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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Late Wilmslow show ends Wigton home run

Wigton lost their unbeaten home record to Wilmslow in North One West, despite scoring three tries to one.

Wigton RU photo
Wigton’s Andrew Brown, left, and team-mate Will Miller

After an exciting match at Lowmoor Road the visitors snatched a 22-19 victory, scoring 13 points without reply in the last 10 minutes.

The accurate boot of Bob McCullum kept Wilmslow in the running and although Wigton looked to have secured the points when they opened up a 10-point gap, a sequence of unfortunate events created ultimate frustration for the Greens.

Tane Manihera returned to first- team action for the injured David Hanabury and from stand-off was instrumental in setting-up the first serious attack with a trade-mark chip.

But Wilmslow tidied up well and had the better of the next few minutes, keeping play in or near the Wigton 22.

The pressure finally told when referee Sandy Jackson awarded a penalty which stand-off Macullum slotted over to give the visitors an early lead.

A fluent looking Wilmslow had another chance to score when full- back Olly Wilkinson made a telling break. However, a poor pass which found the touchline brought that particular foray to an end.

Rather concerning for the home team was their tendency to get on the wrong end of the referee's whistle, mainly around the ruck area, where they struggled all afternoon to fathom out Mr Jackson's interpretations.

Wigton started to enjoy more possession as the game moved into the second quarter. Second-row Mark Deans started to become more prominent and was twice involved in a move which took play into the Wilmslow 22.

The defence gave away a penalty and Wigton's scrum half Fergus Ledingham was quick to tap and burrow his way over the line. Manihera converted.

Both teams had their moments as the half wound down, without the tryline being threatened. Manihera was just short with a penalty attempt for Wigton. Macullum, on the other hand, took his chance with a kick to produce a score of 7-6 at half time.

Gregg Smith, who had been perhaps Wigton's best player, left the field at half-time with a hamstring injury.

Wigton got on the front foot in the second half with a couple of good lineouts. Centre Richard Moffatt made a strong run, breaking into the 22, but support was unable to get on his shoulder.

Wigton's continuity was hampered by a tendency to give the ball away with misdirected passes, allowing the opposition to get back on the attack.

Another problem remained Mr Jackson's interpretation of the law, which at times was perplexing to both sides. Indeed, this was a match of well over 30 penalties, 19 of them against Wigton, nearly twice the count in previous games this season. Another ruck offence gave Macullum the chance to kick another penalty and retake the lead for the visitors.

Wigton now went through a period where they played the best rugby of the game. Quick hands from Manihera and Mark Lee sent the rampaging Mark Deans on his way into the 22, leading to a penalty for Wigton which Manihera was unable to take kick.

However, from a midfield penalty shortly afterwards, the veteran Kiwi took a quick tap. A terrific run from Wood set-up play in the Wilmslow 22.

Quick ball was generated and as the ball was transferred right, Wigton had plenty of spare men and it was Matthew Atkinson who rounded off an excellent move.

Even better was to follow. Wigton got possession from the kick off but Clark's clearance kick went straight to Macullum in midfield. However, he was tackled hard by Manihera and Will Miller, turning the ball over.

Quick hands moved the ball right where Wigton's strong running forwards were waiting. Lee outpaced a disorganised defence, making about 40 yards. He passed to Atkinson who in turn found Deans in support. There were anxious moments as it seemed as if the pass might be spilled, but a little bit of juggling by Deans saw him retain the ball and plunge over the line. Manihera added the conversion to take Wigton out to a 19-9 lead.

Wigton now had their tails up and ran back strongly from the kick off but Deans, who had really been hitting his stride, departed with a twisted ankle.

Moments later, Wigton were penalised for another ruck offence and the immaculate Macullum took the points, putting the match on a knife edge at 19-12.

Wigton were trying to close the game out with a bit of steady possession rugby, but Wilmslow hooker Max Harvey superbly anticipated an inside pass, intercepted and sprinted thirty yards to score. The conversion tied the score.

The Greens were frustrated at apparently having to settle for a draw, but disaster struck when, from a Wigton scrum, they were caught in possession, a situation which resulted in a penalty.

Macullum never looked like missing and as the ball sailed between the posts, the final whistle blew.

This was the most frustrating of experiences for Wigton. They would have hoped to have closed the game out from 19-9, but Wilmslow deserve praise for their resilience, and the excellence of their goal kicking.

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