Oldershaw held up by Holmes Chapel 1st XV
Holmes Chapel 12
Last Saturday saw Holmes Chapel 1st XV turn in a fantastic performance to become the first side in the league this season to take any points from league leaders Oldershaw. It could have been even better for Chapel as they led for the majority of the game, however they were pegged back by a strong last quarter from the home side. Late withdrawals meant that the squad was down to 16 players, but Coach Rick Clarke remained confident that his side were capable of causing an upset.
Captain Matt Bowden’s pre-match team talk had fired up the players and the early tackling set the tone for the entire match. Oldershaw were trying to use their strong runners in the pack and in the centres to punch holes in the Chapel defence, but they were finding no way through with Ian Lightfoot and Rob Tothill leading the Chapel efforts in defence. Mark Concar, again playing out of position at tighthead prop was enjoying another great game, and the Chapel scrum was securing their own ball and also disrupting the opposition’s on several occasions. The wide Oldershaw pitch suited Chapel’s style of play and as they grew in confidence, the backs started to launch some dangerous attacks and were causing the home side problems. Ed O’Hare’s tireless chasing of kicks put pressure on the Oldershaw full back and winger, leading to the league leaders being pinned back in their own 22, and giving Chapel a platform from which to attack. Regular possession from scrums and line-outs, combined with territorial advantage, gave Chapel the opportunity to take the lead.
Paddy Kennedy and Lee Cagna combined on the right hand side of the field to break through the first line of defence. The Oldershaw cover prevented Cagna from scoring but the ball was kept alive, with forwards and backs linking well, and eventually scrum half Ed Meyrick was on hand to touch the ball down for a try. Doug Canavan missed the conversion but Chapel had a 5 point lead. Oldershaw were visibly rattled by the visitors’ performance and tried to assert their authority on the game. A sustained period of pressure looked certain to lead to a try for the home team, but Chapel’s defence stepped up to the challenge and they held on to the lead. Shortly before half time, things got even better for Chapel when they scored their second try. Meyrick darted through a gap at the side of a ruck on the halfway line and avoided the attempted tacklers to score. This time, Canavan made no mistake and Chapel had stormed into a 12-0 half time lead.
Chapel knew they were in for an extremely tough 40 minutes, but were determined to give it everything to hold onto the result. Oldershaw were continuing to use their strike runners to attack the visitors, but Chapel’s first up tackling was standing up well. Oldershaw’s talented inside centre, who was being used on regular occasions was unable to gain too much ground thanks to openside flanker Jim Bowbeer’ superb defence. Oldershaw did have a chance to reduce the lead through a penalty but it fell short of the posts. Chapel were dealt a severe blow when Concar was unable to continue scrummaging due to a shoulder injury; he slotted into the back-row, with flanker Tothill joining the front row battle.
Despite his relative inexperience in that position, the Chapel scrum just about managed to remain steady for the rest of the game. Oldershaw had started to drive the ball through the forwards using rolling mauls, and this tactic was slowly paying dividends for them. Tothill and Dan Martin were managing to collapse the initial drive but the home pack were still making ground round the fringes. With twenty minutes remaining, the Chapel defence was finally breached, when the Oldershaw backs worked an overlap to allow their left wing to score. The conversion was kicked to make the score 12-7 and set up a tense final quarter. The visitors held out for a further 10 minutes but another overlap, this time on the right hand side, saw Oldershaw level the scores. However, the winger was forced to ground the ball in the corner of the pitch, which turned out to be crucial as the conversion attempt drifted wide.
Chapel were now hanging on for the draw, but the tackling remained as strong as ever. A succession of 5 metre scrums, looked certain to lead to the home side taking the lead, but the Chapel pack remained strong and when the ball was spread wide, agressive defence from Kennedy and Bowden kept Oldershaw at bay. Eventually, the final whistle signalled the end of the match, and Chapel had earned a deserved point against the strongest side in the league.
Chapel will now look to produce this level of performance on a more consistent basis in their final 6 games of the season. There is no 1st XV fixture next week, but the 2nd XV are taking on Bowdon in the Miller Homes Leagues at Station Road. Kick off is 2-15pm, all spectators welcome.