Sponsors Watch An Entertaining Game
By David Crouch
Bolton 52 Fleetwood 12
It was ‘Sponsor Day’ at the Avenue last Saturday and the Cherry and Whites were on form to entertain everyone with a great display of running rugby to see off their opponents Fleetwood in some style.
An enthusiastic and well-attended home crowd watched Bolton start the game with the high intensity and belief that they have finished recent games. This lead to Bolton claiming their fourth win from their five matches so far, and crucially, their 4th try bonus point on the bounce. This means the Cherry & Whites head into the league break sat in 3rd place, behind Bowdon and Altrincham Kersal who both remain unbeaten.
Bolton opened their account within three minutes. A penalty opportunity brought about by some pressured phases of attack allowed Bolton to kick for the corner. The resulting maul provided number 8, Ben Cottam, with an easy ride to the try line. Mills was unsuccessful with the conversion from out wide.
At this stage, Fleetwood had not had a single touch of the ball and following an effective take at the restart Bolton set about ensuring that their possession stats remained high. The home side showed some flair in attack but frustratingly missed some early try-scoring opportunities to extend their lead. Fortunately, Mike Mills was on hand to push over two penalties to ensure the scoreboard kept ticking over.
By now Fleetwood had adjusted somewhat to the pace that Bolton were playing at and worked to get their own running game moving, utilising their strong 12 who appeared to be at the centre of most good things for the visitors all day. Bolton, however, stuck to their task and resolute defence made sure that Fleetwood did not add to the scoreboard in the first half.
With the clock ticking down, Bolton managed to secure a scrum close to the Fleetwood line. Tom Crook at loosehead, in for Chris Lane, made his presence felt at the set-piece and from the ensuing drive, Ben Cottam was on hand to to collect his second 5 pointer for the afternoon. This time Mills was on target and the half closed with Bolton 18-0 up and very much in the driving seat. However, a calf injury for Mills, meant a reshuffle of the Bolton backline with Andy Wood coming on in the somewhat unfamiliar position of 10 and Joe Speakman taking over the kicking duties.
Bolton commenced the second half in much the same way they had started the first, early pressure on Fleetwood resulted in a try for Rhys Pritchard after pressure at the ruck from Jonny Stanfield resulted in ball being hacked downfield. Speakman added the conversion and already Bolton were on the hunt for the bonus point try.
However, Fleetwood rallied and a well-worked move in midfield left Bolton looking forlorn as the Green and Golds crossed the whitewash in the 51st minute. Bolton responded almost immediately with Alex Waddicar receiving a pass in open space from Ash Cooper, in for his first start in almost 18 months. Waddicar charged down the left wing and evaded the attempted tackle to touch down in the corner. This secured the additional point for bolton and took the score to 23-5.
During the build up to the try, Bolton lost centre Chris Brownlow to injury. He was replaced with Josh Holmes and yet another reshuffle in the backline saw Rhys Pritchard move into the 13 slot with Holmes dropping into the back three. Bolton also decided to take Cooper from the field of play at this point, with Joe Smith coming in to replace him on the flank.
From the restart, the replacement Fleetwood prop was red carded for a dangerous high tackle on Louis Critchlow. Given that their starting prop had gone off injured at half-time, this meant the game would be completed with uncontested scrums. Fleetwood capitalized on this, moving their centre to 8 on their own put in to provide him with a platform to go forward from. Utilising this, Fleetwood were able to create a second try out wide, this time unconverted.
For the next 10 minutes, the game was littered with errors on both sides and only a solitary penalty from Joe Speakman was added to the scoreboard as Bolton looked to rebuild scoreboard pressure.
Once Bolton adjusted to the change at scrum time, that had been giving them a good platform they began to get back into their groove. The home side continued to apply pressure to the visitors and a break on the 22 from Chris Cockton allowed Andy Wood to coast over for a score, converted by Speakman. Two minutes later, Wood was involved once again, this time creating space down the right wing for Jonny Stanfield to run 50 metres around a tired Fleetwood defence and dot down under the posts.
Bolton ran in a final try to cap off an excellent performance, with Louis Critchlow the beneficiary of some continued Bolton pressure. Speakman added the conversion to give the scoreboard some additional gloss.
Final score: Bolton 52 Fleetwood 12
It was an impressive performance from Bolton and it showed improvement from last week in quite a few areas of the game. Perhaps Bolton should have scored a few more tries that were clearly available. That said the Cherry and Whites have now won the last four games in a row and are third in the league, which has ensured a successful September.
Man of Match: Rhys Pritchard