Rossendale 8, Wirral 14

Wirral pack push for victory

In extremely windy conditions at Rossendale, Wirral continued their unbeaten start to 2019 with their fifth consecutive victory and seven out of the last eight.

Wirral lost the toss and played downhill in the first half but against the wind, which enabled any side playing uphill to put in long raking kicks. It was the home side who started the stronger and used the wind to good effect, a lesson that was not lost on Wirral in the second half. It was the home side who opened the scoring in the 14th minute when their backs that looked threatening at this stage spun the ball down the line and a long pass to right winger Matt Blackman enabled him to score in the corner, the conversion was missed.

In this first half Rossendale had the majority of the territory and possession but the Wirral defence held firm as it has done in previous weeks. It was apparent that Wirral had the upper hand in the scrums and this came to their advantage in the minutes before half –time when Wirral finally had time in the home 20m area after a fine backs move took play downfield. With consecutive scrums on the Rossendale line the deadlock was broken when the Wirral pack controlling the ball edged forward enabling Rob Pearl to touch down and from wide out James Annetts converted to give Wirral a 5-7 lead at the break.

In the second half, Wirral had significantly more of the territorial advantage and had a number of scoring opportunities but last ditch tackling by the home side prevented a further score. In one case Wirral were in the act of scoring when a tackle knocked the ball out of the players’ hand. With Wirral camped in the Rosendale 20m area, a series of scrums saw the Wirral pack pushing their opponents back only for the home side to infringe. On the fourth attempt as Wirral moved forward the Rossendale scrum collapsed leaving the referee no alternative but to award a penalty try, 5-14.

The last 10 minutes of the game saw Rossendale pressing hard and the hooker, Jacob Sutton shot through a gap from 20m out, a score looked inevitable but a superb cover tackle by Chris Crowley prevented the try. From this position the home side were awarded a penalty, which they converted through Lewis Allen to give themselves a losing bonus point with two minutes to go. The final act of the game was an attempt at goal by James Annetts from 56m out, which fell short and with the ball in hand Rossendale knocked on and the game was over.

Wirral remain in fifth as all the teams above them bar Billingham won. Next week they face another difficult test away at Ilkley.