Loco In Acapulco
By Joe Speakman
Bolton 2nd XV grind out their best win of the season against 3rd placed Tarleton in wet, windy and muddy conditions to top the table!
Another windy day on an away fixture for Bolton. The ground soft, and the mild temperature set the scene for 2nd placed Bolton to take on 3rd placed Tarleton. A win here would see the Cherries sit 1st in the table on points difference pushing Colne into 2nd place; a game described as a ‘semi-final’ among the Bolton players. 6 line-up changes for Bolton, including debutants Steve Hickey, Ste Harrison, and james parker along with Rob Tuppen and William Swift on the bench. An unfamiliar line-up for Bolton mean there were a few nerves going into this one amplified by the magnitude of the game. With the toss done Tarleton opted to play with the heavy wind that swooped down the field giving them a sever kicking advantage, something Bolton had hoped to implement in the first half.
The ball in the air from the boot of Speakman and the game under way it was clear that Tarleton were going to pin Bolton back to the final third and force an error as they bustled their way out the 22. Clean up crew were on deck and James Kelly was running the ball out admirably well, but eventually an error lead to a Tarleton scrum in the Bolton 40m. Resulting from this, heavy pressure allowed the home side to creep towards the Bolton line with good running and ball retention. On the 4th minute Tarleton set up a fierce back line ready to ship the ball wide however in doing so Joe Speakman intercepts the ball and runs 80 metres to score and give the Bolton side the lead early on. Conversion good, Bolton lead 7-0.
’04: 0-7 Bolton
Following this try it was much the same for Bolton, kicks deep into the Bolton 22 and Bolton forced to try to run the ball out as the wind didn’t allow for any kick returns. Matthew Parrish and Paul Leigh led the forwards around the pitch with their strong running and great rucking by the forwards allowed for good platforms to be set however Tarelton were very good at spotting sole runners and turned Bolton over numerous times in these instances. In the 14th minute Tarleton had a scrum 15m out which saw their no.8 pick and go from the wheeled scrum and power his way through some very questionable defence from Bolton. An unsuccessful conversion, but the first points for the home team.
’14: 5-7 Bolton
As the game went on Bolton found a good rhythm when running the ball back but a lot of penalties were awarded to Tarleton for not releasing, which led to them kicking for touch and making easy ground. On the 23rd minute Tarleton had yet another penalty which they converted giving them the lead for the first time in the game.
’23: 8-7 Tarleton
A major hinderance to Bolton’s play in throughout the season has been bad discipline in games and poor ball retention. Despite only 2 loses throughout the season, we are still very ill-disciplined and sloppy when it comes to having possession and this carried into the game this week. Bolton continued to return the kicks from Tarleton and eventually found themselves 5m from the Tarleton line where quick ball from Speakman to Hession leads to an attempted grubber to the corner for Harrison however it was deflected off a defender’s knee and saw Tarleton make 50m from the unfortunate error. From this Tarelton found momentum and this led to a try down the left-hand corner in the 33rd minute, followed by a very good kick from the sideline. The rest of the half played out and Bolton make it to half time just 8 points down, the first time they had been down at half time for a matter of months.
‘HT: 15-7 Tarleton
The atmosphere in the huddle was positive and full of chatter. The players were fired up as they knew that with the wind, this half was winnable and so was the game. Tactics were spoken and the reminder of how important the work ethic from all 15 men would be to chase every kick, make every tackle and hit every ruck possible. No man was to leave the field unless they were on their death bed. Substitutions made, fresh legs looked to at the extra 10% that Bolton needed. The game back underway, Bolton implemented their game plan.
From the off Hession and Speakman sent kicks deep into the Tarleton 22 clearing their back 3 and the chase was admirable from every man. Hungry for the ball, the forwards worked relentlessly to turn it over and in doing so eventually gained a penalty which Joe Speakman converted to bring them within a converted try of the lead.
’46: 15-10 Tarleton
At this point the sky’s opened and the rain fell, making the ground boggy and the ball slippery. Bolton adapted well to this however seemed to make a vast amount of handling errors in comparison to the Tarleton outfit. Debutant Rob Tuppen, recently subbed on was shown a yellow card on the 50th minute for a high tackle on the Tarleton winger. This hindered Bolton as they had to play on the defensive until he returned. James Kelly and Marcus O’Donohoe worked well as a pendulum back 2 in cleaning up any Tarleton kicks and Bolton held the game until Tuppen returned. Back to 15 men Bolton turned up the heat and were constantly pressuring the Tarleton side, and in the 63rd minute a chip and chase between Hession and Hickey saw Hickey pulled down just 5m from the Tarleton line to what looked to be a certain try. A penalty was awarded to Bolton, but no card shown. Resulting from this Bolton tapped the ball knowing they smelt blood and pounded the Tarleton line until Matthew Parrish takes a crash ball and is held up magnificently by Tarleton. Still on the hunt Hession is at it again and spies no 15, chips the ball over the line again and the ball sits perfectly in the try area for the perusing Gaz Liles to touch it down to the sound of raging cheers from the Cherries. Speakman adds the 2 and Bolton lead with 10 to go.
’70: 15-17 Bolton
This was set up to be the biggest 10 minutes of Bolton’s season so far. Exuberant play halted and back to basics Bolton looked to play this one out and control the huge pressure from Tarleton. Scrum after scrum and lineout after lineout seemed all that was happening in the last 10 with Tarleton winning each one. The defence held firm though and Bolton kicked the ball back down field at any opportunity. In the 75th minute a handling error from Tarleton led to a scrum 10m out for Bolton. Speakman runs from the base and hits Kelly on a short line slicing through the middle for him to be brought down by a high shot resulting in a harsh red card. Joe Speakman adds 3 more points to the tally and Bolton prepare for an all or nothing last 5 from Tarleton.
’75: 15-20 Bolton
The last 5 minutes showed awesome character from Bolton and an immense drive to win the game. Every tackle was hit and rucked with passion. In the final minute Speakman drops the ball onto his foot instead of clearing his lines and is picked up 30m out by Tarleton only for him to redeem himself and start a maul, the first of his career? Parrish, Leigh, Evans and the rest of the gang join the huddle and halt the ball giving Bolton a scrum with 30 seconds left. Another fantastic scrum, making it 100% win rate for the day meant Bolton can run the clock down. Time is screamed and Speakman this time gets the kick right and sends it into touch.
‘FT: 15-20 Bolton.
This was undoubtedly Bolton’s toughest and most satisfying win of the season. The new faces and debutants stepped up and bought into the team morale and passion. The forwards clocked up more metres in one game than they had all season and 18 players turned over their half time deficit for the first time this season to win the game. The MOTM was given to Joe Speakman by the skipper and vice, but there were 17 more players who deserved it, or 16, Tuppen was questionable… Bolton now sit top of their league level on points with Colne but ahead on points difference. They have a week off now, which is well deserved and can let any niggles rest before the ‘final’ against Colne in a fortnights time at Avenue St; a place were no team has taken points from this season. Congratulations once again gents on an emphatic win.
No Trophy No Dwarf.