Anselmians 17 Douglas 43
By The Saint
A familiar story.
It may be that Isle of Man players accept that, once a fortnight, they will fly to the mainland to play, but they should surely be asked to do so twice on the same day. The kick-off was delayed because Douglas couldn’t land at windy Manchester and had to return to the island, wait on the tarmac for clearance and try again. When they arrived at Rivacre Road the referee gave them fifteen minutes to prepare.
Not an ideal start for the visitors and Anselmians took full advantage in the initial exchanges with Ben Sadler carving a line to score to the left of the posts. Liam Isaacs, not at scrum-half slotted the conversion and Anselmians, for the first time in a long time, led in a first half. Saints’ makeshift team because of injury and unavailability, surprised themselves.
On what used to be called “a good drying day”, passing and kicking were going to be difficult, and so it proved. Anselmians’ initial enthusiasm was met by a side slowly shaking off their journey. Douglas, busy and opting for short passes between forwards and backs, posed questions for the home defence. A long kick by veteran centre Mark PETTERSON relieved the pressure but Douglas’ tactic of tapping short penalties and close support was gaining them territory. A neat exchange in the midfield, one missed tackle and mobile prop, Harry Raven crossed. The extras were missed by full-back, Max Morley-Green and, after 25 minutes Saints led 7-5.
Douglas, with abundant possession, kept the passes short and , with their mobile pack in attendance, engineered a neat switch in the centre and fed prop Ralph Clark to score near the post,. This time Morley-Green goaled and Douglas held a deserved lead, 12-7, after half an hour.
Not for the first time this season, Anselmians’ problems stem from a lack of retention of the ball and a slow reaction to quick-fire passing. A rare visit to the Douglas half saw Douglas penalised for a high tackle on restored stand-off, Andy Cummings and Isaacs made no mistake. 10-12.
Douglas reacted by some neat support work and, aided by another missed tackle, man of the match, Raven, skipped over to score his second try. The conversion was missed. Immediately, Douglas scored again releasing winger Adam Boyd who scored wide out on the right to give the visitors a bonus point. Again the conversion was missed. At 10-12, Anselmians would gone into half-time reasonably satisfied, given their lack of possession but, at 10-22, it would be hard work after the break.
Anselmians began the second half brightly but soon the problems of the first half emerged. Close inter-passing and another missed tackle allowed Morley-Green to score under the posts and with the extras neatly goaled, the game was over as a contest within five minutes of the restart at 10-29.
Douglas’ prompt support had forced Saints’ to defend but the relentless nature of the visitors’ play meant the strain would overcome the defence. Spreading the ball left and right, Douglas worked a gap for flanker Mike Dunnet to score unopposed and with Morley-Green adding the extras, Douglas stretched their lead to 10-36.
On the hour, spectators mused whether it would be a repeat of the 50+ defeat in the island last November, but a couple of Saints’ penalties allowed field position and, after good work from the forwards, skipper Nick HEARN bundle over to score. Isaacs converted to open Anselmians.’ second half account, 17-36.
Douglas came back at once and substitute stand-off, Bryn Snellgrove scored close in and Morley-Green had a simple conversion to stretch the lead to 17-43.
Anselmians’ never gave up, but, not for the first time, naïve defence and lack of a cutting edge, cost them dear. This a game and energetic group of players who will be better players for their experience in North One West.