Knutsford edged out by Linley
Knutsford entered the game in buoyant mood following back to back victories and were looking to avenge a poor performance in the previous league meeting between the sides.
The opening stages of the match were dominated by the boot, with both sides looking to gain territorial advantage. Knutsford’s ability to turn the ball over and with James kicking well Knutsford were able to keep the away side out of their 22. A lapse in concentration by the home side allowed the Linley scrum half to break down the wing and he was unlucky not to score, placing a foot in touch after rounding the Knutsford cover defence.
Linley continued to press as the first half continued but the Knutsford defence was well marshalled by stand in captain, Howard Dunkerley. Linley’s efforts were finally rewarded after 25 minutes, as they crashed over to score an unconverted try. Knutsford responded well and began to carry the ball strongly. Several powerful runs from the returning Higgins gave Knutsford the impetus they needed. Knutsford now had a footing in the game and following a break by Page, they were presented with an opportunity to reduce the score, but James pulled a 40 metre penalty to the left of the sticks.
The remainder of the first half was dominated by the forwards, however Knutsford were unlucky not to score following an excellent interchange between the forwards and the backs. Knutsford quickly moved the ball across the width of the pitch and hooker Kemp was presented with the chance to break on the outside. Unfortunately for the home side Linley were able to scramble their defence and he was dragged down 5 metres short.
Knutsford looked to continue their improvement in the second half, but fell further behind within 5 minutes of the restart. Linley scored a converted try and were now 12 points ahead. Knutsford were now having to chase the game and were beginning to take more risks. Walker, Crawford and Jones looked to get more involved and started to make significant breaks through the midfield.
The introduction of Elleray seemed to benefit the home side, with a clear increase in the tempo. Knutsford were rewarded for their endeavour on the hour mark with Walker crossing for a converted score. The try came following some strong forward work close to the Linley line presenting Walker with the smallest of gaps to step through and score and bring Knutsford within one score.
Knutsford continued to press and were able to bring on further replacements. Barnes returned from suspension to replace Fuller, who had impressed starting his first game at flanker. Former captain Walton returned following a lay off stretching back to last season and brought experience and much needed bulk to the Knutsford pack. Barnes looked desperate to impress on his return and immediately teamed up with his partner in crime, Snook, the pair began to terrorise the opposition and their determined and abrasive manner was successful in presenting Knutsford with turn over ball.
Knutsford were now in the ascendance and looked capable of winning the game. James made a superb break from within his own 22. He was able to run unimpeded to the half way line before attempting to feed Hamilton as the winger approached. The home team thought that the speedster was in to score but they were called back for a forward pass. Knutsford were becoming more frustrated by their inability to convert several decent scoring opportunities and this lead to the award of a penalty to Linley, which they converted to extended their lead to 15-7.
Knutsford now faced an up hill struggle to get a result from the game. They continued to press and with around 10 minutes remaining they were awarded a kickable penalty. Lack of experience and poor communication meant that Knutsford elected to run the ball in an attempt to score a converted try. Linley almost immediately stole the ball and Knutsford were punished for their greed.
Despite this set back, the home side pressed and with 2 minutes to go Walker stepped through two tacklers and capped of another good personal performance with his second score of the day. Elleray converted but Knutsford ran out of time and were unable to create any further opportunities as Linley retained possession and saw out the final moments.
Knutsford will look for a more clinical display next week and take the scoring opportunities they create, as they travel to Parkonians, 3pm kick off.