Bolton feel the Burn at Burnage
By David Crouch
Bowdon 31 Bolton 17
Due to both teams’ pitches still being covered in snow and ice, it was confirmed the match between Bolton and Bowdon in the 2nd round of the RFU Intermediate Cup would be played at Burnage Rugby Club on the 3G pitch.
On arrival at Burnage, the sun was out and the sky was clear, with a slight cold breeze - perfect conditions for rugby. The first ten minutes of the warm up was spent explaining to old boys Gareth Evans and Mark Chappelhow that the grass wasn’t real. Gareth was last seen walking back to the changing rooms shaking his head. To be fair, this was a first for many of the Bolton team and it was clear it was going to be a fast-paced game throughout.
Bowdon won the toss and elected to kick, with Bolton playing downhill away from the clubhouse to begin. Four minutes in and after early possession in Bowdon’s half, Bolton earned a penalty which Lewis Lockett converted. Bolton continued to play at a decent pace and found themselves back in the Bowdon half. With the pressure turning into points with Niall Murphy running onto an inside pass from James Singleton to score his 3rd try of the new year. The conversion was missed, Bolton were now leading 0-8 with fifteen minutes gone.
This must have been the wake-up Bowdon needed, after putting in an early defensive shift they found themselves in possession in Bolton’s 22. Bowdon’s lock took a crash ball central, with the rest of his forward pack latching on giving him the momentum to get over the line and score under the posts, with the fly half adding the extras. Bowdon were right back in it with the score 7-8.
Bolton kicked off high with Alex Waddicar giving the oncoming Bolton players something to challenge for in the air. The second quarter saw Bolton secure good field position and possession but didn’t seem to convert it. Chris Brownlow was running direct lines all day, giving Bolton the front foot ball which both the forwards and backs thrive on. It was the final pass, which maybe on another day would have gone to hand, which was letting Bolton down. Was this a sign of things to come? Bolton only managed to notch up another penalty through the boot of Lewis Lockett.
Immediately from the ensuing kick-off, Bolton gave away a woeful penalty, cancelling out the previous hard work. The score was now 10-11, Bolton still in the lead. However, another a string of infringements, Bolton gave away two more kickable penalties which Bowdon duly obliged.
Half time score: Bowdon 16 – 11 Bolton
Bolton knew they had missed opportunities in the first half and had given away some soft points. They needed to come into the second half with intent. Two minutes in and Bolton had a penalty about thirty-five metres out. Lewis Lockett took the opportunity and converted nicely, taking the score to 16 – 14. Five minutes later the score changed again to 19 – 14, with Bolton again giving away a kickable penalty. The game as predicted was played at a high tempo with not much being given away by either team.
Around the fiftieth minute captain Rhys Pritchard had to come off with a bruised knuckle and made way for Steve Hickey, on his first appearance for Bolton’s first fifteen. Also making his first appearance was Gaz Hession who came off the bench for Alex Waddicar who stubbed his toe ten minutes later.
Bowdon were beginning to apply the pressure on Bolton with balls going to ground rather than hand and competed at the breakdown well making it difficult for Bolton to really get going again. Bolton did manage another penalty through Lockett’s boot around the hour mark taking it to a 2-point game again. This would be Bolton’s last points of the game, a combination of good Bowdon defence and below par passing from Bolton gave Bowdon’s winger the easiest of tries after gathering a spilt ball to take the game away from Bolton at 26-17 with the conversion good.
Gareth Evans came on with ten minutes to go, in place of Tony McLaughlin, who had consumed too many rubber pellets from the playing surface. Bolton knew they had to give it their all and the effort was there from everyone involved. It was execution on the day which wasn’t up to the usual standard of Bolton. With Bowdon gaining possession from a loose ball and smart interplay between three forwards gave them the last score of the day.
Final score: Bowdon 31 – 17 Bolton.
Best of luck to Bowdon in the cup and to the player who was stretchered off, hoping for a quick recovery.
Bolton have plenty to take from this game and work on during training for next Saturday, another tough test for the cherry and whites as they travel to Altrincham Kersal who got the better of Bolton at Avenue Street earlier on in the season in a tight contest, coming out on top 3 – 8 winners.