On a day that started out with such hope, a stark reminder of how far Bolton need to come to compete at this level was laid down by a well drilled and relentless Didsbury Toc H team. The game was a double header of both cup semi final and league fixture, with the original cup semi final from November delayed.
Bolton kicked to Toc H with the sun in their eyes, little did we know it would be more akin to a deer in headlights. The initial action from the kick off should have warned of things to come, with the Toc H player breaking two tackles and carrying beyond half way before being eventually brought down. From here, Bolton decided to actually get into the game and there followed 20 minutes of solid defence and some incisive attacking play, which can give the team some confidence going forward. New recruit Travis Hudson showed some classy touches from fullback and made a number of important last ditch tackles. Returning player Connor Orrell picked up where he left off with strong running and dominant tackling.
Unfortunately during this period, Toc H ran in a couple of tries through a good set piece move and some classy offloads. In response, Bolton spent 10 minutes camped on the home team's line, multiple penalties and an eventual yellow card still couldn't yield a score and a held up call from a pick and go spelled the end of the attack. From the drop out, a flowing move was stopped by the final pass being overrun.
The Toc H 10 controlled the game brilliantly and pulled all of the strings throughout, and this continued to be the case as time after time he picked holes in the valiant but tiring Bolton defence. With tackles not sticking and Toc H playing a good offloading game, all Bolton could do is try and stem the flow of continuous tries.
After half time, there was a brief spell where Jack Robinson took a quick tap to take advantage and run 60 metres to almost score before being tackled by the cover. Bolton finally sniffed a chance to capitalise and, with strong running from debutant Charlie Mee, managed to get over the line. A consistent theme of the second half, and the whole game, was Bolton making one or two strong drives and then either failing to keep hold of the ball or being turned over.
A further score came from some strong pressure by Bolton and stringing multiple phases together. Between these brighter moments, Toc H continued to run in tries mostly through the nimble hands and boot of their 10.
A lot needs to be worked on by Bolton, although the set piece functioned well throughout. Next up is Broughton Park at the Theatre of Trees, Avenue Street.