Lead By Example
By Joe Speakman
Bolton 2nd XV continue winning ways
A lovely day for a game of rugby; a nice cool breeze, soft ground and a hint of sun, the stage was set for Bolton to carry on their winning ways. We were informed that Leigh have heard about Dave O'Byrne and Chris Lane mighty performance the week before and had resulted in uncontested scrums. Harry Dawber joins the front row this week, Ryan McClusky replaces Joe Smith who is ruled out due to a knife fight with his floorboards that he lost. Hayden Smith makes his debut carrying an injury, big things expected of the big man... A similar back line sees Mark Aspinall return from a lengthy injury to play an Nadolo-Esque role out on the wing and Phil Caswell returns from retirement/sabbatical?. Rob Terry and Nick Sandbrook make up the bench and with a strong squad Bolton felt confident going into the game.
Despite their confidence Bolton found themselves in heaps of trouble for the first 15 minutes of the game and were camped in their own half for it. Hayden Smith got his debut off to a flying start after just 2 minutes made an immediate impact by injuring himself and hobbling off, a sad sight for the magnitude of fans he brought down to witness his game. Penalties and sloppy play lead to Leigh getting the first breakthrough. A quick tap 5m out sees their no.9 dummy and go to get the first points of the afternoon; with a missed conversion Leigh take the lead 5-0.
From the kick off, Bolton had fire in their bellies and more desire and realised that this was not going to be easy. Chris Lane and Harry Dawber leading the forwards hit-ups engaged the rest to follow suit and the forwards soon found a fantastic rhythm that overpowered the Leigh side. This set a great platform for the backs for Ken Sackfield to do his usual bops as he mutilated all in his sight, with Piers Crowther running well too. Bolton began to set up camp in the Leigh half and stayed here for the rest of the first half. Eventually after consistent play from Bolton, a breakthrough came in the 20th minute, Alex Charnock having a stormer secured quick ball for Thomas Evans to fizz a pass to Joe Speakman who runs at the line and gives Ryan McClusky a ball in a gap so big even Jim would have scored. He lines up the fullback with aggression in his eyes and decides to run over him instead of around him, commando roles and gets the ball down. Joe Speakman slots an easy 2pts from under the sticks and Bolton take the lead for the first time in the game.
Bolton maintained a solid consistent flow to their game and soon worked their way back into the Leigh 50. Milo Holmes decided that he wasn't going to allow Leigh to escape by kicking it away and summoned his inner Mo Farrah to rack up at least 500m of kick returns to enable us to keep in their half. Unfortunately, Milo had a big breakfast from Morrisons earlier on and this impacted his fitness, resulting in him being half dead after a couple of runs. Time ticked on and the Leigh defence held strong to keep Bolton out for another try for the first half, however on the stroke of half time, Joe Speakman summons his inner Jonny Wilkinson and slots a drop goal from 30m out taking Bolton 10-5 up going into the break.
Substitutions at half time saw Milo Holmes throw up his breakfast (I assume) on the sideline for 10 minutes, which saw Rob Terry interchange at 9 and Thomas Evans to drop to 15. Bolton were seriously suffering from fitness issues and injuries, and it seemed every 5 minutes someone else wanted a breather, which didn't help as we were down to 1 sub. The second half showed this and Leigh found rhythm once again and pressured Bolton. Alex Charnock was chopping every man who ran in his path like a lumberjack and Jonny Wallis got a few hits in their too, but was suffering from his 6am get in from town. Bolton eventually cracked again and Leigh scored a try from distance carving through a depleted Bolton side. A long range run saw Leigh get to Boltons 5m where they span the ball out wide and used the numbers to go in at the corner, with their no.10 adding the two. Leigh regained the lead 12-10.
Chris Lane was the next man down due to injury which saw yet another re-jig. Ken Sackfield takes his position from centre to prop, Nadolo comes in from the wing to centre and Holmes returns to the field feeling moderately revitalised. Bolton got their act together and found themselves gaining valuable yards. This was helped as Mark Aspinall was wearing a target on his shirt and saw him take a boot to the face resulting in a yellow for Leigh. Mark, if you're reading, I hope you've calmed down now. Bolton creeped up the field on touchline penalties but inconsistent line outs really hindered the team. Eventually Bolton had a penalty 5m out from the line. The man, the myth, the king of bops Ken Sackfield decided that he is the hero we all need and tapped the ball. As he turned he was faced with a wall of big bald Leigh forwards who looked hungry for blood. Ken did what Ken does best and bopped all 9 of them to power his way over the line. He then got up and proceeded to let them all know what he'd just done causing the Leighthers to get rowdy. Joe Speakman slots the 2pts and Bolton have the advantage once again 17-12.
The next man on the injury list was Joe Speakman. The sniper form Wigton last season had made his way down to Leigh to once again shoot him in the calf. He goes down, screaming and moaning, typical of him really when he's not injured and eventually hobbles off the field to receive a massage by newly appointed 2nd team Physio Jim McClusky. Play continued and the game was very much 50/50 with both sides showing promise of scoring again. Leigh however were the ones to break through and score another try from a broken field and slot the 2 giving them the lead with 15 to go. 19-17 Leigh.
Alex Charnock was next to go down and left the field for Speakman. Mark's nemesis returned to the field and within 2 minutes decided that the first kick in the face wasn't enough to ruin Mark's online dating profile pictures and gets in another shot resulting in another card. with 10 to go Speakman fields out two more drop goals to take the lead but it seems he thought the posts had been moved on both occasions and the ball goes wide. In the final minutes Bolton had a huge effort from their pack and worked our way upfield to the 35m where Leigh concede a penalty. Joe Speakman again summons his inner Jonny Wilkinson and slots the penalty from 35m out taking the paint off the post as it went through. Bolton lead 20-19 with 3 to go.
On the return kick off Leigh decided that they had had enough of Alex Charnock,sends the ball up in the air for him to take, which he does brilliantly and proceeds to gets mutilated buy an absolute unit of a man from Leighs side. Rob Terry cleans up the ball and Bolton clearer their 22. Leigh with surely their last attacks work up to Boltons 22 but Connor Orrell, who played excellently all game, forces a penalty for not releasing and wins a turnover for Bolton who take the tap, play slowly and see out the game. A tough, hard earned win but got the job done.
The MOTM was given to the skipper Alex Charnock for his tremendous tackling, rucking and carries. The boys played well despite a few lineup changes and fresh faces, and dug deep to secure the win with depleted fitness and injuries. Full credit to Leigh who made it a spectacle of a match for the avid supporters and we wish them luck with the rest of the season.