Friday, 27 November 2015

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Gallant effort from relegated Aspatria

Aspatria 14 Rochdale 17: Aspatria played this North One West game as if their lives depended on the result but still went under to a well-drilled Rochdale outfit.

Mike Fagan photo
Mike Fagan

The Black Reds are already relegated but they shrugged off any dark thoughts to produce a performance that lifted spirits at Bower Park on a day when a £50,000 investment was announced to provide professional match standard floodlighting at the ground.

The game commenced at a frenetic pace with neither team seemingly noticing the blistering heat that had shirt sleeved spectators seeking cooling refreshments on a regular basis.

Rochdale were first to make a mark as they regained the ball straight from the kick-off and immediately threatened the home line.

With only a minute on the clock Aspatria conceded a penalty for a high tackle in mid field and seemingly were about to gift three points to their opponents as the referee raised an arm straight in front of the posts.

The kick was missed and many Aspatria supporters might have thought their luck had changed. They were to be proved wrong but would have to wait until the last minute of the game for the evidence.

The penalty miss was a bonus for Aspatria but it only seemed to intensify Rochdale’s efforts to be first on the score sheet. During this period every Black Red shirt was required to repel attacks down both flanks.

The back-row duo of Walter Cloete and Tom Lindsay both had double figure tackle counts as the onslaught continued.

On seven minutes the mood changed as Aspatria at last got their hands on the ball in their own 22. Stand-off Jack Clegg moved the ball wide and as Rochdale expected a clearing kick the Aspatria backline saw their opportunity to launch a surprise attack.

The ploy worked well as they took the ball into enemy territory before releasing winger Lee Holliday who rounded the defence to go in under the posts. Clegg converted.

The Aspatria score was against the run of play and did not dent Rochdale’s belief as they simply returned to the offensive.

Only poor handling near the Aspatria line thwarted the visitor’s ambitions, although some kamikaze tackling from Cloete also dented more than pride.

Apart from the try scored Aspatria had not yet produced any evidence that they could win this game. This was about to change on the 15 minute mark when at last they moved with purpose into enemy territory.

The catalyst for the change was Clegg who broke through the Rochdale defence to give his backline every opportunity of a score. This time it was a handling error from Aspatria that thwarted the score but there was now a growing confidence evident in the home side’s play.

Rochdale remained dangerous in possession but Aspatria were slowly turning the screw and the game was being played in the visitor’s half. Aspatria were controlling their own ball in the set pieces and the second row pairing of Mark Bowe and Dave Preston were causing Rochdale problems in the line-out.

On 30 minutes Aspatria finally achieved some reward. This was a trade mark score from full back Lee Tinnion who joined the line 15 metres from the line and was unstoppable as he charged under the posts with Clegg adding the extras.

The lead should have been increased as the half drew to a close. Down opposite flanks both wingers were within inches of adding to the score line. First Holliday was stopped inches short of a touch down by an excellent cover tackle and moments later Lee Burns on the right had a score disallowed for touching the line as he raced in.

In terms of possession and field position Rochdale dominated the second half. The visitors visibly intensified their efforts as they penned Aspatria back against the try line.

On 52 minutes Aspatria’s defence cracked for the first time. Rochdale’s pack cleverly sucked in defenders, leaving the flanks exposed. It was a relatively easy job for centre Tom Andrews to go over in the corner. Bradwell’s touchline conversion brought the score to 14-7 and in the process gave Rochdale every hope of a positive result.

As the game moved into the final quarter Aspatria still held the advantage on the scoreboard, if not on the field. On 62 minutes the lead was further eroded by a penalty as Aspatria’s defensive discipline started to waiver.

Aspatria were about to pay a heavy price for an inability to secure possession. With 70 minutes gone Rochdale took the lead for the first time through a fluent back line move finished off by winger Olly Coldman.

The lead seemed to weigh heavy on Rochdale and they immediately let Aspatria come back into the game. For the first time in the second period the home side were able to retain possession for multi phases and from this spring attacks at Rochdale’s retreating defence.

On the 78 minute mark Aspatria’s renewed offence gained them a penalty in front of the posts. The kick would give them a well deserved draw.

To the acclaim of the home supporters the Black Reds decided to go for all out victory and ran the ball. Aspatria’s pack was inches short of a score for what seemed an age when finally Dave Preston burst over the line to claim a touch down.

Was luck mentioned earlier? Under the mass of bodies the referee could not be sure the ball had been grounded and declined to award what for Aspatria would have been the winning score.

Excepting a victory Aspatria can have no regrets regarding decisions taken on the day. They proved to themselves and their supporters that this squad of players are capable of a promotion push in the next campaign and that is the message that all at Bower Park wanted to hear.



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Yes - great chance to bag a bargain

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