Eccles kept up their good recent form with a bonus point win away at Littleborough. Their third win in a row sees them move up to third in the league.
Littleborough had be an unhappy hunting ground for Eccles, losing their last two visits. And with the rain that had been bucketing down in the days previous they knew it wouldn’t be easy this time either. But just a few minutes into the game a defensive mix up from the home team allowed Matt Parkinson to go in under the posts. Danny Holland added the extras to establish an early 7-0 lead.
Littleborough came back strongly and marched into Eccles’ territory but they were unable to pierce the line. After a period of sustained pressure Eccles conceded a penalty which reduced their lead to four. Eager to re-establish their advantage Eccles went on the offensive. The cold and windy conditions were keeping the game tight but retention of the ball through multiple phases allowed them to gain ground. As the home side’s defence got drawn in the ball was moved out wide and Simon Donovan made the break and showed great determination to get to the line. Unfortunately this time the try was unconverted.
The physical nature of the game began to take its toll with Tom Chapman and Luke Cullen forced from the field with injury. The enforced restructure disrupted some of the continuity in the play but Eccles were still working hard. Despite conceding another penalty just before the break the visitors were good value for their 12-6 lead, playing up hill and into the wind.
At the start of the second half it was Eccles turn to earn a penalty, slotted between the posts by Danny Holland. Eccles continued to press and soon were on the scoreboard again. Mark Greenhalgh found space from the back of a driving maul, was supported well by Sam Vincent, who fed Andrew Maddocks to dive (earning a 0.0 from the judges) for a great try, converted by Holland. Although Eccles weren’t using their kicking game as much as they should in the conditions, when they did it continued to create problems. Another mix up from Littleborough presented Greg Wilson with the chance to score another try which he duly took. Another conversion from Danny Holland made the score 29-6.
Littleborough weren’t prepared to go down without a fight and came back strongly. After mounting pressure in the Eccles half Connor Thornley was shown a yellow card for slowing things down too much at the breakdown. Using their extra man the home side were able to score a try in the corner, even if it looked to most observers like the player was in touch first. Still shaken from the controversial decision the Eccles defence switched off and allowed a soft try up the middle. The conversion brought the score back to 29-18.
Eccles were keen to steady the ship and started playing more intelligent rugby. The kicking game and driving maul was used more to eat up the clock. This obviously frustrated Littleborough as one of their players started throwing punches without reason. Once the fracas had died down he was rightly shown a red card. With Eccles back up to a full compliment it was they who now made the extra man count as Joe Dale dived over to wrap up the game, 34-18.
Eccles’ desire to work for each other was pivotal in picking up the hard-earned win. They’ll be hoping their steady improvement in recent weeks continues as they welcome newly promoted Tarleton to Gorton Street on 02/11 for a 14:15 kick off.