Saturday 1st. October 2016
North 1 West
Blackburn 21 – 14 Wilmslow
In what was both an entertaining and evenly contested game, the last play started with the sides tied up at fourteen points each. Wilmslow were in possession in or around the Blackburn twenty two and going for the win which in the preceding ten minutes had looked a real possibility.
Unfortunately for them, the ball then went loose under the Blackburn posts and was seized upon by their fullback Leon Fifield. He could easily have just booted the ball out of play and settled for the draw. Instead he made a long mazy run out of defence down the right touchline, catching the Wolves defence off its guard and when he was eventually brought down on the Wolves twenty two, the ball was quickly recycled and with men over Blackburn hooker Ed Sinclair took the final pass for the winning score.
It was a great outcome for the much improved home side but equally disappointing for Wilmslow. The Wolves pack had put in a potent hard working shift, front row, second row and back row alike with the two Toms, Williams and Bull standing out. They won at least as much first phase possession as the home side, probably a bit more, and ensured that much of the game took place in Blackburn territory. An inability though to make all the pressure count by taking their opportunities and a tendency to cough up the ball in promising situations was to cost them dearly.
What this current Wolves side needs more than anything is 'patience' to retain control of the ball in attacking situations until the gaps start to appear rather than trying dinky little offloads in tight situations which don't come off. The pragmatic approach, of course, is not as exciting or satisfying but would probably pay better dividends for this particular Wilmslow outfit.
Indeed, the first Blackburn try had its origins in a hasty Wilmslow knock on at an attacking breakdown on the 'burn twenty two. It was particularly annoying as just after Fifield had kicked the second of two penalties in the first fifteen minutes, Bob MacCallum's restart had been perfectly judged for his forwards to mess the 'burn catchers, to steal the ball and to set up several phases of promising looking play. 'Burn took full advantage of the turnover when centre Joe Lord bounced off a tackle in midfield to put his right winger Rob Melling away at the end of the first quarter.
In the next quarter, the Wilmslow pack created ample opportunities to reduce the deficit. Alex Taylor was held up after a typical drive to the line by him and then on half time the Wolves scrum pushed 'burn off the ball and earned a penalty for a five metres lineout. Williams took the ball and when the drive stalled, MacCallum fed Sam Cutts coming in off his wing and he in turn fed Ben Day, playing in the centre, who held off the defence to score. 11-7 at half time meant that there was everything to play for.
Just when the Wolves needed to take a grip at the start of the second half, they lost a lineout and missed a couple of tackles in midfield which immediately put them on the back foot. Fifield soon kicked his third penalty. Burn with that little bit of extra pace in their backs soon created another opportunity on the left only to be denied by a fine corner flagging covering tackle by Williams.
The Wilmslow lineout was still flaky but the pack had the upper hand recovering possession several times at the breakdowns as play in the last quarter moved mainly into the 'burn half of the field. A MacCallum penalty to the corner set up a catch and drive from which flanker Bull broke off to power his way for the Wolves second try. MacCallum duly goaled with a fine kick from close to the touchline.
The Wolves clearly scented that there could yet be something in this game for them and set about looking for the winner but it was not to be. Coach Rick Jones knows that this side is still making too many unforced errors. True but it was a still a better showing than what had been served up the week before.
Photo: Wilmslow drive towards the Blackburn line.
Match report by David Pike.