Windy Weather Win
By David Crouch
Tarleton 7 Bolton 27
The Cherry and Whites visited Tarleton for their sixth league game of the season. The majority of sides had a week off last weekend and, with Bolton’s recent form, it was going to be an interesting encounter against a young Tarleton team that had recently taken league leaders AK to the very edge.
The weather played a major part in the game with a strong wind blowing straight down the pitch and the pre-match downpour ensured a greasy surface and difficult handling conditions. Overall, Bolton played these better than their hosts and took advantage of the wind behind there backs to secure the crucial bonus point by half time.
Having lost the toss Bolton were forced to play with the wind behind them for the first half, the home side opting for the difficulty in the opening exchanges as Bolton would have done if the call had gone their way. It seems lady luck was on Bolton's side from before the whistle...
Both sides found it difficult to retain the ball given the conditions and Bolton made several breaks into the Tarleton 22 only for loose hands and poor decisions to let them down at the crucial moment. Tarleton, interestingly, tried to kick for territory despite the wind which gave Bolton field position and plenty more chances to attack.
From such an attack Bolton managed to make space down the left wing and a quick clear out at the ruck created front foot ball for Will Bate at 9 to exploit. He put Chris Turner through the sizeable gap and his support line provided him with a crisp pass back from Turner to go over the whitewash. Joe Speakman set his kicking standards early, by missing it.
Bolstered by their 8th minute score, Bolton now looked to turn the screw and make the most of the weather advantage, however silly errors continued to cost them in the red zone. Again, Tarleton continued to opt for the boot of their 10 into the wind as their main point of escape but this rarely made it out of the home team half.
Twenty Four minutes in and James Singleton, back in the team after a few weeks away intercepted and drew the onrushing Tarleton defender to put Jonny Stanfield away down the right flank. Stanfield, managed to score near to the post but once again Speakman missed... He mentioned something about the wind being a factor...
Just three minutes later and Speakman looked to make up for his poor kicking display, a loose ball was fly hacked towards the Tarleton line and the foot race was on. Speakman was clearly ahead and in a moment of madness, the retreating Tarleton scrum half dragged him back. Cue Penalty try and Yellow Card... Fortunately, there is now no need to kick for a penalty try. The Bolton supporters were heard cheering for the first 7 pointer of the day.
With Bolton in the ascendancy and with the man advantage, they were now on the hunt for the important 4th try and bonus point. This was of great importance, knowing that territory was going to be difficult to come by in the second half.
Bolton turned to their forwards, who worked tirelessley all day to make ground in and around the breakdown and despite knocking on the door the home defence stood firm regardless of being a man down. Eventually they started to string some plays together and moving away from their failing kicking game, started to run some ball through their centres. Initially, Bolton Centres Alex Waddicar and Andy Wood made some defensive errors, no doubt due to the lack of defensive involvement up unto this point, providing Tarleton with attacking ball. However, second row Louis Critchlow was on hand to deliberately knock on on the Bolton 10m, an act which cost him 10 minutes in the bin and gave Tarleton the advantage, with their 9 now back in the game.
From the ensuing lineout, Bolton managed to stop the driving maul 5m out and were able to clear their lines. Tarleton sensed an opportunity to get back into the game with the man advantage and forced Bolton to defend for several phases but eventually, Bolton turned it over and heaped on the pressure. From a ruck deep in Tarleton territory, the ball was shipped wide and Captain Rhys Pritchard put Joe Speakman in at the left-hand corner for a try that was finished with some serious panache.
Half-time score: Tarleton 0 Bolton 22
Despite securing the bonus point, Bolton knew that the game was far from won and if anything an even better performance was required toensure they walked away victorious.
The defensive effort and the driving wind sucked the Cherry & Whites of energy, even when turning over the effort wasn't over as Bolton opted to run everything to avoid handing possession back to the home team. The extra effort made by Bolton started to show and Dave Crouch brought on Manny Tailor, Ryan McClusky and Danny Joseph to freshen things up. With Critchlow now returning, Bolton had 4 sets of fresh legs wo try and hold Tarleton at bay.
Tarleton were now attacking and playing for territory with great reward, but the Bolton defensive effort was one of pride and again and again the held them back. The inevitable occurred and eventually, Tarleton scored, albeit not from their own doing... Bolton had managed to make ground up the field from broken field ball. McClusky made good ground and was eventually felled inside the Tarleton half, from the ruck the ball was shipped wide through the Bolton backs, to the Tarleton number 10, who was still making his way back. With all the team awaiting the whistle from the official, the Tarleton 10 turned and headed towards the try line where his winger was able to pick up a 5 pointer, converted.
Bolton now tried to control the game, knowing that possession was key, however, the Tarleton number 6 was making this particularly difficult to achieve. In what was an exceptional example of back row play, he appeared to be the first to the majority of Bolton rucks and proved somewhat difficult to remove as the game wore on. Despite his best efforts, Tarleton were simply not able to capitalise on the possession and field position earned and it was Bolton that had the final say in the match.
Alex Waddicar made a break between two tired Tarleton defenders and despite nearly loosing whats left of his hair to the driving wind, he scored under the posts. Will Bate had been given the kicking duties and was no doubt relishing the opportunity from under the posts, but he must have had whatever Speakman did as he also missed...
Final Score, Tarleton 7 - 27 Bolton
Despite the weather playing a significant part in the game, both teams tried to play some good attacking rugby. Bolton took a little time to settle into the game and there were some excellent individual performances. The Cherry and Whites have now won their last five games in a row and will need to take that momentum into what will be a very tough home fixture against Altrincham Kersal.
Man of the Match: Chris Cockton