On a sunny but bitterly cold day, Manchester put in a committed performance that fully deserved a bonus point win against their nearest rivals.
From the kick off Manchester were in attack mode and an early penalty was taken quickly so that Danny Woodhead was able to pass out wide to Joe Houghton on the wing for an early try in the corner (0-5).
Despite no early promise, Stockport showed their confidence by rejecting an easy three points by kicking for the corner. Manchester’s lineout was more than a match for the home side though and that early chance went begging. Nonetheless Stockport were next to score from an attacking scrum, thumping their way through to the line and converting to 7-5.
A good period by the hosts came to nothing as the ball was spilled at crucial moments so that their lead was not extended. Manchester were playing with confidence and they also chose to go for a lineout rather than taking the points from a kickable penalty. Jake Stewart was imperious throughout and a short catch & drive before Richard McCartney took the ball on saw McCartney twisting over the line, converted by Doug Day to 7-12 at the end of the first quarter.
A disappointing try soon followed when a couple of missed tackles left a huge gap while Manchester were down to 14 men for Stockport to edge back into the lead at 14-12. Manchester’s defence was generally good however and even when Stockport had good possession nothing came of it.
Patience was the name of the game but once Manchester had the ball, multiple phases with it difficult to know whether backs or forwards were handling, resulted in a great try in the corner for Matt Beasley. In truth it was a real team try with any of the 15 deserving their name on it (14-19).
On the stroke of half time, an unexpected bonus point try was scored with James Brodie and Zak Round as the forward and back punching holes in the Stockport defence, enabling Charlie Ding to go over for a 14-26 half time lead.
On such a cold day, Stockport retreated to the warmth of their changing rooms for the break and seemed reluctant to come back out! With the crowd shivering, the referee decided to go and give them a hurry up and we were off again. Manchester escaped their 22 with a long punt upfield and the image of front row Dan Pym chasing the ball with such determination summed up the forwards’ effort for the 80 minutes! The determined chase led to a penalty slotted over by Day to make the gap a more comfortable 14-29.
Minutes later, the killer try was scored when Beasley, who had made a real nuisance of himself all afternoon (just like a good 9 should), broke through the ranks, Stewart gymnastically recovered the ball with a forward roll, the ball eventually reaching Seb Lingwood in support to establish a 14-33 lead with half an hour to play.
Manchester kept the foot on the pedal and closed their scoring when Ding grabbed the team’s sixth try, Calum Baines having made the initial break, and an unassailable 14-43 lead was taken into the final quarter.
Stockport must have felt that they had not done themselves justice, and in fairness if a number of chances had gone to hand they wouldn’t have been in this predicament. When they did find themselves camped in Manchester’s 22, an ironic cheer went up when they did finally get to the line to make it 19-43 (the conversion was missed in some fashion) so that at least they had the realistic target of a try bonus point to go for.
Manchester tried to finish in style but a penalty gave Stockport good field position for one last attempt to get something out of the game. This they did, effectively but not prettily, as a rolling maul rumbled over the line to close the scoring at 24-43.