Down to the Wire…
On a bitterly cold and wet afternoon, Manchester put in a gritty performance to take an important win after a disappointing start to 2018.
Manchester had by far the better of the opening exchanges, Tom Fantom coming close to the opening try when a slick pass inside from Richard McCartney had Fantom clear through, only for the pass to be adjudged forward. McCartney continued to create chances, his crossfield kicking bamboozling the Warrington defence as they scrambled to reset at the opposite side of the pitch.
Warrington broke the deadlock somewhat fortuitously when a huge hoof up field was well chased and the touchdown was made in the corner for a challenging conversion. An excellent kick made it 0-7 to the visitors after quarter of an hour.
The score was almost doubled minutes later when a clearance kick by Warrington was dropped and swarmed after, another good kick chase. This time Manchester escaped as poor footballing skills (or an uncooperative rugby ball!) meant that the ball went right rather than left and bobbled into touch.
Warrington spent the second quarter defending their line with the Manchester backs spreading it wide and, when that failed, the forwards trying Route One. Warrington were equal to the challenge and would have been happy to turn around a converted try ahead despite coping with less territory and possession.
Manchester continued where they had left off however, and a period of sustained pressure was finally too much for the Warrington defence. Some great handling in the conditions saw Manchester going through multiple phases waiting for a gap. Fantom eventually found it as the home side camped on the visitors’ line, wriggling over for a try converted by Doug Day to level at 7-7 with half an hour to play.
It was now Warrington’s turn to press but Manchester dug in, the concentration showing in the quick defence, as white line fever saw one after another surge repelled when perhaps there were better options outside. Once Manchester escaped their half, they looked the better side again and forced an offside penalty within kicking range. Unfortunately the ball drifted wide, adding to the tension as the last ten minutes were reached with the teams deadlocked.
A second chance to take those points arrived five minutes later and the way that Manchester won field position was probably the highlight of the match. James Brodie, a welcome returnee to the side, took a superb catch of an awkward high ball and ran it back at the kicker. Anthony TiaTia was in support and a massive run from him took the ball into the Warrington half. When Fantom took the ball on with the defence now at sixes and sevens, an illegal attempt to halt Manchester’s progress was penalised. The kick certainly wasn’t a gimmee in the poor conditions, but Day held his nerve to put Manchester ahead for the first time with five minutes plus stoppage time to play.
Manchester controlled the ball very well from that point up to the final whistle, good game management and determination winning the day for a very welcome win.