Manchester 32 v Warrington 0
By Tim Harper
A better game of two halves as Manchester put 32 points on Warrington.
Manchester v Warrington
A better game of two halves: Manchester put 32 points on Warrington.
In the away fixture in October we had been overwhelmed in the second half having edged the first to lead by 3 points. Lack of fitness and failure to pressurise in defense permitting the dangerous Warrington backs to cut loose and score 7 tries in the second half.This game saw a completely different game demonstrating the progress in our 1st XV.
Manchester started strongly kicking off and regaining possession. After running through several phases up to the 22, the visitors were then penalized for a tip-tackle and Jay Saena opted to kick for the corner.The resulting driving maul permitting Chris Saena to score the first try, converted by Jay Saena for an early 7-0 lead.
Warrington responded straight from the kick off. They also demonstrated determination and aggression in regaining possession and recycling but were only slowly gaining ground against a resilient home defence exhibiting good line speed. Eventually however, the home side transgressed, adjudged as offside at the ruck. A kick into the 22 for a lineout by the visitors put enormous pressure on the defense.Manchester thankfully stole the critical lineout and cleared well.
Warrington were nevertheless finding their attacking form and made quick in-roads into Manchester territory, orchestrated by Warringtons lively outside half and centre Keiran Hughes. Alex Marchewski stopped the attack after a couple of phases with a good interception but the warning signs were there. To lock the opposition out the home side would need to continually apply line speed pressure in defence and keep the ball away from the visitors as much as possible as their backs were manifestly very dangerous.
Manchester recycled and eventually fed Doug Day who kicked well and gave chase tackling the catcher, enabling Harry Lewis to win one of the few holding-on penalties awarded in the game. Jay opting to take the 3 points.
From the kick-off Manchester got onto the front foot again with good driving by the forwards, notably Mike Jordan and Brian Odovlu. Releasing quick ball to the backs, Jay worked a lovely interplay with Doug to break through in midfield with only desperate defence by the visitors saving an immediate try. The defence were still on the back foot and quick spreading of the ball first one way and then the other eventually resulted in an overflap for Jake Stewart to squeeze in at the corner. Jay again converting to give Manchester a 17 point lead.
The game then lost a little rhythm with handling errors in possession and somewhat pernickety refereeing, which limited competition over the ball, so it all became a bit of a midfield taking turns tussle before an increasingly frustrated away side gave away a midfield penalty for hands in the ruck on their own 15 metre line. Despite the distance Jay struck the penalty well over the bar for a 20 point lead after around 30 minutes.
There was still time enough though for the visitors to launch a very incissive attack with a lovely switch move by the 10 and race through to within 5 metres of the line. Great covering work by Charlie saw the attack temporarily stalled but with such momentum scoring still looked almost certain. The home side thought differently and showed their mettle in red zone defence with a series of big hits by the pack slowly pushing the attackers back to the 22.
The home scrum had increasingly become dominant pushing the visiting pack consistently backwards and that factor appeared increasingly unsettling to the visitors: a vital turnover won after such a scrum saw Manchester clearing the ball to end the half with a highly impressive defensive effort.
The question remained nevertheless, would the dangerous visitors
benefit from their high level of fitness and dominate the second half as before.
The answer only slowly became apparent, despite a gradual increase errors; knock-ons and two or three box kicks 6 inches the wrong side of touch by the Manchester half backs (repeatedly losing potentially good field position), they showed the same steely resolve in defense. Line speed was rekindled, frustrating both the visiting scrum half and back row in particular. Jay and Charlie both also making some excellent clearances when necessary.
Manchester were also successful in putting increasing pressure on Warrington in threatening overturns in the set piece scrum, lineout and breakdown. Perhaps as a result in their goal line defence the visiting openside flanker was yellow carded for persistent hands in the ruck. Pressure told after a series of set scrums with James Brodie scoring after a strong scrum, converted by Jay Saena. (27-0)
Ultimately though it was the Warrington scrum-half who ended all hope for Warrington in an increasingly increasingly petulant personal performance culminating in a clear elbow strike to the head of the Manchester captain & scrum half. This whilst waiting ball-in-hand to feed his own scrum right next to the ref!
Charlie responding with a smile and a questioning look to the official. The referee had little option but to issue a red card. Was it perhaps prompted by something Charlie had said? Apparently nothing more than routine banter which surely the referee must have heard!
Warrington tried to set-up an attacking position for the last twenty minutes of the game but being a man short was a hurdle they never quite managed to overcome despite, to the remainder of the team’s credit, achieving near parity in possession and territory. Manchester eventually overcoming the visitors, despite having to re-organise their backline after Zak Round went off injured. Charlie Johnson coming off the bench to play on the wing and playing solidly, eventually scoring the crucial fourth try with a few minutes remaining in a pretty messy second half.
Manchester were fully deserving of their bonus point win and the even more special “0” in the points scored against column. They will as a result leap-frog Warrington in the table.
Charlie’s MOMs for Manchester were Mike Jordan and Harry Lewis, and if only to rub it in, to the Warrington scrum half who justifiably, probably faces a significant ban after an idiotic ‘red mist’ assault. Hopefully he will learn from it.
Manchester can reflect on their learning points of being more selective in where and how they take the ball into contact to generate quick go-forward ball for the backs, as they appear to have lost a little ‘edge’ to their play. They should also focus on reproducing this hugely impressive defensive effort.