Saturday 3rd. September 2016
North 1 West
Wilmslow 16 – 8 Eccles
Wilmslow duly started their league campaign with a win taking four out of the five points available in a game that won't linger long in anyone's memory.
Played in driving rain for the whole of the first half, it was a worse than scrappy affair between two undercooked Level 6 sides. Many of the players were just back from holidays, there were those making their debuts, new combinations to get used to on the pitch and a failure by both sides to adapt to the conditions. It was a litany of dropped and misdirected passes, wrong options and poor tactics. True, the ball was very wet but too often players exasperated the situation by not watching it carefully enough into their hands.
Wilmslow, for example, went through a twenty minute spell in the first period penned back in their own half of the field despite winning ample good quality possession from the front five in a dominant scrum and lineout. Hooker, Tommy Wilkinson was meticulous in polishing and drying the ball before throwing in at the lineout and no doubt this helped Adam Hewitt in particular to make a series of fine catches but it only had to leave the confines of his safe hands for everyone else to squirt it from their grasp out as if it was a bar of slippery soap. A good thump of the ball downfield was clearly needed but instead the Wolves indulged in the kind of over elaborate moves you would expect on a dry late summer or spring day but not on one like last Saturday.
The young referee, Mr Jack Le Feuvre, had no option but to be busy with his whistle, however, his zealous application of the laws prevented play from developing in those marginal circumstances, when he might have just waved play on. Whatever else was happening, there was no animosity between the teams so a bit more empathy with the players might have improved the experience for them and spectators alike.
There were only two passages of play of any note in the first half. A fine break by Wolves centre James Coulturst on the quarter hour came to nought when he opted to go inside in the Eccles twenty two rather than to release an unmarked Ben Day on his outside. Coulthurst was hauled down two yards short of the line and the Wolves promptly got penalised and driven backwards for a technical offence in the ensuing play. On twenty minutes, Eccles scrum half Tom Waring burst through a huge gap on half way after gathering the ball at the breakdown. He looked to have the gas to go the whole way but instead looked around for support and got brought down from behind. The only scores at half time were a penalty apiece from Bob MacCallum for Wilmslow and George Oakey for the visitors.
The defining moment of the game came immediately after half time. Eccles had taken Wilmslow's restart well enough and were working their way steadily down the field with a series of drives and offloads when they dropped the ball. It fell to Coulthurst who sped through the gap and scored under the posts. As the rain eased so Wilmslow's play seemed to improve but their handling still wasn't good enough to finish off any of several decent opportunities that they created. MacCallum's goal kicking though was as proficient as ever and he knocked over two chances to ease the Wolves to 16-3 with less than ten minutes still on the clock.
Eccles were then awarded a series of penalties in quick succession which enabled them to set up a decent attacking position from which in the last play of the game, they created an overlap in their back line from which centre Gareth Miller was able to score.
Eccles have been something of a bogey side for Wilmslow in recent seasons so there was satisfaction that the Wolves had managed enough to get the win but still as coach Rick Jones said afterwards; "We all realise that there's a lot still to be worked on to get us to where we want to be."
Photos: MacCallum tries to get his backs moving early on, Adam Hewitt dominates the lineout and Adam Hewitt (left), Max Harvey (centre) and Alex Taylor (right), the dream team, all former Wilmslow High School players.
Match report by David Pike.