Chapel scythe through opposition in first post snow match showdown.
With Chapel Captain Ed Meyrick still on the injured list, Jon Griffin took over for the game, and Kristian Clowes was given his first start at scrum half for the visitors as they looked to become the first side this season to take any points from a visit to Prenton. The sides had met back in September at Station Road in a game that ended in a draw so Chapel knew they would have the work cut out all afternoon. Griffin had the worst possible start when he realised that the kit had been left in Holmes Chapel but fortunately Club Founder Brian Meyrick was on hand to save the day with the kit arriving just before kick-off!
Prenton made the better start, with a very strong kicking game allowing them to gain field position and work their way into Chapel territory. Using their big pack to good effect, the home side were determined to put early points on the board, and were only denied by some strong defence, led by Clowes and Mark Mcenaney. The pressure led to Prenton winning a penalty, which they took quickly and were only stopped close to the Chapel line.
Eventually, the ball was cleared but the visitors were unable to get out of their own half as Prenton continued to pin them back. The home side were awarded another penalty, and this time they elected to kick for goal. The attempt was successful to put the hosts 3-0 up, but they probably felt they should have been further ahead after the opening 20 minutes. Having soaked up the early pressure, Chapel began to assert themselves on the match, and started to enjoy far more possession and territory as the first half wore on.
Clowes was given his opposite number a torrid time at the base of the scrum, taking advantage of great work from the Chapel forwards and denying Prenton any clean possession. Chapel were creating chances by spreading the ball wide and nearly took the lead on a couple of occasions but the home side kept them at bay to hold onto their lead. Doug Canavan narrowly missed with 2 penalty attempts before half time, and although the score at the interval remained 3-0, Chapel were confident of turning this round in the second half.
Chapel started the second half as they had ended the first, with every player fully committed to the cause. As well as securing good possession from scrums and lineouts, the forwards were also winning the battle for the loose ball on the floor to keep up the pressure on their opponents. The breakthrough finally came, after some quick recycling gave the backs another chance to attack the Prenton line. The ball ended up in the hands of Ed O’Hare, who still had plenty of work to do but managed to beat 2 players before stretching for the line.
The try was O’Hare’s 8th of the season, and his most important score of the campaign so far. The conversion from a tight angle was unsuccessful, but the visitors had taken a deserved lead at 5-3. Chapel knew that to try and sit back and defend a narrow lead against a side like Prenton would be a huge mistake, so continued to take the game to their opposition. Coach Rick Clarke’s fitness work was paying off, as the visitors continued to get around the park in numbers. As the home side became frustrated, they were penalised for one of their forwards flying into Paul Watson at the side of a ruck, and Canavan made no mistake with the penalty to increase the lead to 8-3.
The Prenton scrum improved considerably in the final quarter of the match but Chapel continued to win quality ball from the lineout and this nearly led to a second try when Watson controlled a catch-and-drive all the way to the try-line but the referee adjudged that the ball had been held up. 2 more opportunities came from intercepted passes, but Chapel were denied by brilliant cover defence from the Prenton backs who got back to make try-saving tackles. However, the gap was widened when a Prenton forward was penalised for playing the ball in an offside position in front of the posts, and Canavan scored his second penalty to make the score 11-3.
The forwards were given fresh legs as Ollie Lawrence and Jak Baskerville joined the fray in the back row, both players making some big tackles to prevent any Prenton comeback as they desperately tried to maintain their unbeaten home record. Eventually, the final whistle blew to signal one of Chapel’s finest victories in recent seasons, and one that they will hope to build on in their quest for promotion.
Although every player in the 18 man squad played a full part in this victory, Griffin nominated big second row Jim Ainsworth as Man of the Match for a dominant and tireless performance in Chapel’s engine room. Chapel return to Station Road this Saturday for another crucial league game. Ellesmere Port are the visitors and will be looking for revenge after Chapel won there earlier in the season. Kick off is 2-15pm with all supporters welcome.
Prenton 3 – 11 Holmes Chapel
Holmes Chapel RUFC would like to thank sponsors Wymans Ltd and Hopewiser Ltd for their continued support.