WOOLSTON Rovers lost their unbeaten start to the NCL campaign when they suffered a narrow 32-26 defeat at Oldham St Annes in League C in an absorbing clash at Higginshaw Road.
St Annes opened the scoring in the very first minute when the ball was slipped out to second-row Sam Sykes who went over from close range. Winger Luke Skilling converted but Rovers responded fourteen minutes later when scrum-half Ryan Brown stole the ball in a one-on-one tackle and passed out to centre Wil Maudsley who found winger Karlton Bates in support to score in the right corner.
Just after the midway point of the half Rovers took the lead for the first time when hooker Adam Files found loose forward Harry Files who then moved the ball out to prop forward Josh Sudlow and he managed to slip the ball back to Adam Files who forced his way over. Full back Dom Ball converted but five minutes later a kick downfield from St Annes scrum-half Max Flanagan bounced kindly for the chasing Skilling who collected to score and then he added the conversion to put his side back in front.
Two minutes before the break Rovers bounced back again when Brown combined with Ball and second-row Dan Fearnley to create room for Maudsley to score in the right corner and give the visitors a slender 14-12 halftime advantage.
Nine minutes into the second half St Annes centre Greg Worrall found stand-off Josh Berry and his pass put centre Jack Etching over in the corner and then just before the hour mark a quick play the ball in front of the Rovers posts saw Flanagan score on the left. Skilling added the conversion to give the home side an eight-point advantage.
Rovers were in no mood to give in and shortly afterwards Files continued to punish the Oldham side as he over on the left for his second try of the afternoon. Stand-off Theo Holt converted but St Annes turned the screw with quick tries from Berry, converted by Skilling, and winger Callum Cashin to stretch the lead out to twelve points but again the resilient Rovers set up a frantic last-minute when Files put Davies over under the posts. Brown added the conversion but it proved in vain as St Annes held on for a thrilling 32-26 victory.
Best for Rovers were hooker Adam Files, second-row Cameron Davies, prop forward Ryan Hickman and substitute Tom Byrne.
After the game Rovers Head of Coaching Mal Holt said, “It was a disappointing result for us today, losing our unbeaten start. We were undone in a similar fashion to our last couple of visits; it is a small pitch and the penalty count was against us and that allowed them to kick us to death and pen us into our own half for long periods. We never gave up and were always in the game but we couldn’t get the control we wanted to pull clear when we were on top. To be fair, it was a great game of Rugby on a hot afternoon and the five changes we had to make from last week seemed to unsettle us early on but I was proud of the way we kept plugging away and we will learn from this.”
Dom Ball, Craig Middlemore, Wil Maudsley, Dan Griffiths, Karlton Bates, Theo Holt, Ryan Brown, Ryan Hickman, Adam Files, Josh Sudlow, Dan Fearnley, Cameron Davies, Harry Files.
Subs: James Jones, Tom Byrne, Rob Griffiths, Ben Moore.
Bates (15 mins), A Files (21, 64), Maudsley (38), Davies (79).
Ball 1, Holt 1, Brown 1
Rovers NCL side is once again on their travels this week when they face Wigan St Patricks in a ‘cross league’ fixture on Saturday afternoon. Kick off is 2.30pm at Harper Street Wigan and will be the first time that the two sides have faced each other in the NCL since the 2001/2002 season.
Rovers Head of Coaching Mal Holt said, “We were gutted to have lost last week at Oldham St Annes but that is history now and we need to look forward now. We will reload and get ready for what will be another test of our character against a side who normally ply their trade in the Premier Division. It is a game that we are really looking forward to and I am confidant that we will go there and give a great account of ourselves. We should have four or five lads back who missed last week plus there were several impressive performances from lads in our NWML side on Saturday and they will be pushing for selection.”
Rovers ‘A’ will be hoping to build on their excellent win over Culcheth Eagles last Saturday when they entertain Rochdale Mayfield ‘A’ in the NWML Division Three. Kick off is 2.30pm at The Limestone Construction Field, Monks Sports Club, Hillock Lane, Woolston.
Rovers ‘A’ Coach Liam Lawton said, “We are off the mark now so confidence is really high and we will be attempting to get another victory under our belt against Mayfield ‘A’ but for us to achieve that we will need to perform like we did last week. The lads are a really tight-knit bunch and they are enjoying being back playing so hopefully we can take that into this game and get the right result.”
If you would like to be involved at Rovers in any capacity, please contact Club Secretary Nikki Whalley on 07889 170895, e-mail email@example.com or log on to the club website at www.pitchero.com/clubs/woolstonroversrlfc/ for further details