Tarleton Colts 29 - Bolton Colts 23
Close game for Colts
A rugby coach at a top club once carried out psychological tests on his players to determine the best way of preparing the team for a match. He found that half the players wanted to sit in quiet contemplation and half of them wanted to bang their heads against the wall or each other. One thing they all had in common was that very little information was retained if it was given 5 minutes before kick off as the team got itself mentally ready for the game. He concluded that he could prepare the team physically and give some general instructions well in advance of the game, but the players were best left to their own devices in the period immediately before the match. The coach could only hope that the team was in the best frame of mind come kick off.
On a mild afternoon with the pitch a bit boggy in patches but perfectly playable given the recent weather it became clear that Bolton’s minds were still on Mothers’ Day presents as the match began. From their first possession, Tarleton ran strongly down the middle of the pitch before moving the ball wide to outflank the makeshift Bolton defence and score under the posts. The home team did something very similar only a few minutes later to score in the corner and at this stage all the mothers on the touchline probably thought that their afternoon could have been better spent. However, the visitors finally began to focus and play some good rugby with Matt Moore, Max Holcroft and Joe McHugh making good yards down the middle and Jos Winstanley and James Evans threatening further out. Evans kicked a penalty and more Bolton pressure promised a try, but the final pass went astray or a Tarleton hand was stuck out at the last minute to deflect the ball from danger. On a rare foray into the Bolton 22 the Tarleton no. 8 provided an excellent offload for the home side to score, but just before half time Winstanley put Holcroft over for the try the Bolton’s team’s efforts had merited. 17-8 at half time
The half time talk is another opportunity for a coach to get his ideas across, but once again the words appeared to have a delayed effect as a handful of missed tackles and a favourable bounce following a hack through enabled Tarleton to score right at the start of the second half. Further pressure by the home team threatened to take the game away from the visitors, but Bolton produced their best defensive shift of the season as Tom Croft, Jack Philips, Darren Robinson and Harry Round put in the tackles to frustrate the hosts and keep the visitors in the contest. Bolton grew into the half and began to put some good phases of play together. Patient possession play and good rucking forced a series of penalties and a kick to the corner and a well-executed driving maul gave Round an armchair ride over the try-line. The home team came back again and a collective neglect of defensive responsibility from a seemingly unthreatening position allowed Tarleton a free run to the line. This, in turn, prompted a good response from Bolton as first Tom Crook wriggled over from a quick tap penalty and then Round was driven over again for the final score of the match.
A narrow defeat against a team that had beaten them comfortably earlier in the season indicates the amount of progress that the Colts have made, but slow starts to each half cost them what may well have been an even more positive result. Bolton were in the ascendancy at the end, but the game was decided in the first ten minutes before they got their head in the game.