With injuries and holidays again taking their toll, Eccles once again turned out with a bare 15. The setbacks have mainly affected the once injury free forward pack so a couple of the backs were introduced to the complexities of flanking before the game and asked to fill in.
In the first few minutes the absentees didn’t seem to be affecting the team and they got off to a great start, setting up camp on the Dukinfield line, however, the lads couldn’t convert the early pressure into points and mistakes and penalties began to hand the impetus over to our opponents. The game was now being played solely in the Eccles half when the Dukinfield pressure told and a big gap appeared in the middle allowing their centre to burst through and score the opening try. Conversion missed.
With the wind and slope with Duckinfield a 5-0 half time deficit was something that the Eccles coaches might have been happy with, but late on an uncharacteristic mistake in dealing with a high ball over the try line allowed Duckinfield a second try, which this time was converted.
The Eccles lads now seemed fired up and up for the fight, however, straight from kick off, more mistakes gave Dukinfield a penalty just their side of the half way line. Unbelievably, they decided to go for the points, and with an almighty (wind assisted) boot, added another spectacular 3 points.
Eccles were going to have to do it the hard way again. Unfortunately, judging by the way Dukinfield were defending and the number of Eccles lads playing out of position it looked like this time it might be a bridge too far. 15-0 down at half time.
Dan and Nick decided to give a softly, softly half time team talk and it seemed to work. Eccles seemed more relaxed at the start of the second half and started to play some excellent free running rugby, the forwards were winning ball in the breakdowns, the centres were running at the Duckinfield defence who were now being stretched, tiring more quickly and arguing with each other, a good sign.
A great move down the right of the pitch was finished by wing Jack, running a fantastic line to touch down under the posts. The try was converted by the stand in scrum half/kicker Nathan whose confidence and control of the game was visibly growing as the match wore on.
Yet another injury then hit Eccles when full back Cammy took a foot in the ribs forcing him off. Luke had to leave his part time flanking position to go back to full back with Wes moving from No.8 to flanker. Once again, through adversity, this did not affect the Eccles lads who stepped it up again and with a trademark bullocking run, Keaton broke through the Dukinfield defence to score Eccles’ 2nd try. Again, this time from a tougher angle, Nathan stepped up to put the conversion beautifully through the posts. 15-14 and game on.
Dukinfield were now completely rattled, arguing every refereeing decision, attempting to get into Eccles faces, to their great credit the Eccles boys resisted every provocation, holding their nerve. Inevitably, a dangerous swinging arm led to a Dukinfield yellow card. Once again Nathan stepped up and slotted the penalty. 15-17. More Dukinfield foul play led to another penalty which now Man of the Match Nathan converted, 15-20.
Some last minutes defending was now needed from the 14 men of Eccles, who held out in a very controlled manner.
A hard fought 15-20 win, what was the panic??