Vickers SC). With the prospect of clinching the title if other results had gone their way all minds were focussed on coming away with nothing but a win. The home side were gracious to ensure that the minutes silence in respect of the recent passing of Joe Lillie was also duly adhered to.
Any hope that this would be an end of season game with dry conditions and firm pitch was washed away with the continuous rain experienced prior to the day and the permanent drizzle on the day. The game started with Eccles playing against the conditions but quickly found other issues to be of a more important nature. With the time eluded still in single figures Luke Cullen hobbled off the pitch with an ankle injury, being replaced by Josh Boothman.
With Eccles pressing, a penalty kick into the corner showed the trickiness of the local conditions as it fell short of the touch line. The ball was almost claimed by “he who must not be named”, making a typically cheeky attempt to pinch it off the opposition forwards. This all kept Eccles deep within the home sides half and soon a Danny Holland penalty kick gave Eccles the lead. With a slender lead we then had another injury with Will Hamer having a bit of a dizzy spell, this required the versatile Greg Wilson to take up the centre position and introduced Andy Frost into the game.
Undeterred by the injuries, the general Eccles dominance continued with a break down the right wing by “you know who’s” brother, resulting in a foot race to a kick ahead between Matt, Greg and the opposition full back. Unluckily neither Eccles lad won the race, so much for someone being the fastest. With Eccles in the ascendency a Sam Simpson try from a rampant driving maul extended their lead. Hawcoat Park came back and were soon on the board with a penalty of their own, kicked from close to the halfway line. With the pressure on Eccles, they did their usual thing of entering a period of excessive charity, highlighted by one of the young lads in the team kicking the ball off the ground and along his own try line to the opposite side of the pitch. The next young lad then fielded the ball and chose to run as close as possible to his opposite number before attempting a clearance kick. This was charged down and only just went dead.
Quickly taking the drop out Eccles regained the upper hand and with five minutes to go another series of driving plays by the forwards resulted in Mark Greenhalgh going over for another try. Yet it was clear that the home side did not fancy the prospect of just rolling over for Eccles and on the stroke of the half time whistle claimed another penalty kick to reduce the Eccles lead once more.
Half time 6 – 13 to Eccles.
Having the slight advantage of the conditions in the second half Eccles looked evens money favourite. However as they had demonstrated at the end of the first half Hawcoat Park weren’t there just to make up the numbers. Eccles again generally dominated the game in all quarters but constantly chose to ignore advantages whenever they arose, a serious spell of white line fever being a typical example. This was then compounded by the young Dutchman on a number of occasions practising his precision cross kicking to the opposite wing. Trouble was rather than putting it into the hands of our players it constantly fell into the hands of the home side’s winger.
To add injury to insult, we then had the Greenhalgh / Griffaloo double act. First we had The Griff going off with a wee tweak of the ankle, needing to be replaced by Big Mark who was having his customary breather on the side lines. Then with no subs left on the bench Big Mark did almost the same as The Griff, only this time a lot louder. This required The Griff to look deep within himself to see if he was up to running around and enduring the pain. Being the big fella we all know he is The Griff came back on and walked around the pitch and pushed a bit at the scrums.
As the match went on and being unable to close the game out the pressure was mounting and as expected to a man the Eccles defence stood solid and repelled all boarders. Having had sufficient rest and seeing The Griff rise to the occasion, and not wanting to be outdone, Big Mark re-entered the fray.
Mounting one more attack Eccles went looking for the important score to close the game out. A clearance kick by Hawcoat Park fell to “he who must not be named” who ignoring calls from behind to go wide chose to run into contact and present the ball to our make shift centre Greg who then after securing possession slipped the ball to Freddy Oakey making a blind side run, who then ran on unopposed to score. Danny Holland chose to convert this one for a change.
With a few minutes left in the game and wanting to go out with a bang all minds were set on the bonus point. All except Joe Dale, who chose on the last play of the game to pick the ball up at the base of the scrum and run off with it in the opposite direction and then kick it into touch. A humorous moment to a close tense game.
Final score Hawcoat Park 6 – Eccles 20.
A hard earned win with injuries galore demonstrating to all the depth of character within the team. Special mention must also go to The Griffaloo, as it was only on Monday that we found out that he had not just “tweaked” his ankle but broken his Tibia. Coming back on to play with that injury shows just how strong the team ethic is within the side.