Bolton 6 - 10 Rochdale
By Mark Byrne
Last minute score denies Bolton win
Bolton 6 – 10 Rochdale
The question often asked of football teams who are skillful but are perceived to lack bottle is “can they do it on a cold Tuesday night in Stoke?”. After this week’s Colts match as Rochdale traveled to Avenue Street the rugby equivalent must now be “can they do it on a snowy Sunday afternoon in Bolton?”. On this evidence, the answer is “yes”.
On a pitch with plenty of snow but with the lines lovingly brushed Bolton started the brighter. With the ball slippy both sides found it difficult to move the ball; Bolton opted to kick for territory whilst Rochdale tried to use their big runners down the middle of the pitch. For the first half at least the home team’s tactics proved the more successful with good kick chases led by Milo Holmes putting pressure on the Rochdale back three. When Rochdale had possession Bolton’s defensive press, with Harry Round and Tom Crook to the fore, forced handling errors and did not allow the visitors any time on the ball. With Bolton having much the better of the early exchanges and taking the view that scoring opportunities would be at a premium in the conditions the home team kicked a couple of penalties through James Evans, who hit the post with a third effort. They also spent some time in the Rochdale 22, but were unable to find their way over the try line as the visitors defended well and the home team attacked as individuals rather as a concerted team effort. Rochdale came more into the match as the half came to an end, but they passed up a couple of kickable penalties of their own in favour of running the ball and their efforts foundered on the determined Bolton defence.
So 6-0 only to Bolton at halftime when their efforts might have yielded more scores. The second half was a complete turnaround as Rochdale began to show the form which had taken them to the top of the league. Their bigger runners started to make ground as the home team’s intensity dropped off, and a scuffle seemed to galvanise them as much as it seemed to take the edge off the home team’s efforts. A penalty for Rochdale was followed by a concerted wave of attacks as the home team’s discipline lapsed and they fell foul of the referee’s whistle. With 10 minutes to play, Rochdale finally got their noses in front for the first time as they crashed over near the posts and the try was converted. Bolton had opportunities thereafter to wrestle back the lead, but good defence saw the visitors home.
It was the classic game of two halves: boxing would it would have had the contest a round a piece and in tennis it would have been one set all, but Rochdale have developed a winning habit and they just edged it on the rugby scoreboard. Great efforts from all the Bolton players, with Max Holcroft, Joe McHugh, Ollie Thompson and James Evans putting in tremendous shifts. For an hour they more than deserved to be in front, but the intensity dropped off just enough to give Rochdale their opportunity. Definite signs of improvement all round, but still work to be done.
Report: Nick Holmes
Photos: Mark Byrne