Another week, another season (winter this time!), but the same opposition on consecutive Saturdays provided another stern test for Manchester who got that little bit closer this time.
The opening exchanges were very even with Storm Brian making kicking for position hazardous, the wind advantage with Burnage to start with. Following a long advantage the referee brought the hosts back for a penalty converted to 3-0 after 12 minutes.
Burnage had the best of the first quarter from then on but great defence by Manchester prevented a score. Ironically it was only when the ball was finally cleared up field that Burnage had the space to move and a gap was found to make it 10-0 on 23 minutes.
The game became scrappy as Burnage made the most of their 3G pitch to increase the tempo of the game. Manchester fell into the trap of trying to match this on an unfamiliar surface so that all seemed a bit rushed with frequent errors. As the game became scrappy, Manchester found themselves unable to escape their half and having to do far more work than their hosts. Just as half time approached, much of that good work was undone as a tackle was missed and Burnage were in, stretching the gap to a daunting 17-0 at the break.
Manchester started the second period with far more resolve and, as importantly, control, getting their first points with an early penalty (17-3) and then ten minutes later chipping away to 17-6 as Doug Day was accurate with his boot yet again.
Burnage’s only significant pressure in the second half followed when they slickly moved the ball back and forth inside Manchester’s 22 until an opening inevitably appeared. Somewhat against the run of recent play therefore, their lead became a healthy 24-6 with 20 minutes to play.
It hadn’t been a great game, not helped by the elements, but the last quarter was the most entertaining even though the match was realistically settled. Manchester would not lie down and Rick Cross deservedly dived over in the corner thanks to a Callum Baines assist as backs and forwards formed a good attacking line that Burnage’s defence couldn’t hold back. At 24-11 with just over five minutes to go, bonus points were now up for grabs for both teams.
Burnage had their four-try bonus point chances as the game opened up but failed to take them. Manchester then managed to regain territory and camped inside the home 22 for the last few minutes up against a well organised defence. Patience was now the name of the game as time ticked away with Manchester in possession. A conversion was also needed however, so it was as well that the line battering was rewarded near the posts when Tom Fantom powered over with the last play. Day made no mistake to salvage the losing point and at least a bonus point and the second half was won, even if the match itself was lost at 24-18.