BURTONWOOD travelled up the M6 motorway to take on the challenge of divisional rivals Wigan Bulldogs at Wigan Soccerdome.
Following on from the close fought victory for Bridge when Bulldogs visited Fir Tree Lane earlier in the season, the boys knew that they was going to be in store for a really tough battle against the rugged Wigan based club.
Bridge started the game slowly with what has to be said a ‘heads back in the sheds attitude’, which brought its own rewards for Wigan, when after five minutes their left winger went in at the corner after they had outnumbered the Burtonwood right edge defence.
This appeared to kick start a reaction from the Black and Greens. The forwards started to run strong lines, half backs started to communicate, and probe for attacking opportunities, within the Bulldogs defensive line.
Then sure enough, following some great quick play the balls by Alex Newton, James Innes, and Almer Salvilla, half back Mike Rafferty raced at the opposition A & B defenders to find right second row Rikki St. Pier crashing through the next hole.
Club Captain, St. Pier, used his extra yard of pace to pull clear of the Bulldogs forwards, then as the full back moved in on him, he appeared to defy gravity as his trapeze artist like balance, and co-ordination saw him step around the Wigan number 1 as if was a professional dancer on Strictly Come Dancing. Greg Peters converted to take Burtonwood into a 6–4 lead.
Wigan Bulldogs are made of tough stuff, and their dexterity and endeavour brought them success as the game approached the half time break.
Their stand off kicked the ball down field, an enthusiastic chase from his team mates supported the number six’s work, and with the pressure bearing down on young 16 year old Jack Graham, a solid tackle jolted the ball out of the collision and the Bulldogs were the first to pounce on the loose ball, to take them into a 8-4 lead on the half time whistle.
The Burtonwood group’s disappointment in their performance was blatantly obvious during the opening discussion of the break.
The question on many players lips, “How many times did we get to kick?” was a clear indicator for the teams poor completion rate.
This alongside a concerted effort to start playing much more football in the Bulldogs territory was going to be needed if Bridge were going to be putting themselves in a position to attain some success out of the match.
As the second half commenced the final words of coach Cunningham’s words of wisdom from the break was ringing in the players ears, “Composure, patience, and next play focus will keep things positive for us” well they were to be really tested as from the kick off Mike Rafferty unfortunately allowed the ball to get away from him, and knocked on just in front of the posts.
The boys stayed strong though and defended the next set manfully culminating in forcing the Bulldogs into a ball handling error of their own. This allowed Burtonwood to clear their own lines, and set a platform from which they would proceed with the rest of the match.
Positional swaps within the squad allowed Bridge to score the next points as the starting left centre Craig Holcroft, scored his fourth try in two games, popping up on the right edge and using his magical footwork and freaky strength to brush aside the Bulldog defenders dragging Burtonwood into a 12–8 lead with Greg Peters converting again.
Bridge had the final word of the day too, taking the game beyond reach for the hapless Wigan outfit. Bridge achieved a repeat set, perhaps the fourth, or fifth of the half, and prop forward James Innes ramped up to the Bulldogs posts. A quick play the ball, gave the boys opportunity to shift the ball to the left edge against the retreating Bulldog defenders, as the ball arrived in left second rower Almer Salvilla’s arms a cute off load got the ball moving through the hands of the pivot group again, to attack the right edge. Paratrooper Jake Boardman, was found in a chasm of space, and it was to prove an opportunity that the former Burtonwood Bulldog was only too happy to snatch, as he cruised in to take Bridge into an unassailable 16 points to 4 lead.
Best for Burtonwood were prop forward Alex Newton, skipper Rikki St. Pier, James Innes, and the super composed 16 year old Jack Graham.
Burtonwood v Wigan Bulldogs
1. Jake Boardman 21 (former Burtonwood Bulldogs)
2. Jack Graham 16 (Current Burtonwood Bulldogs)
3. Tom Beech
4. Craig Holcroft 23 (Current Burtonwood Bulldogs)
5. Mike Ryder 21
6. Mike Rafferty 23 (former Burtonwood Bulldogs)
7. Jos Blackburn Woods 24 (former Burtonwood Bulldogs)
8. Scott Birchwood 24
9. Greg Peters 32
10. James Innes 27
11. Almer Salvilla 21 (former Burtonwood Bulldogs)
12. Rikki St. Pier 28 (C)
13. Dan Hart 28
14. Tommy Rowlinson 20 (former Burtonwood Bulldogs)
15. Matty Wynne 20 (former Burtonwood Bulldogs)
16. Alex Newton 21 (former Burtonwood Bulldogs)
Following the game head coach, Lee Cunningham, said: “Well that was quite a test of our young players ability to ride their way through rough spots in the games, show a little bit gumption, and pull through the other side to attain a hard fought, well earned victory.
“However, the boys themselves know that they didnt get out of second gear, thus our performance over the 80 minutes has a boat load of room for improvement.
“This, though, can only be attained by the playing group showing a team first attitude over this next three week period at training, whilst we don’t have any fixtures.
“I really feel that this period can be that important to us, it can be a period of time that will dictate whether we group up, improve and achieve success this season, or we can be ‘me first’ in our thinking, and underachieve as individuals.
“The behaviours, and decisions made will testify how much the players want success, and how much hard work they are willing to put in, in order to achieve it”.
The next game for the division 3 league leaders, is in 3 weeks time on July 1st, when they welcome Fitton Hill Bulldogs to Fir Tree Lane.
Training is Tuesday & Thursday 7pm at the Fir Tree Lane pitches in Burtonwood.
All are welcome to attend, new or experienced players, to become part of our #1club1vision family.
Volunteers are also welcomed to help the running of the team, from kit duties to coaching, there is a role for you that will make you feel part of our wonderful, inclusive environment.