Date published: March 17, 2022
Photo: Bruce Myers
At the back by Sunderland
The league season is slowly coming to an extended conclusion after various matches have been rearranged to cover recent cancellations.
The Rochdale Junior Colts result came down to two games against Liverpool Saint-Helens. The first saw them go to Moorgate Avenue.
LSH have several players in Sale Academy and Sunday’s game unfortunately came up against Sale against Exeter. The result was that LSH went to Moorgate Avenue with only 11 men.
However, Rochdale were happy to loan players out and it allowed a full 15-man game to go which both teams should be given credit for.
The pitch was firm and Rochdale opted to play with the wind in the first half. Rochdale applied the initial pressure, but a string of errors and penalties stifled their momentum.
This set a pattern for the match which saw Rochdale play attractive open rugby but force the final pass or break the laws due to their over-eagerness to break down. That said, Rochdale’s defense was solid as it has been all year and they were able to stifle any potential threat from the LSH attack.
Eventually, a wayward drop on the goal line landed in the hands of Olly Mills who was 15 yards from the try line. Mills managed to beat a few defenders and scored wide of the posts (7-0).
Rochdale was soon on the attack again and failed to smash the ball into the left corner. The advantage was in play and, from the penalty that followed, Garrett Myers took the pass and bulldozed his way from close range (14-0). There was still time for a try before halftime.
A 10-yard scrum gave Mills the chance to pick up and take a few defenders over the line with him to put the score up (19-0).
The second half continued as the first ended with Rochdale dominating the territory but allowing the visitors to easily get out of their own half with more penalties.
Eventually the referee’s patience ran out and he sent one of Rochdale’s players to the bin for 7 minutes.
Rochdale didn’t let this disrupt his defense and managed to manage the yellow card without conceding any points.
Eventually, Rochdale resumed action as a cross kick from Mitch Holt was picked up by Gabe Fraser down the left wing. Fraser drew the last defender and sent the ball inside to Nick Wright who crossed out (24-0).
From the kick-off, Rochdale showed what they were capable of. Fraser started the move by collecting the restart and beating the first defender. The ball was passed to Myers on the outside who sped into the free space.
Myers’ inside pass found Fraser in retreat who, in turn, fed Holt. Charlie Bleackley was in support to take the next pass and gallop 20 meters (31-0).
There was only time for one last try. From a lineout, Will Rawlinson at scrum half made the break and unloaded on the ever-present Mills who galloped to complete the score (36-0).
Despite the stop-start nature of the game, there were plenty of strong performances. Myers, Mills, Jacob Jackson and Alex Barry worked tirelessly to keep Rochdale in the limelight. Will Simmons, Rawlinson, Tom Shaw and Fraser were excellent on offense and defense.
MoTM went to Ben Sunderland who was effective at returning and slowing the ball down during rucks, acting as a midfield distributor and managing both the team and the referee when discipline started to slip.
It was a strange and rather disjointed performance but it was one of those days where the result was probably more important than the way of winning.
Rochdale are now within easy reach of the league title and, if they can avoid defeat in any of their remaining matches, the title will be theirs.
The second leg next week will prove a tougher test with LSH at full strength, but it’s a challenge Rochdale looks forward to.
Team: Jacob Jackson, Joel Rigby, Garrett Myers, James O’Connell, Ben Sunderland, Ben Hankinson, Olly Mills, Will Rawlinson, Mitchell Holt, Tom Shaw, Will Simmons, Ben Kershaw, Alex Barry, Max Cooper, Oli Simpson, Sonny Joyce, Gabe Fraser, Tom Drennan, Charlie Bleackley