LATCHFORD Albion opened their League campaign with a professional and dominant 6-32 win in testing conditions at Wigan St Patrick’s.
In constant rain and on a heavy pitch, Albion turned in an excellent effort, with the forwards playing a crucial part in the victory.
Latchford opened the scoring in the fifth minute when prop forward Fraser Jones-Lake barged his was over from close range with Sean Boyle converting.
The second try came shortly after, following a good platform laid by the Latchford pack, a cross field kick by Boyle caused mayhem in the hosts defence and centre Michael Smith was the quickest to react and touch down in the corner.
The dismissal of Latchford centre Cain Hillen for fighting in the 29th minute threatened to give the hosts the initiative to launch a fight back but it was the visitors who ended the first half strongly and crossed again on the stroke of half time. An offload from the impressive Chris Nicholas was collected by Adam Wood who dived over to the side of the posts, Boyle’s second conversion left the half time score Wigan St Pats 0 Latchford 16
After the break Latchford soon extended their lead with a well worked try, hooker Lloyd Feather ran blind at the play the ball and the ball was shipped out wide to wing Craig Mather who raced in at the corner.
Credit must be given to St Patrick’s who never gave up and were rewarded with a converted try, but any thought of a comeback was soon extinguished when Boyle showed an outrageous dummy to cross under the posts, which he duly converted.
With time running out a good shift of play from right to left saw returning wing Stu Simm given the opportunity to score, which he did by holding off two would-be defenders and crashing over out wide. Boyle’s touchline conversion capped off a fine individual performance and a comprehensive victory for the Albion.
Aspull New Spring Lions 14 Latchford Albion Alliance 12
Latchford’s Alliance side made their debut in the NWML Division Five, and were unlucky not to come away with the points following a controversial finish to an end to end clash.
The hosts raced into an early 10-0 lead as the new Albion side were starting to find their feet. Full back Jack Ashton opened Latchford’s account when he scored a superb individual effort, leaving defenders in his wake to race under the posts from 40 yards out, with the conversion leaving the game finely in the balance, 10-6 at half time.
As with the first half, the hosts started strongly and extended their lead, but Albion were starting to make good progress and gain a foothold of the game . Led by forwards Rudi Stewart and veteran Mal Mason, the pressure inevitably told and when Darren Hill dummied his way over on 65 minutes over, the deficit was reduced to just two points with Albion in a good position to get some reward from the game.
As Latchford were continuing to test the home side’s defence, looking for a winning score, it was very unfortunate that the game was concluded some 10 minutes early. Due to a fixture clash, the pitch was to be used for a local rugby union match. This was a shame for both sides who played their part in an enthralling game, it is unsure at this stage if the final result will stand but credit must be given to all the players who played their part in a great performance on the league debut of the Alliance side.
Head coach Lee Smith said: “ Going into this season with the relegation hanging over our heads, as a club we could have taken it as a huge blow to our ambitions and long term plans. It had taken three years, but we had earned our place in the premier division and that’s why as club we decided we wouldn’t go down without a fight, however the decision process was not in our hands and we had to deal with what was in front of us.
“We recruited well last season, but we never really had the opportunity to put it all together so, with the big recruitment drive for the Alliance team for 2018, we decided we would give everyone the chance to prove their point. We started early with pre-season and, after the Christmas break, the numbers have been at a record high, including the sight of seeing 30 players doing sprints in heavy snow.
“This week we proved that the mindset is starting to develop to the level we require it to be as a squad. We put in a dominant display against tough opponents, with all the contact sessions pre-season paying dividends as we held them to one solo try.
“There were some massive efforts from everyone when we went down to 12 players, but we kept to the game plan with everyone committed to the cause.
“It was a big start for the first team and the Alliance came agonisingly close to securing a victory, which would have made it a perfect start to the season.
“We have been in constant contact recently with Jerome Guissett, who is keen to offer his invaluable experience to the club which can only benefit the players and we look forward to welcoming him down to become part of our journey.
“My only request is that everyone else steps up with us, the first team are at home this Saturday and it would be great to have a healthy attendance for our opening home game to allow us to create a real statement of intent. “
The first team host Walney Central at the ASICS Victoria Park Arena, whilst the Alliance side make the short journey to local rivals Rylands Sharks. Both games kick off at 2.30pm