Kenny is the Iceman as Bolton stay Top(Guns)
Bolton travelled to West Park with what Eddie Jones would term an experimental side, showcasing a number of changes from both a personnel and positional perspective.
The experience of JP, DOB & Vice Captain Parrish were missing, however veterans Mark Chappelhow (38 years young) and Gareth “Taff” Evans (56) provided some grit alongside the youthful exuberance scattered through the side.
A further absentee from the field was Captain Alex “Panda” Charnock who had decided to model himself as a Top Gun extra on the side-lines, due to enforced layoff with concussion. The suave Panda, strutting along the touchline, caught many admiring glances from both the male and female supporters.
With a dazzling sun setting the dappled autumn leaves off beautifully, it was essential that Chappelhow, captain for the day won the toss. Disappointingly he lost and Bolton played into blinding light for the first half.
Park are always a tough outfit and competed for every metre throughout the game. But from the kick off Bolton began to dominate the first half scoring a great try in the first few minutes. Happily we have an unbiased report on this first try from Paul Leigh our No 8 for the day.
“Our first try came in the form of a sublime solo effort by our mercurial number 8. A mismatch on the fringes allowed for an turn of pace outside that took him past the first defender, a strong fend to the second defender left him in clear space with only the fullback to beat. A wonderful show and go beat the full back and finish off his 60 metre try.”
Needless to say a debate ensured after the game on whether this show and go had actually occurred, sadly Non Playing Captain Panda couldn’t offer final judgement as he had been suggesting the Park physio went for a ride with him along the A580 on his Kawasaki.
Bolton continued to pressurise the Park line and while continually in the danger zone the robust defence held firm. Another factor was the white line fever that took hold and several clear chances were wasted. On one occasion Bolton were awarded a penalty several metres from the line. While captain and fly half discussed options, Taff (now looking closer to 60) took a quick tap and burst towards the line, whatever gap was there was quickly closed down and Taff was smashed unceremoniously backwards. Bolton regrouped and with some silky hands from Gaz Hessian managed to put his wingman Ste Hickey in to take a 14 point lead. Happily Kenny had his kicking boots with him…
In the final few minutes of the half, Park came back into the game and from a good catch and drive mauled over to make it 14-5 to Bolton at half time.
Bolton started the second half in aggressive fashion again dominating territory. The set piece was holding up well, especially the lineouts with Rob Terry standing in at Hooker and Jonny Wallis jumping for the first time. The scrum was solid and when a Park player was sin binned Bolton opted for the scrum enabling the backs to have some space out wide. Sadly the scrum was lost against the head and with great hands Park galloped up the pitch getting to the Bolton 5m. Some last ditch defending ended up with a disagreement and a player from each side was asked to leave the field for 10 minutes and think about his actions…
Revitalised Park took advantage and with some good continuity scored in the corner, again unconverted.
Looking to take back the initiative Bolton attacked from a lineout and with some glorious hands and support play ripped the Park defence to shreds, Brad Maclure standing in at scrum half and a snarling menace throughout the game, scoring a try of Barbarianesque proportions.
At 21-10 ahead Bolton possibly thought that Park would have lost that loving feeling, but during a passage of play a lovely kick to the corner was gathered in and with 10 minutes to go Park were only 6 points behind.
With a couple of minutes left and Bolton defence in a Tail Spin, Park went over in the corner, happily for Bolton the conversion fell short and they managed to see out the game to win 21-20.
While Jonny Wilkinson would have cried at the technique, Kennys clinical kicking provided the 1 point difference on the day, with Park missing all their conversions.
A good game of rugby played in great spirit and on another day could have gone Parks way. Happily for Bolton white line fever didn’t lose us the game and the league leaders move on to host Aldwinians next week.