Bolton 20 – 25 Vale of Lune
Late surge from home team not enough to secure victory.
Sports fall into two broad categories: there are quantifiable ones where the fastest runner or the longest jumper or the team with the most goals win, and there are others which are subjective where judges decide the outcome based on a set of criteria and their own observations. If Sunday’s Colts match between Bolton and Vale of Lune had been a boxing match or an ice dance the home team may well have got the verdict. Instead it was a game of rugby and by the points system of that most excellent of sports the visitors took the spoils.
On a crisp and sunny afternoon the match took a little while to get up to speed as both teams worked off the food and drink of the festive period. Bolton had the better of the early exchanges and James Evans kicked a penalty following a trademark charge downfield by Matt Moore. To their credit Vale bounced back quickly when the Bolton back three were unable to deal with a cross kick and an awkward bounce allowing the visitors to hack upfield, regather and score. Although Bolton were having the better of the exchanges with Joe McHugh and skipper Tom Crook making good yards down the middle of the pitch, they were unable to take advantage of much better field position as little errors and good defence prevented them adding to their score. Morgan Caldwell did get the ball over the line, but was deemed to have made a double movement. A couple of penalties later Vale had gone the length of the pitch, and as the home team failed to take several opportunities to deal with a rolling ball the visitors crossed for another try. This period of play summed up Bolton’s season to date: a lack of awareness and a failure to spot opportunities in attack and threats in defence has been their undoing in a lot of their matches this season and it was to prove costly again. Vale finished off the half with another penalty to lead 15-3 at half time, but there was no despondency at the break as Bolton knew they were still very much in the contest.
The second half continued in much the same vein as the first with Bolton having the better possession and position, but lacking penetration near the visitors’ line. Max Holcroft was making good yards from the base of the scrum and it was fitting that he should crash over for the hosts’ first try after a concerted period of pressure and patient driving play near the Vale line. To their credit Vale came back and kicked a penalty on a rare visit to the Bolton 22. Bolton continued to press and it cost them; a quick turnover by Vale in their own half found the home defence over committed and a couple of well timed passes allowed the visitors to score under the posts. With time running out Bolton continued to put phases of play together and good hands put Jack Philips over in the right corner, but Vale hit back with another penalty to extend their lead. There was still time for Morgan Caldwell to cap off an excellent performance with a typical kick chase and score, but time ran out for the home team.
By all subjective measures Bolton had the better of the contest, but the scoreboard is the only truth in rugby. The visitors were gracious in admitting they might not have deserved their win, but they scored more points and that is all that counts. Bolton must look back on another one that got away –the side continues to improve and play some good rugby, but they have yet to develop the killer instinct that sorts out the winners from the losers.
Report :Nick Holmes
Photos Mark Byrne