Saturday 14th. November 2015
North 1 West
Wilmslow 46 – 7 Carlisle
For the first forty minutes of this match, it was as though the Wolves were feasting on a rich diet of sublime rugby as they totally dominated the game to score six tries and lead by 41-0 at half time. And then, just as abruptly, the feast ended, their hunger seemed sated and in the second period the only reminder of what had just passed was a well crafted seventh try.
Their play became increasingly undistinguished in the face of a modest Carlisle renaissance. The Wolves first half efforts, however, had put the game virtually out of sight and with two other leadership contenders, Warrington and Kirkby Lonsdale, finishing their game in a stalemate 12-12 draw, Wilmslow went to the top of North 1 West for the first time, since promotion to this league eight years ago. They now have the three fixtures, which will define their season, in succession, away next week at Penrith, back home the week after against Kendal and then off to Kirkby Lonsdale.
It was the most 'dreich' of autumn days at the Memorial ground and the rain never stopped as the fringes of storm Abigail passed overhead. Wilmslow's new floodlights were on from the outset, towering over everything on their huge steel uprights, glistening in the 'gloaming'. Without them the match may never have been completed. Kick off had to be delayed for fifteen minutes as the Carlisle team were caught up in a broken down coach on the M6. It hardly helped their cause and preparation that on arrival at Wilmslow their pre match drills were sharply curtailed.
The first ten minutes of exchanges between the two sides gave no hint of what was to follow but then the Wolves began to bite and totally dominated the next half hour in a display of rugby which was as near faultless as it's ever likely to be. Carlisle just had no answer to the Wolves play in set pieces, lineouts, breakdowns, passing, handling and running, all in miserable conditions.
The opening try came when a Carlisle clearing kick went to Ollie McCall, playing at full back, who broke out of an attempted tackle, and then enabled the ball to be recycled along the line to Legin Hotham. He put in a perfect little kick ahead behind the defence for Ed Stobart to run onto and score. Barely five minutes later, the Wolves took a Carlisle throw at the lineout and as the ball went down the Wilmslow line, Sam Cutts came in off his wing and seared through the centre of the Carlisle defence. He passed to right winger Harry Patch, who was tackled just short but two quick offloads had McCall running in under the posts. In both its conception and execution, it must be a candidate for the try of the season. Seven minutes on, the Wolves were again pounding at the visitor's line. Almost inevitably, the Carlisle defence infringed and referee Lewis Harrison, instead of allowing any advantage, awarded the Wolves a penalty which Bob MacCallum duly took for 15-0.
From the restart, the Wolves forced their way back to the Carlisle twenty two, where they won a scrum, Cutts came in off his wing again and raced through for his first try of the proceedings. For once the Wolves were taking the restarts cleanly and this time as they ran out of their twenty two, Hotham spotted a gap and then another gap. The young Kiwi needed no further invitation as he outstripped everyone, even having time to look over his shoulder to see what was behind him, for try number four. Their next foray in Carlisle territory soon produced clean lineout ball and simple phase one passing, which put Cutts away for his second try. In the next phase of play, two Carlisle players got in each other's way, attempting to field MacCallum's kick upfield. Almost inevitably the ball was knocked on, the Wolves had a scrum and then another scrum on the Carlisle line from which a push over try seemed inevitable, until a Carlisle player intervened illegally, leaving referee Harrison with no option but to award a penalty try and that was it, 41-0 at half time.
There was a marked resurgence in the visitor's play immediately after half time as they attempted to take the game to Wilmslow but ten minutes into the period, the Wolves opted for a scrum from a penalty decision in front of the Carlisle posts and spun it left to Cutts, who tore down his wing to complete his hat trick of tries.
The match was clearly won and Wolves coach Richard Jones, with next week's contest now looming in his mind, started to make changes to rest key players and to give his bench a decent half hour to show what they could do. Unfortunately it just further disrupted the Wolves' rhythm, which was already showing signs of losing its potency, and coupled with an ever increasing penalty count against them, they found themselves without much possession. In the first period the Wolves had benefited from an 8 – 1 penalty count in their favour but in the second half it was 11-1 for Carlisle. The Wolves began to fall off and miss tackles and the changes to the front row saw the scrum going into retreat. Carlisle smelt an opportunity, they broke at least three times in the closing minutes through centre Dan Homes and prop Tom Graham, for at least a consolation, which came right at the end in the form of a penalty try.
Elsewhere, the Vikings, Wilmslow's second string, cemented their position at the top of their league with a resounding win against Altrincham Kersal Cougars. At least, half the Vikings side are proven first team players so Jones for once finds himself spoilt for choice. And he'll need it as the Wolves now become the side to beat in the league this winter.
Photo: Off we go again, MacCallum has Hotham and Stobart outside him and R Taylor ready for the short ball.
Match report by David Pike.