Saturday 24th. March 2018
North 1 West
Wilmslow 29 – 33 Burnage
In the end, this was another game that could have gone either way. Wilmslow had their chances right up to the last play of the game but when that broke down, they were left to pay the price for a sloppy performance, which included too many tackles missed in mid field, too many promising positions lost in the lineout, too many handling and passing errors and too many penalties against them for offences at the breakdown, side entry, sealing off the ball, holding on and so on.
Throughout, Burnage were always the more clinical and accurate of the two sides and although it finished five tries apiece, the sides separated only by George Oakey's superior goal kicking for Burnage, you couldn't argue that they didn't deserve to come away with the spoils. They received four yellow cards for a variety of offences, amounting to forty minutes with only fourteen players on the field, during which most of Wilmslow's points were scored, and yet they still prevailed. Four of their tries were scored by their potent backs and the other by prop Hassan Ben Ahmed, who at one stage played at Wilmslow. In contrast, four of Wilmslow's tries came from their forwards and the last one was a penalty try. If you concluded that it was the rapier versus the bludgeon with the rapier finishing on top you wouldn't be far off the mark.
Burnage's opening score came after just seven minutes play and thereafter they were never behind on the scoreboard. Wilmslow carelessly coughed up possession in midfield and when the visitors grabbed the loose ball, they found they had men over and plenty of space to exploit on the clubhouse side of the pitch. An interchange of passing produced an easy run in for centre Stuart Oldham. Five minutes later, their fly half, the former Eccles man, George Oakey ghosted through a non existent defence and even though Wilmslow's James Coulthurst got back and across to make a powerful tackle, Burnage still had men over as their other centre Joe Wrigley touched down unopposed.
Referee Handa from Northumberland then found cause to penalise Burnage half a dozen times in quick succession for breakdown offences. Even then with several lineouts in catch and drive positions, the Wolves couldn't make anything of them until at the third attempt second row Tom Bull tidied up a loose ball and powered himself over after twenty minutes for the Wolves opening score. It was now apparent that the Wolves forwards, not their backs, were the greater threat to Burnage, who continued to be punished at the breakdown. Another attacking position saw the Wolves drive to the Burnage line where Robert Taylor got the touchdown to claw it back to twelve points apiece.
Before half time though, the Wolves too became the target of Mr. Handa's whistle at the breakdown, enabling Oakey to set up a catch and drive from which Ben Ahmed was accredited with the score. Immediately after half time, the Wolves back line got itself into a defensive muddle, which enabled Burnage full back Chris Kornecki to waltz over for 12-26.
Wilmslow were soon back in the 'Fitism' corner to foul up another lineout opportunity but they managed to retain untidy possession and after several thrusts across the field, belligerent flanker Adam Hewitt barged in for the try.
This was followed by Burnage No. 8 Ralph Lawson seeing clear water, as it were, to draw the defence and put his left winger Robbie Wilson in for Burnage's fifth.
The Wolves were now three scores behind but still had most of the final quarter to make a contest of it and again it was that man Bull who powered over to finish off a good forward drive. The Wolves pack though now had its dander up only to be denied three times when Burnage were penalised at the set piece on their line. A lineout followed and this time the drive was good but it was illegally pulled down and a penalty try was awarded. Time was now running out, the last play was underway and the Wolves pick and drive tactics were making steady progress towards the Burnage line, when they got penalised at the breakdown for what the referee said afterwards was side entry. Oakey kicked it out of play and that was that.
Overall play had been stopped for thirty penalties, more or less equally divided, which is a lot and didn't really help either side much. Rick Jones was clearly frustrated by some of the Wolves play but also commended a handful of players, Tom Bull, Alex Taylor, Sean Street and Will Maslen for their contributions. There was also a promising cameo from young George Witham when he came on in the back line during the final quarter. "If only we had played as we did in the last quarter throughout the game", said Jones.
Match report by David Pike.
Photo: Flanker Adam Hewitt. Photo by Nick Jones.