Saturday 17th. November 2018
Northern Premier League
Wirral 52 – 5 Wilmslow
There wasn't anything to be cheerful about if you were a Wilmslow player or supporter at Wirral's Clatterbridge ground last Saturday. At least five automatic choices, MaCallum, the Kennedy brothers, Coulturst and Ayrey were missing from a makeshift side. Consequently the gulf in class, technique, skills and execution at both the breakdown and in open play was soon exposed. When Wirral had possession of the ball, rugby looked an easy game to play. When it was Wilmslow's turn it suddenly became very difficult. Whilst Wirral's players were able to attack from any part of the field if the circumstances were right and to cross the gain line almost at will, the opposite applied to Wilmslow.
Once again, the Wolves' pack secured a reasonable amount of first phase possession from the set piece and lineout but the side as a whole were just unable to make much of it. There were few line breaks and it was only a matter of time before they coughed up the ball at either the breakdown or in open play. The game at this level is just harder, faster, more accurate and played by fitter quicker thinking players than most of Wilmslow's team have ever come across before. The challenge is to improve their performance level to the extent that matches become a real contest for the full eighty minutes, instead of just the opening quarter. Even that may not be enough but at least it will help to restore some confidence.
To add to the Wolves' discomfort on a bright cloudless day, they had to face a stiff wintery breeze coming in from the East in the first half. When Wirral decided to hoist the high ball deep into Wilmslow's territory, it was with the knowledge that their opponents would either have to run it out of defence or make just a few yards headway if they kicked the ball away. A case of being caught between a rock and a hard place! In the second half, of course, the breeze seemed to die down. When your luck is out.
Wirral scored six tries in the first half and were thirty points to the good by the half hour. The first came after just five minutes when the Wolves were penalised at the breakdown on about half way for holding on because the Wirral defenders were quicker to it. A quick tap and go from scrum half Crowley broke the defensive line and with plenty of runners in support, the try was inevitable. It's a feature of play in this league that there are always players running off the ball to take a pass. A long kick up to Wilmslow's line then set up an attacking lineout in the twenty two and although the Wolves got the ball back they were soon turned over and with men over on the left Wirral's second try was scored in the corner. Just ten minutes had been played.
Four more tries followed in a ten minute spell from around the start of the second quarter. The first two had their origins in Wilmslow being unable to clear their lines against the breeze, the third from a turnover at the breakdown and the fourth when Wilmslow lost the ball in the tackle for it to be seized upon in mid field. There was a brief counter by the Wolves in the last five minutes of the half but a final scoring pass was intercepted and then they dropped the ball as they attempted to drive over from close range.
Wirral's seventh try came shortly after the break, when a long Wilmslow kick ahead was fielded on the Wirral line by their left winger, who side stepped Wilmslow's chaser and crisp passing the length of the field took the game to the Wilmslow line where after several phases, they created the space and extra man to score. After that it became more of a contest, if you can call it that when you're forty five points behind. The Wolves though just didn't have the same fluency in their play and it took a score from a close in pile up by substitute Mellor to get them onto the scoreboard. They then had sufficient possession and territory in the final quarter to have added to this but the accuracy and wherewithal to finish anything off in the face of a resolute Wirral defence just wasn't there. Almost inevitably, Wirral had the final word with a try on the right wing and they were on the attack again when proceedings were brought to a close.
Outclassed and outplayed, you just have to shrug your shoulders, learn the lessons, take the pain, move on and work hard until your luck changes as it will one day. Nothing is forever!
Photo: Scrum Half Sean Street.
Match report by David Pike.