Date published: November 26, 2021
Photo: Bruce Myers
Tom Drennan dodging the tackle
With the preliminary leagues over, Sunday, November 21 saw the Rochdale Junior Colts’ first conference league game. Leigh was the visiting team and these games are always a close and hard-fought affair. The land was good to firm with the sun shining and a strong breeze blowing over the land.
Rochdale played with the wind at his back during the first half and they quickly stuck in the opposition 22. Games like these are often decided by small margins and a shot near Leigh’s line deprived Rochdale of a scoring opportunity and allowed Leigh to clear the danger. It was Leigh who mounted the next sustained attack, relying on their large ball carriers to cross the win line. This pressure was finally asserted despite a very solid defense and Leigh scored the first score (0-7).
Rochdale quickly returned to offense and secured a good position on the pitch as Leigh moved away from offside. Following the ensuing tap penalty, Ben Sunderland used the decoy runners to open up a gap before heading to the line and putting the ball on the ground (5-7).
The score restored Rochdale’s confidence and they quickly returned to the attack. Garratt Myers, Olly Mills, Jacob Jackson and Tom Drennan have kept Rochdale in the spotlight. After a five-yard ruck, Mills made a few tackles and scored under the post (12-7).
Rochdale’s scrum gained the upper hand, but the roster failed and made it difficult to keep the pressure on. This was made worse when a Leigh front row player had to retire injured and the scrums were not contested. With no more scores until the interval, Rochdale turned around with a narrow five-point lead and the question was whether it would be enough to play against the wind for the second half.
The second half proved to be a monumental defensive effort for the entire Rochdale team. Gabe Fraser, Ben Kershaw, Ollie Simpson and Max Cooper defend the great canals with power and aplomb. Tom Shaw, Will Simmons, Tom Hesketh, Mitch Holt, Nick Wright and Will Rawlinson block the midfield. With the full backs closed, Leigh returned to Plan “A” and continued to clash with the field ahead of Rochdale where Sunderland, Jackson, Alex “Basil” Barry, Joel Rigby, Ben Hankinson, Drennan, Charlie Bleackley and Sonny Joyce did. have not made a quarter. . Special mention to Myers and Mills, whose tackle dominance resulted wave after wave of Leigh’s attack. With the game entering the final quarter, Leigh began to knock down advancing defenders and hope for a favorable rebound. It eventually paid off, with Leigh’s winger scoring straight from the sideline. The most difficult conversion was successful and Leigh had the nose ahead (12-14).
All the momentum was with Leigh now, so Rochdale would have to dig deep to find a way to get back into the contest. It is to the credit of the group of attackers to have managed to turn the game around in the last ten minutes. They redoubled their efforts and began to position themselves in the opposing half of the field. With a kick to the corner, Rochdale executed a lineout move that freed Myers from the blind side and his pace and power was enough to smash a tackle and touchdown in the corner (17-14).
Time was running out and both teams were giving everything to desperately try to finish in the lead. Another cross kick from Leigh bounced back into the hands of Rochdale winger Kershaw and after rounding the first man he launched into an 80m run to the line. It seemed to take him forever to get there but he did it for the decisive score (22-14).
Rochdale negotiated the final minutes before clearing the ball for touchdown to end a thrilling game.
This is an exceptional team performance based on committed and resolute defense rewarded with a hard-earned victory. For a defensive masterclass, crowned with a decisive try, Myers received the man of the match award.
Team: Joel Rigby, Garrett Myers, Ben Hankinson, Ben Sunderland, Nick Wright, Tom Drennan, Jacob Jackson, Olly Mills, Will Rawlinson, Mitch Holt, Tom Shaw, Will Simmons, Ben Kershaw, Gabe Fraser, Oli Simpson, Alex Barry, Charlie Bleackley, Sonny Joyce, Tom Hesketh, Max Cooper