Saints Well On Top But Failed to Dominate the Scoreboard
Mistakes Cost The Bonus Point Which We Should Have Secured - Report by Geoff Smith
Hoylake arrived at Malone field for this local derby looking to avenge a 24 -7 defeat from earlier in the season. The pitch was showing the effects of recent heavy rains making it difficult underfoot and the game commenced in a steady drizzle. Hoylake played down the slope in the first half and some sensible kicking ensured that the early part of the game was played in the Anselmians half. However the conditions meant that there was a lot of handling errors with neither side producing any moves of note. On 20 mins Anselmians began to move the ball with more fluency and with the first try of the match beckoning an Anselmians knock on gave Hoylake a scrum from which they were awarded a penalty and the resulting kick meant the game moved back to the Anselmians 22. Hoylake won possession from the lineout and then were awarded another penalty on the Anselmians 22 just to the right of the posts. The kick was missed.
Anselmians appeared to be gaining the upper hand and on 35 minutes Anselmians pressure earned them a penalty which Taylor kicked to give Anselmians a 3 nil lead. However with only three minutes to go in the first half, following a Hoylake scrum, the referee appeared to signal a Hoylake knock on but then allowed play to continue. Hoylake made the most of the confusion and moved the ball out to the right for their blind side Smith to go over in the corner. The conversion was missed and from the restart Anselmians won a penalty 30 yards from the Hoylake posts. Taylor put his kick just wide so at half time the score was 3 – 5 to Hoylake.
During the break Niall Cavanagh returned to the game in the back row replacing Josh Jones and he made an immediate impact. Anselmians kicked off and regained possession on the Hoylake 22. The ball was moved quickly across to the right wing for Cavanagh to break through two tackles and go over in the corner. The conversion was missed but Anselmians now had the lead 8 – 5. Anselmians were now in the ascendancy and on 45 mins another good back move involving Taylor and Bramhall saw Hough put free on the left and his run from inside his own half saw him tackled into touch ten yards from the Hoylake line.
However Hoylake, playing with a determination and spirit that belies their league position, forced themselves back into the game with their forwards in particular coming into their own. A series of driving mauls saw them carry the ball to the Anselmians 22 and earn themselves what appeared to be a very kickable penalty. However on a day when the kickers from both sides were having difficulties the kick was missed and the score remained 8 – 5. This proved to be something of a turning point as instead of being level within two minutes they went further behind. The Anselmians captain, Nick HEARN, making one of his trademark surging runs was stopped 5 metres from the Hoylake line to the left of their posts. The ball was recycled and scrum half Saddler intelligently chose to cross kick the ball to the right wing where Anselmians had unmarked men in space for Hough to gather and go over in the right corner. Again the conversion was missed making the score 13 – 5 to Anselmians on 65 minutes.
Hoylake forwards continued with their tactic of keeping the ball tight and making progress with a series of rucks and mauls driving the ball forward two or three yards at a time but perhaps they were guilty of overplaying the tactic and they may have had more success if on occasion they had released the ball to their backs, particularly when they had good field position in the Anselmian 22. As it was, although they had plenty of possession, the majority of the time with the conditions making handling difficult the moves ended in technical infringements that allowed Anselmians to regain possession and clear the danger. Upon 73 minutes the hard work of the Hoylake’s forwards earned them another kickable penalty but the kick again went wide denying Hoylake a deserved bonus point. Anselmians ran out the last seven minutes and may have added to their score but for the referee ending a promising move on the Hoylake 22 with a bizarre crossing decision when the man in front was the ball carrier. The final score 13 – 5 to Anselmians.