Aldwinians 50-Bolton 21
Strong second half performance marred by first-half lull.
It is a situation that the countless thousands of amateur sports teams throughout the country know only too well: one week everybody is available and the next a combination of illness, birthdays, over-indulgence and sick pets means that frantic last-minute phone calls combined with begging, pleading and threats are required to get a team on the pitch.
Bolton travelled to Audenshaw to play Aldwinians firmly in the latter camp with 13 players warming up and another 2 possibly en route, possibly not. In those circumstances, it is difficult for the players involved to genuinely convince themselves they can win, so even when the home team generously lent Bolton a couple of players the visitors began the game on the psychological back foot. Aldwinians are a well-drilled side with good set-piece skills, the forwards offload well in the tackle and the backs are able to move the ball at pace so the first half was a difficult one for the visitors. Despite competing well all over the pitch Bolton missed too many first-up tackles and the home team took advantage of the space allowed ruthlessly. Bolton scored a good try when makeshift flanker Owen Patel crashed over following a series of quickly taken tapped penalties, but for the most part they were on the back foot and conceded 38 points.
The second half could easily have gone the same way as the first, but to their credit, Bolton upped their game and put the home team under real pressure from the restart. Matt Moore and skipper James Evans ran strongly, halfbacks Jack Phillips and Jos Winstanley began to exert control and Ollie Thompson showed real energy at the breakdown. First Joe McHugh crashed over near the posts for a well-worked try following several phases near the home line and when Jos Winstanley darted through a gap and wriggled over shortly afterwards mild concern showed in the Aldwinians ranks. The home team had the final say as they scored a couple of tries to finish off the afternoon, but Bolton had ‘won’ the second half and regained pride in a performance that might have proved disastrous.
Credit must go to Bolton for the character they showed in the second half of the match. Aldwinians were very good in the first half and scored some very good team tries, but Bolton’s second half may well prove to be a springboard for the second part of the season.