Manchester’s largest crowd for a good while, despite the poor weather, saw an exciting derby game with a disappointing twist at the end for the home fans.
An early penalty by Doug Day (3-0) gave Manchester an advantage which proved difficult to build on despite long periods in the Stockport half. Possession was a little more even, but Stockport were unable to break the strong defensive line to do anything meaningful with it.
Manchester showed the adventure even in the conditions with Richard McCartney’s cross field kicks threatening to put his wingers away, the best an audacious kick from within his 22 which Matt Davies took well before being caught by his opposite number. This turned out to be the best chance of the first quarter but with Manchester by far the livelier team.
A chance to double the lead was missed, but soon after McCartney produced a kick of pinpoint accuracy which this time did release Davies on the wing to score in the corner to give Manchester an 8-0 lead after half an hour.
Stockport had still not been able to play themselves out of their half, only the restarts and a couple of hoofs up field had given any relief against the home side’s pressure. The concern of course was that the return for all this effort was just the one penalty and try.
The heavens opened at this point so that the last ten minutes of the half became understandably error strewn with the ball slippery and the wind making kicks from hand hazardous. A late penalty to Stockport was kicked long into touch, the lineout secured and an effective drive over the line closed the half time gap to a point as the try was converted to 8-7.
The conditions deteriorated as the game progressed but Manchester continued to dominate and made the most of a penalty to touch, thanks to the reliable lineout pairing of Jake Stewart and Sam Davis. Charlie Ding headed towards a crowded try line and skilfully slipped the ball to Anthony TiaTia in support who crashed over. Day’s conversion from out wide made it 15-7 with 30 minutes to play.
The game became more of an arm wrestle with Stockport pressing more but Manchester looking organised and strong enough to resist. A five minute period when Manchester released their grip proved costly as Stockport visibly upped the tempo to score two quick tries to take an unlikely 15-19 lead into the last quarter.
Manchester needed to draw breath at this stage and reflect on how they had controlled the game so far and a chance to do so came with an easy penalty with still ten minutes to play. Unfortunately the kick to touch was preferred in an effort to restore the lead of course. It could have worked but the attack was driven into touch within sight of the line and the rejection of what would have been a one point deficit looked a little unwise.
From an hour of adventurous play, the last few minutes looked increasingly more desperate than controlled, which helped the now far more confident visitors to defend their lead as Manchester pressed for what would still have been a winning score. The game control had certainly shifted however, and Stockport were quick to punish a dropped ball in the home 22, closing the game with a bonus point try, converted to deny Manchester even the losing bonus point at 15-24.