Manchester 20 v Douglas 19
By Tim Harper
Defiant Second Half Displays Downs Douglas
An early kick off to accommodate the opponents flight arrangements back to the Isle of Man saw the kick off moved to 1.30pm.
From the kick off Douglas put the ball straight out, Manchester chose a scrum on the half way, only for this to collapse, with Gee at tight head having to go off with a torn hamstring. On the re-set, Manchester were awarded a free kick, which was taken quickly with the ball moved into the Douglas 22 where the attacking player was bundled into touch. Manchester stole the ball at the resulting line out and then mounted a series of short drives down the right, James Brodie eventually crashing over wide out, with Doug Day missing the conversion,5v0. For once, it was good to see Manchester scoring the first points.
From the restart both sides were guilty of infringements at the break down and swapped penalties. From one of these Douglas kicked for touch, securing a five metre line out, from which they threw to the middle and went for the catch and drive. Although this was repelled by Manchester, it was at the cost of a penalty, which again was kicked for touch and the same catch and drive was repeated, with another penalty conceded. The referee then stepped into warn the Manchester forwards that any further penalty so close to the line would result in a yellow card. The pressure finally told and from the next catch and drive Douglas eventually broke through and scored a try, which was converted.
Manchester hit back almost immediately as Charlie Ding forced a penalty in the Douglas half for not releasing with Doug Day’s successful kick, Manchester regained the lead, however, this was short lived.
Douglas now had their best phase of the game, controlling the scrums, with backs and forwards combining well in a series of drives. First Douglas created an overlap on the right hand side to score a second try in the corner, which was not converted. Then from a scrum well into their half, Douglas moved the ball down the blind side and once again created an overlap, with the winger getting round the defence and scoring under the posts, giving an easy conversions to take the score to 8v19. Manchester did well to repel a number of Douglas attacks and prevent further scores before half time, which was later to prove crucial.
I am not sure what was said at half time, however, Manchester and the game were totally transformed in the second half, Douglas rarely got out of their half in the next 40 minutes. Right from the restart Manchester forced a penalty for holding on and Doug Day converted to reduce the deficit. The referee as he had done in the first half, started to favour the attacking team and a second penalty for holding on was converted by Doug to move the score to 14v19. The crowds thoughts at this stage were turning to a losing bonus point, as the gap narrowed
Although Douglas had the upper hand in the scrum and had a good line out, Manchester controlled the break down. With Charlie Ding and others making a series of breaks close into the ruck, the pressure was all on Douglas. Another penalty for offside at the break down, was narrowly missed as the ball struck the left upright and bounced away. Through continued good play at the break down it was only a matter of time before a further infringement for handling on the ground gave Manchester another penalty in kickable distance, which was converted by Doug.
With ten minutes to go any score would give Manchester the lead. From the next attack Manchester were able to take the ball deep into the Douglas 22, where they mounted a series of forward drives, trying to create space out wide. From one such drive the ball was released to Rich McCartney 22 metres out to the right of the sticks, he opted for a drop goal but fell off the kick, which sailed wide to the left.
From the 22 drop out Douglas managed to regain the ball and at the next scrum were awarded a penalty, which they kicked to touch in the Manchester half. As Douglas moved the ball from the line out they were caught in possession and once again were guilty of holding on, conceding a penalty on the half way line. This was taken quickly by Manchester who forced a further penalty as Douglas failed to retreat 10 metres. Down to the last few minutes and with the ball now closer to the posts and directly in front, Doug stepped up and slotted a real pressure kick to edge Manchester into the lead.
There was time for a restart, however, the game ended where it had started, the ball going out on the full, Douglas infringing at the scrum and Manchester kicking the ball into touch to secure what at half time seemed like an unlikely win.
A real gritty performance by all in the red and white but especially the front and back row forwards who put in a real shift, constantly forcing the penalties that Doug so ably put away.