The Long & Winding Road…
It will be the season’s longest trip, but in the late summer sunshine, an early Doug Day penalty (0-3), which was added to within ten minutes (0-6) got the season on the road.
Manchester were rarely threatened in the first half, keeping the home team their side of the half way line for a full half hour barring the restarts. The first quarter closed with a classic try as speed and skill split the St B’s defence as Karl Higginson made the initial break, taken on by Richard McCartney and finished off by Joe Houghton. Day converted to 0-13.
Desperate defence was repeatedly penalised by the referee but despite the high tackles, Manchester continued to tap-and-go and advanced towards the try line. It looked as if the forwards would drive over but when the pack were stopped, Charlie Ding was able to squirm over the line leaving Day to convert to 0-20 with 30 minutes played.
St Benedict’s first venture into Manchester’s half came to nothing when slow ball from an attacking scrum was pounced on by Ding who counter attacked deep into opposition territory before being bundled into touch. An untidy passage of play closed the first period but not before an overly ambitious Manchester pass was intercepted to give the home side hope at 5-20 with a favourable wind in the second half.
Manchester effectively put the game beyond St B’s however with an early try, certainly the best of the game. Day took the ball in his own half, only a few metres in from the right hand touchline. Setting his ‘try face’, it was clear to the supporters let alone the opposition what he had in mind. The mission was accomplished as he barged and twisted his way through half a dozen defenders, the hard work being completed within a metre or two of the touchline, the third try making it a comfortable 5-25.
The gap was closed after St Benedict’s made the most of Manchester’s obvious confusion from a lineout award, slickly moving the ball infield and then converting their try to 12-25. This ten minute flurry of activity was completed when Manchester opted for an easy penalty to maintain a healthy 12-28 gap.
At this stage, with a bonus point looking odds on, the game started to fall apart as a spectacle, due not only to clumsy handling but also a more resolute home defence. Probably the best chance of a try was lost on the hour mark when a pass wasn’t taken with the line beckoning.
The last quarter wasn’t much to write home about, ending pointless and Manchester feeling a little short changed. The whistle repeatedly blew, tempers frayed and a red card was issued to the home full back, but far too late for Manchester to make anything of this advantage. With Manchester finishing on the attack and St B’s having nothing to play for other than denying the bonus point, the ball was kicked out so that 12-28 became the final score.
A comfortable away win, secured with a couple of debutants who acquitted themselves very well was a more than acceptable result to take back to Grove Park from the first weekend in a higher league.