And Then There Were Two…
Manchester’s win means that only Douglas can catch them now, but the title remains in Manchester’s hands with two more performances like this needed.
The hosts had the better of the first quarter, certainly in terms of territory, but a patient and controlled Manchester were rarely threatened. If there were any concerns, it was that Manchester were a bit wasteful in possession with passes not going to hand. Nonetheless, the visitors made the first breakthrough with an easy penalty slotted by Doug Day (0-3).
Broughton Park’s most likely breakthrough came soon later with a try saving tackle by Harry Lewis on the line necessary to maintain the lead. As Manchester escaped, a perfect cross field kick by Richard McCartney was taken by Day and Manchester progressed towards the opposition’s 22. The pressure was maintained for a quarter of an hour or so but the defence held firm. Finally the cracks inevitably appeared, so that the forwards were able to drive over to open the gap to 0-8.
With half time approaching, Manchester asserted themselves with their second try, the foundations laid by Bryan Ndlovu and Karl Higginson, but it was the line ran by Dean Hogg that clinched it, well converted by Day to 0-15.
Broughton Park were desperate to make amends at the restart but any territory was denied them with a couple of long touch finders by McCartney. Lewis continued to put himself about looking for work and his efforts at charging down a kick were cruelly repaid when he collided with the defender who was trying to recover the ball, and had to leave the field.
James Brodie was a handful with the ball all afternoon, and as he drew the defence, Joe Houghton was on hand to take the ball to effectively put the game beyond Broughton Park with half an hour to go and 0-22 down. Day’s touchline conversion having stretched the lead.
A defiant period came to nothing as Broughton Park’s penalty kicks to touch were wrecked on a few occasions by Jake Stewart in the resulting lineouts. Manchester were well in control of the game but the pressure to get that fourth try made for some nervy passages of play. Patience was going to win the day however as the home side found themselves pinned in their own 22. Slow ball from a defensive scrum was punished with Manchester’s Tom Fantom turning possession over so that Broughton Park were on the back foot. As the ball came back to Day it looked at first as if he had made the wrong call by stepping inside, but there was enough in the tank to get over the line for the crucial score (0-27) with five minutes to play.
The final score was fittingly made by Anthony TiaTia who had been punching holes through the middle all day, this time the gap opened for him rather than his support runners. The fifth try, converted to 0-34, rounded off a very good afternoon’s work against a top three side.