Bolton 5 - Rossendale 12
Close game for improving colts
The evolution of a junior rugby team is interesting to consider. When the youngsters start playing the game tends to congregate around the bigger players on either team and the match moves no faster than the quickest runner and often a lot slower. My nephew was berated at the age of 10 by his coach for bending over and looking closely at a daisy growing on the pitch. His defence – perfectly reasonable at that age – was that the ball was over on the other side. He knew it wasn’t coming his way any time soon. As the kids grow and their skills improve their passing becomes slicker and kicking becomes a factor. It evolves into a game where, even if you are 50 metres away from the ball, it could be coming your way at any time. Players need to learn to maintain concentration and focus throughout the game, and in many ways it is a skill that is as important as any rugby technique they acquire as they develop. At Colts and senior rugby level you switch off at your peril.
There is no such thing as a friendly in rugby, so Bolton entertained Rossendale in a non-league fixture at the Theatre of Trees. The visitors started the better with a direct, physical style, but the Bolton defence, led by an out-of-position Owen Patel, held firm. With the advantage of the wind Bolton opted to kick for position when they had possession, but the first half was a stalemate as both defences were on top and wind and slippy handling conditions meant that constructive play was at a premium. As the half wore on Bolton had the field position as Jos Winstanley kicked intelligently, but were unable to string enough phases of possession together to discomfort the Rossendale defence. Half time came with Bolton camped in the shadow of the visitors’ posts, but unable to find the telling pass or make the key break.
The second half had much the same pattern to it, but with the roles reversed as Rossendale took advantage of the wind to pin the home team back. The Bolton defence was holding firm and strong running by skipper James Evans and Ollie Thompson were keeping the visitors at bay, but the turning point of the match came half way through the second half. After a period of Rossendale pressure Winstanley sent a clearing kick up into midfield and it appeared as though half the Bolton team relaxed. The kick chase was defeated by a couple of simple passes and the Rossendale centre waltzed through a switched-off Bolton team. An excellent last ditch tackle prevented him from scoring, but he was able to offload to the no. 8 who crashed over. There was still time for Bolton to respond, but 5 minutes later Rossendale sent a high kick into the Bolton 22. The kick should have been fielded and the Bolton team switched off and stopped running, assuming that would be the case, but the kick was spilled straight to the other Rossendale centre who ran under the posts unopposed. With the conversion Bolton were 12 points behind with time running out, but they proceeded to play the best rugby of the match. With Harry Round showing great energy at the breakdown the home team began to string some phases of possession together. First Ollie Thompson was hauled down just short of the line and then from the resulting scrum the slickest handling of the season saw the backs move the ball to the opposite corner where Zak Grundy dived over for the final action of the match.
So, ultimately another defeat for the Bolton Colts, but there is a lot of positives to be taken from the match. There was no shortage of effort and endeavour, despite having to play the entire second half a man down due to a sprinter’s injury to Joe Mackey. The defence held up well and it was only two lapses of concentration that cost the team a better result. Six years ago they would probably have got away with these lapses, but rugby is a hard sport and it will find you out unless you are fully switched on when the ball is in play.