Saturday 13th. February 2016
North 1 West
Wilmslow 12 – 17 Vale of Lune
When the great day of reckoning comes at the end of the season, then surely this match against Vale of Lune will go down in the annals as a squandered opportunity. Wilmslow had more than enough good possession and field position to have won comfortably, even against a defiant and determined Vale defence.
Back in October, Vale had conceded seven tries to Wilmslow and their side, now improving and growing in confidence, had arrived at The Memorial Ground with a plan to ensure that that particular humiliation would not be repeated. They knew what the Wolves' backs were capable of if given the time and space on the ball so they must have been practising coming up quickly and flat in training to close them down before any damage was done. That certain Wilmslow supporters on the touch line vocally thought that Vale were offside the whole game is irrelevant as the only opinion that mattered was that of referee Daniel Taylor who took a different view.
It had been a difficult week for Wilmslow coach Rick Jones to prepare his side. Bob MacCallum's forthcoming stag weekend on the ski slopes was a distraction, he could have done without and entailed selecting a new half back combination in Nick Barker at No. 9 and Andy Walker at No. 10. for the first time. Both of them are decent enough players but it was a big ask in the face of Vale's onrushing defence. A number of the players were travelling after the game to join MacCallum on the slopes so one couldn't help wondering if they were all fully focussed on the job at hand. Wilmslow is not the first rugby club to have clashes with stag weekends and marriages and most certainly won't be the last.
Wolves' Plan A is always to run and move the ball wide from the outset and if that isn't working then move on to Plan A+, which is the same thing but done faster and normally leads to a growing number of missed or misdirected or dropped passes. With a new half back hinge, doing OK but not great, play became frantic. Even at 12 – 12, the Wolves seemed to be chasing the game with Plan A+ when what was needed was some Plan B to mix things up a bit, to regain control, and to have the patience to take things on in the forwards and to build a position.
The opening Wolves score came after eight minutes when five metres from the Vale line, No. 8 Alex Taylor broke from the scrum and fed Nick Barker outside him for the simplest of scores, converted by Barker himself.
Less than ten minutes later, Vale were 7 -12 ahead, having scored two tries. Both had their origins in the failure of the Wolves to deal with the restart. On the first occasion, Wilmslow caught the ball but lost control at the breakdown, Vale were awarded a scrum, kicked to the right hand corner, won the lineout and set their backs off to the left where right winger Michael Forrest joined the line and made a long diagonal scoring run to the left hand corner. The Wolves restart then didn't go ten yards, Vale made ground from the scrum, Wilmslow got penalised for another breakdown offence and from the ensuing catch and drive, Vale hooker Dan Baines touched down.
The Wolves created some opportunities in the second quarter without finishing anything off. Sam Cutts had to go off with a blood injury to be replaced by Max Harvey on the left wing and he distinguished himself soon after by getting across to save the Wolves from conceding an interception try.
The second half got underway with Vale conceding four penalties in quick succession as they came under increasing pressure but the Wolves lineout now went awol and each time they had to go away empty handed. Ed Stobart, Harry Patch and Hone Karaka all had their moments with the Kiwi centre tying things up after 60 minutes. It was all Wolves now but play became frantic, passes went to ground, impatience all round and with ten minutes left a match winning penalty was missed.
There had always been the chance because of the Wolves loose play that Vale could pick something up on the counter and they did with five minutes left when scrum half Ben Dorrington intercepted a high looping pass and with no-one at home ran from his twenty two for the match winning score. It may have been against the run of play but the Vale had defended stoutly all afternoon, they'd kept their shape and discipline and who's to say they didn't deserve the bit of luck that eventually came their way.
Three fifteen year old Wilmslow members were selected to play for Cheshire at the fifteen age group against Yorkshire at Stockport on February 14th. The boys were Matthew Pye, Tom Crawshaw and Angus Fiennes, who scored a critical second half try in the Cheshire boys' 17-10 win.
The Under 20 International Rugby Championships will be held in Manchester in June. All the matches are being played at either the A J Bell Stadium in Salford and at the Manchester City Academy Stadium. Twelve nations are competing and each one will be hosted by a local club offering training and practice facilities etc. Wilmslow Rugby Club has been chosen to host Italy.
Photo: Harry Patch passes to Ed Stobart and (l-r) Matthew Pye, Tom Crawshaw and Angus Fiennes who were selected to play for Cheshire.
Match report by David Pike.