Manchester 35 v Stockport 22
By Tim Harper
Jay and Enna bow out in style
Any game against ‘Schoey’ Schofield’s team has a sort of predictability to it whenever he forgets his age and turns out in the second row, as this game demonstrated. His expertise in the lineout, scrum and driving maul often seeing them home in a very forwards orientated spectacle, but Manchester had other ideas!!
Seeking to overturn the away fixture loss our first XV started strongly, Charlie Ding usurping back row privileges by jackaling over the first two tackles to win a penalty midfield on the 22. The kick to the corner unfortunately to little avail with the Stockport lineout stealing the home throw. The first of many during this game.
Nevertheless a poor clearance only moved the lineout back 20 metres and this time Manchester were able to spread the ball to good effect, recycling through several phases before using a secondary line of backs to allow Doug Day to ghost through. Jay Saena converting the fairly wide out kick. 7:0
After a few minutes of somewhat error prone broken play rugby, the first scrum surprised many in the crowd with the Manchester tight five proving clearly superior by disrupting Stockport possession. The Manchester 9 took advantage making a good break and hand-off, establishing excellent field position. After a knock-on, another disrupted Stockport scrum saw Manchester once again with the opportunity of an attacking scrum, Brodie running a lovely diagonal line to the corner to score. 12-0 Jay just missing the conversion.
Manchester, determined to keep the ball away from Stockport, were recycling well and were rewarded when the increasingly frustrated visitors went off their feet at the ruck in midfield just outside the 22. Jay Saena again stepped up to calmly claim the 3 points on offer.
From the restart, Manchester were clearly keen to work the ball in almost all areas of the field but that necessitates good quick support in the tackle area, a momentary lapse can cause problems, as it did in this instance, a penalty for holding on, allowed Stockport to kick to the corner; a well-rehearsed, highly-structured catch, hold and then drive had lovely clinical edge to it with Deano himself touching down. Converted 15-7 looked a lot more respectable and Stockport were awake, up and running.
A few minutes later another penalty by over-eager Manchester, saw the same strategy unfold( their supporters indicating “one and only strategy!) To, of course, the same effect. Initially, by not competing the throw, the home team actually transiently stopped the drive but the visitors kept moving the angle of attack to draw more players in until their player of the season, Simon Green, the number 8 was able to drift off to the wing to receive a telling pass and drive over, Unconverted 15-12.
After gaining a little confidence by stopping a strong run from Dean Schofield in midfield
Manchester were keen to re-establish momentum but options were limited as Stockport gradually exerted more and more authority at lineout time. It came as little surprise, when equipped with such a good kicker as Jay, that a penalty on the 22 was taken with a kick to the posts just before half time. 18-12. Game in the balance.
As the second half got underway it looked a little ominous that Stockport were finding their way into the game with relatively little possession, however, another successful Jay penalty stretched the scoreline to 21-12 after 10 minutes.
Stockport then got another ‘corner ball penalty’ opportunity. Manchester tried everything they could to stop it . Several red zone penalties ensued, Jay was the unlucky one, penalised for going in at the side with a yellow card. Stockport scored shortly afterwards anyway, with their scrum half Dudley Southern sniping round the fringes of a dominant maul. 21-17.
It was at this point that the home team really showed their mettle! The coaches judiciously brought on their bench with McCartney and Ben Lewis very prominent during this ‘man down’ period, although everyone played their part. Notably Chris Saena and Sion Davenport. The excellent defensive effort seemed to force errors out of the Stockport team to prevent them from scoring before Jay returned.
Jay returned to play at outside centre giving him more time and space. The immediate result was a half chance provided to Ben Lewis, which he took in style, evading three attempted tackles before squirming over. Jay converted with a superb kick from the touchline. Manchester had a bit of breathing space at 28-17! A quarter to play.
Stockport replied after 10 minutes with another try from a lineout driving maul, 26-22.
Manchester responded with a well-worked try culminating in Harry Lewis matching his brother’s effort, Jay another fantastic metronomic conversion. 35-22.
It still wasn’t over as the last 10 minutes seemed to consist of Stockport repeatedly kicking to the corner but the home team doggedly refusing to be beaten and repulsing maul after maul. Stockport failing to organise structure to their maul as well as they had in the rest of the match.
Manchester a bonus point win. Stockport a hard earned point for their classy mauling.
Shortly before this match I heard that it was to be the swansong for our two kiwi brothers Ena and Jay Saena two of the most influential additions to our squad these last couple of seasons. A close family bereavement necessitating an early return home. I am delighted that they both gave numerous clear reminders to why they have proved so invaluable. They will be sorely missed.