Bolton 11 - Newcasle Staffs 5
Last home game produces a win
Bolton 11 – 5 Newcastle (Staffs.)
Sun Tzu said: In all fighting, the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed in order to secure victory.
On a sunny, dry afternoon perfect for rugby Bolton entertained Newcastle from Staffordshire. With the recent weather having interrupted both training and playing Bolton might have been forgiven for looking rusty in the early exchanges, but they started well. Max Holcroft, Matt Moore and Ollie Thompson ran strongly down the middle, and Jos Winstanley and Jack Phillips at half-back controlled the game by kicking well or moving the ball wide when the situation demanded. Pressure forced a couple of penalties duly converted by skipper James Evans before Bolton strung some more good phases of possession together and Joe McHugh crashed over for a well-worked try after only 15minutes. At this stage, with Bolton playing some of their best rugby of the season and with wingers Owen Patel and Zak Grundy looking threatening every time they got the ball, it seemed that the home team would run away with it. But then the whole game tightened up. Credit must go to the visitors who rolled their sleeves up and began to disrupt Bolton at the breakdown, but the home team lost their fluency in the face of increased Newcastle pressure. Newcastle began to gain field position through the excellent kicking of their centre, their driving maul became a feature and the home team’s confidence, fragile after a difficult season, ebbed away. Near half time Newcastle drove a maul over for a try with half the Bolton pack stood looking on, and it was very much game on for the second half.
Sun Tzu said: He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious.
The second half proceeded in much the same way as the first half ended: Newcastle kicked well and Bolton failed to string enough phases together. Although the home team ran as strongly as ever, they fell foul of good Newcastle work at the breakdown. The excellent referee communicated well, telling the players what they could and couldn’t do in the rucks, but the Bolton players ignored his good advice for the most part going after the ball on the floor when they had no right to and consequently being correctly penalised. The visitors kicked well as before and exerted pressure in the maul, but Bolton’s defence in this area improved and the tackling across the pitch proved impossible for Newcastle to breach. The home team were unable to put together enough phases of possession to create any further opportunities so the second half ended in stalemate, although late Newcastle pressure might have told if a ball hadn’t have been dropped close to the Bolton line.
So a win for Bolton, but perhaps one which should have been a lot more comfortable than the final scoreline suggests. For some reason they stopped doing what had worked so well for them in the first quarter and showed the visitors perhaps too much hospitality. The teams meet again in three weeks’ time and it will be interesting to see what each team has learnt from this encounter. Hopefully Bolton will realise that getting a couple of scores up with an hour still to play does not signal the end of the match.
Sun Tzu said: What is essential in war is victory, not prolonged operations