Holmes Chapel 1st XV through to the final!
The semi-final draw for the Cheshire Plate had paired the sides together, and with the recent weather conditions threatening to cause a fixture pile-up it was decided during the week that the result of the scheduled league match would also decide who advanced to the final.
Captain Ed Meyrick was back in the starting line-up, with regular Number 8 Mike Cottam playing at inside centre due to unavailability in that position. Chapel were grateful that prolific winger Ed O’Hare shrugged off a shoulder injury to take his place on the right wing, as they looked to continue their winning streak and progress to their first ever cup final. Chapel kicked off in front of a good sized crowd, determined to get off to a strong start against a team they only narrowly defeated earlier in the season. It was the visitors who had the first chance to take the lead through a penalty, however the kick fell short and the score remained 0-0.
This served as a reminder to Chapel that they would be in for a tough afternoon, and they began to take the game to their opponents. Winning good ball from both scrums and lineouts, the home side enjoyed a period of sustained pressure and Doug Canavan soon registered the first points of the match with a straight-forward penalty. As the game wore on, Chapel continued to look the more dangerous side and eventually crossed the whitewash through O’Hare. The forwards provided a solid platform at the scrum, which gave Jon Griffin the chance to break down the blindside.
He offloaded to Meyrick who drew 2 defenders before feeding O’Hare to dive over and complete the move. Canavan then brought the score to 10-0 with a brilliant touchline conversion. Port began to fight back, and were attempting to use their rolling maul to create a try but the Chapel pack were up to the challenge giving them no way through. The home side were reduced to 14 men after Dom Moss was sent to the sin-bin for 10 minutes but still managed to keep the visitors at bay. They reacted to this setback in superb fashion when a second try was created by quick lineout ball and some strong incisive running by the backs, giving O’Hare the opportunity to score his second try of the game and bring him to double figures for the season. This time the conversion fell short, but a 15-0 half time lead gave Chapel a great opportunity of winning the match.
Chapel were hoping to press on and score more tries, but Port were proving to be no pushovers and chances were limited in the early stages of the second half. Some firm defending was required to keep Port from narrowing the gap as the home side struggled to play with the fluency they are capable of. However, outside half Andy Fyffe began to provide better field position through some excellent kicking and this eventually resulted in Chapel’s third try.
Having set up camp near the opposition line, Port were only able to prevent a score by infringing and the Chapel forwards stayed patient through a succession of attacking lineouts. Eventually, the resistance was broken and the pack drove the Port forwards over the line for Paul Watson to ground the ball. Another terrific conversion from Canavan extended the lead and put Chapel in the clear at 22-0. Now the game was safe, Chapel began to attack at every opportunity but were denied by some good, committed defence from Port who were not about to let the home side run away with the match.
The final 10 minutes was mainly played in the Chapel half as the visitors searched for a consolation score and the fresh legs of Mark Concar, Jack Baskerville, and Mitch Lawrence proved vital in ensuring the clean sheet. The final whistle signalled the end of a tough contest and Chapel were through to the final, as well as bagging 2 vital league points in the promotion race.
Coach Rick Clarke said after the game “I’m really proud of the lads; they have worked very hard and deserved to win today. However, we haven’t won anything yet so we will be working even harder over the next few weeks to give ourselves the best possible chance for the final.”
With no 1st XV match this Saturday, Chapel will turn their attention to the RFU National Plate when Chorley visit Station Road on 6 February. Chapel won the first leg when they travelled to Lancashire in November and hold a 15-3 advantage from that game. They will need to be on their best form to complete the job and secure their place in the next round.
Holmes Chapel RUFC would like to thank Wymans Ltd and Hopewiser Ltd for their continued support.