As the old cliché goes this was certainly a game of two halves. It was an unfamiliar Panthers side that turned up as they had several players away on a stag weekend, but there was no sign of them being a weakened team in the first half and they were very unlucky to go in at the break 4 points adrift. In the second half though, Eccles turned on the style and ran in 46 points to give them the victory that, barring a run of freak results from rival teams, will keep them in division 1.
Castleford Panthers would have to win their last 3 games to overtake Eccles in the table and one of those games is away at Millom. If they win that one Millom will finish below Eccles. Only a win for Millom in that game and Panthers winning their last 2 games against Rochdale Mayfield and Stanningley would see Eccles relegated.
Panthers were unlucky not to take a 4th minute lead when Reece Henderson knocked on over the line, and two minutes later Eccles took the lead. Richard Openshaw passed for Steve Barry to spin out of a tackle and score a try that Mike Carney converted, the first of his 9 goals from 10 attempts (6-0). Eccles then forced a goal line drop out on 8 minutes when Martin Judge and Marc Jones made a tackle in goal after Barry’s low kick.
Panthers were next on the scoreboard though, on 17 minutes. Wayne Garwood stretched out to score but Chris Knowles scooped the conversion wide (6-4). Knowles also missed a 34th minute penalty and was again off target after Luke Varley scored on 36 minutes to give Panthers an 8-4 lead, but there was still time for Eccles to snatch the lead back, right on the whistle. Adam Taher was held up over the line and the ball was moved quickly to the wing where Marc Gilligan sent Christian Higgins racing over for a converted try (12-8).
Eccles killed the game off as a contest with 3 converted tries in the opening 7 minutes of the second half. On 41 minutes Mark Thomas made a great break and sent Carney through a gap to score (18-8), then Taher passed to Forgham and his pace took him round the full back to score (24-8) on 44 minutes before Forgham turned provider in the 47th minute, sending a low kick through the defence for Andrew Muscat to re-gather and go round the sticks (30-8).
It certainly wasn’t a dirty game but it did boil over on 54 minutes resulting in Barry and Chris Smith getting sin binned along with Panthers’ Garwood. Eccles still managed 2 more converted tries though with two men short. They forced a drop out on 54 minutes when Judge and Muscat made a tackle after Carney’s kick to the in goal and 2 minutes after Openshaw caught the defence “napping” to dive over from dummy half (36-8). Higgins was next to score, beating his opposite winger to touch down in the corner after great work by Thomas on 62 minutes (42-8).
Judge had a try ruled out for a forward pass on 63 minutes but there was no denying Forgham the try of the game with 10 minutes left to play. He collected the ball 15 metres from his own line and showed tremendous pace to scythe through the defence and score in the corner. It was too far out for Carney to convert this time, his only miss of the game (46-8).
Panthers never gave up and were rewarded on 73 minutes with Steve Gill forcing a try that change kicker Craig Benn converted (46-14), but Eccles replied with 2 converted tries in the last 3 minutes. Both were long range efforts with first Muscat breaking from half way to go round the posts (52-14), and finally Forgham making another break across half way before finding Gilligan in support for a try right on the whistle (58-14).
A good all-round performance from Eccles, with Richard Openshaw just pipping Mark Thomas to the Man of the Match award.
Team: Mike Forgham (2T), Christian Higgins (2T), Andrew Muscat (2T), Mike O’Boyle, Martin Judge, Steve Barry (1T), Mike Carney (1T, 9G), Glynn Watson, Richard Openshaw (1T, MoM), Mark Thomas, Marc Gilligan (1T), Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Bradley Lonsdale, James Brown, Danny Smith, Adam Taher.
Eccles moved out of the relegation places with a thoroughly deserved victory over mid table Milford and have given themselves a real chance now of avoiding relegation, although with only one game left they are relying on other results to go their way. They are now two points above second from bottom Castleford Panthers and the last game is at home to the Panthers this coming Saturday, although Panthers have 4 games left to play. On current form, Eccles look more like a team chasing promotion than a side looking to avoid the drop.
The visitors started well and forced a drop out on 4 minutes when Mike Forgham knocked on behind the try line, then they scored a minute later with John Elkington forcing his way over between the sticks, leaving Ryan Oxtoby an easy conversion
(0-6), but Eccles were level 3 minutes later. Mike Carney’s pass sent Mike O’Boyle on a run across the half way line where he handed off Milford winger Ben Hood to score half way between the posts and corner. Carney added the conversion (6-6). On 14 minutes Eccles forced Milford into a goal line drop with Andrew Muscat following up Steve Barry’s kick to force the winger off the field of play. Five minutes later Eccles took the lead with another Barry chip kick seeing Glynn Watson just beat a defender to the ball and getting a pass out for Muscat to score next to the post, giving Carney an easy conversion (12-6).
This was the start of a “purple patch” for Eccles and that try was the first of 3 in 6 minutes. A low kick from Carney was fumbled by winger Hood and Christian Higgins swooped to race in at the corner on 22 minutes. Carney converted brilliantly (18-6) but was not so accurate with the next conversion after Martin Judge raced down the wing for a try 3 minutes later (22-6).
The best try of the game came on 32 minutes when Forgham collected a kick 15 metres from his own try line and wriggled out of a tackle then cut inside the winger and beat the full back for pace to score a try that Carney converted (28-6), but Eccles survived a late scare when Judge kicked the ball to safety in the last minute to concede another goal line drop out.
Eccles were first over the whitewash in the second half with man of the match Richard Openshaw diving over low direct from a tap penalty on 47 minutes, although Carney missed the kick (32-6), then Openshaw had a second try ruled out for a double movement on 52 minutes, just 2 minutes before Eccles scored another unconverted try. Marc Gilligan got a pass out in the tackle and O’Boyle made good yardage before handing on for Christian Pereira to score (36-6).
Just after the hour James Barker broke the Eccles line and wrong footed Forgham to score a try for the visitors that Oxtoby converted (36-12), but Eccles finished on a high with 2 Carney converted tries in the 68th and 72nd minutes. Forgham’s “back door” pass allowed Pereira in for his second try (42-12), and finally Adam Taher took a pass from Barry and barged the full back out of the way to touch down next to the post (48-12).
This was an all round top performance in perfect conditions, watched by a large, appreciative crowd.
Team: Mike Forgham (1T), Christian Higgins (1T), Andrew Muscat (1T), Mike O’Boyle (1T), Martin Judge (1T), Steve Barry, Mike Carney (6G), Glynn Watson, Richard Openshaw (1T, MoM), Mark Thomas, Marc Gilligan, Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Bradley Lonsdale, James Brown, Christian Pereira (2T), Adam Taher (1T).
If this was a bottom of the table clash the NCL division 1 is in good shape because both sides played some top class rugby league. Stanningley were thoroughly deserving of their victory because they were well organised in attack and defence, and they were definitely one of the better teams to come to Eccles this season. It is a mystery how this team could be in a battle against relegation. They had the man of the match in fullback Simon Wray, but Eccles also contributed to an entertaining game with Mike Forgham just edging out Mark Thomas for the Eccles man of the match award.
The Leeds outfit opened the scoring on 6 minutes with an unconverted try in the corner from Frank Mayfield, although the officials missed a blatant forward pass to the centre (0-4), but a Mike Carney penalty, for a high tackle, halved the deficit on 9 minutes (2-4) before Eccles took the lead on 16 minutes. Steve Barry’s clever low kick bounced up just right for Andrew Muscat to go round the sticks, leaving Carney an easy conversion (8-4).
On 21 minutes Eccles stretched the lead with Mark Thomas running hard before Richard Openshaw scooted over from dummy half 10 metres from the sticks. Carney hooked his kick just wide of the near post (12-4), but the rest of the half went the way of the visitors. On 25 minutes Stanningley forced a goal line drop out when Forgham was called on to boot the ball dead, and 2 minutes later Dean Parker scored a try in the corner that Liam Duffy converted brilliantly from the touch line (12-10), before Stanningley took a 16-12 lead into half time when Rob Harvey sent Anthony Glynn between the sticks, leaving Duffy an easy conversion right on the whistle.
Eccles started the second half well and Thomas was held up over the line on 43 minutes, but it was the visitors who scored next, against the run of play on 51 minutes with Steve McGeachie making a break and passing for Parker to go down the wing and round the posts, enabling Duffy to convert (12-22). Eccles threw everything into attack and on 55 minutes Richard Openshaw and Marc Jones combined to send Martin Judge over in the corner, only for the referee to over-rule his touch judge and strike the try off due a foot in touch. On the hour though Eccles scored a legal try when Carney’s lw kick was fumbled by a defender and Muscat took advantage to score between the sticks. Leaving Carney an easy conversion (18-22).
Eccles drew level on 64 minutes when Thomas sent Christian Higgins over in the corner, just managing to get the ball down before being tackled into touch, and Carney was unlucky with a difficult conversion attempt (22-22).
At this point there was a feeling that Eccles would go on to win the game but it was Stanningley who had that little bit extra fuel in their tank. Eccles were hammering away at the Stanningley defence when Simon Wray broke through a weak tackle on 70 minutes to race 75 metres between the sticks, allowing Duffy an easy conversion (22-28).
On 75 minutes Anthony Glynn made the points safe for the visitors with a try the Duffy converted (22-34) and Duffy also added a 79th minute penalty (22-36) which was harsh on Eccles and made the scoreline look more convincing than it actually was.
Team: Mike Forgham (MoM), Christian Higgins (1T), Andrew Muscat (2T), Mike O’Boyle, Martin Judge, Steve Barry, Mike Carney (3G), Glynn Watson, Richard Openshaw (1T), Mark Thomas, Marc Gilligan, Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Brad Lonsdale, James Brown, Christian Pereira, Adam Taher.
Eccles’ winning run came to an end at Promotion chasing Myton Warriors, but the score in no way reflects the effort of the Eccles side. There is no doubt at all that the Hull side deserved their victory, as their defence was solid and they had so much pace and power in attack but, on this occasion, they also benefitted from some erratic refereeing decisions. Some decisions were questionable, and unfortunately Eccles were on the wrong end of his decisions every time.
The game was only 2 minutes old when a high kick from Kris Walker was dropped and Walker himself pounced to score an easy try, although Ashley James missed the kick in the swirling wind (0-4). Myton piled on the pressure with the help of a 5-1 first half penalty count and forced Eccles to drop out on 6 minutes when Mike Carney was carried “illegally” over the dead ball line, and on 11 minutes when Martin Judge was tackled in goal, before they increased the lead on 14 minutes. Poor tackling allowed Chris Wainman to break down the middle across half way to score between the sticks, allowing James to convert (0-10).
It took 24 minutes for Eccles to seriously threaten the Myton try line with Judge and Andrew Muscat following up Carney’s kick to the corner to make a tackle in goal and force a goal line drop out, but 4 minutes later Myton forced a 3rd goal line drop out, tackling Mike Forgham behind the try line, before they took a 14-0 lead into the break with a unconverted try on 32 minutes. Walker’s low kick to the wing bounced up kindly for Wainman to score his 2nd try.
Five successive penalties at the start of the second half allowed Myton to pile the pressure on and Eccles’ defence buckled on 51 minutes with Lee Fewlass charging over next to the posts for a try that James converted (0-20), then on 58 minutes Eccles registered their first score. Forgham made a good break before Carney sent Adam Taher crashing over next to the post from short range, allowing Carney to convert (6-20).
Wainman scored his hat trick on 67 minutes, showing fantastic pace when he broke from half way to go round the sticks, leaving James an easy kick (6-26), and in the 75th minute Walker managed to get the ball down despite a great effort from Forgham to hold him up. This time Walker took the kick with James off the pitch and he converted (6-32).
Eccles never gave up and were rewarded on 78 minutes when a long pass from Steve Barry was taken by Marc Gilligan, and he popped the ball up out of the tackle for Muscat to score a try that Carney was unable to convert (10-32), and they also forced another goal line drop out when Muscat followed up Barry’s high kick to make a tackle in goal, but there was still time for Myton to add another try. Nick Halstead clearly knocked the ball on before scooping it up and running over the try line in the corner. The referee consulted the touch judge who had indicated that the Myton man knocked on, but the referee over ruled that decision and awarded a try. Walkers kick drifted wide of the target (10-36) and the referee blew for full time.
Team: Mike Forgham (MoM), Christian Higgins, Andrew Muscat (1T), Mike O’Boyle, Martin Judge, Steve Barry, Mike Carney (1G), Glynn Watson, Richard Openshaw, Mark Thomas, Marc Gilligan, Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Brad Lonsdale, Christian Pereira, Adam Taher (1T).
A fourth successive victory gives Eccles a real chance of avoiding relegation now, with three of the last four games to be played at home. Eccles thoroughly deserved to win handsomely and it could have been a much bigger margin as well if they had played as well in the first half as they did in the second. Unfortunately, a series of missed chances and a 1-5 first half penalty count against them made it a frustrating 40 minutes. Credit must also go to the Millom side, who were not at full strength due to injuries and work commitments, but managed to stay in contention for almost an hour.
It was the visitors who created the first chance of the game, forcing Eccles into a goal line drop out on 5 minutes when Mike Forgham was tackled in goal, but 2 minutes later Eccles took the lead. Mike O’Boyle’s clever “back door” pass saw Christian Higgins race away from half way and beat his opposite winger to score, although too wide out for Mike Carney to convert (4-0). Richard Openshaw had a try ruled out for “crossing” on 24 minutes and 3 minutes later Eccles fell behind when Steve Woodburn barged his way over next to the posts from close range, leaving Matty Palmer an easy conversion (4-6). Eccles ensured a half time lead though with 2 tries in 3 minutes. The first, on 32 minutes came after a strong charge from Adam Taher and Carney was stopped just short of the line, then the ball was moved quickly across the pitch through Marc Jones and Martin Judge before Chris Smith scored wide out. Carney added a great conversion (10-6) and he also converted the second try, which was again scored by Smith when he took advantage of an awkward bounce after Carney kicked to the in goal behind the posts (16-6).
The second half was only 2 minutes old when Ross Brooks intercepted a pass and looked set to score a full length try for Millom, but he was chased down by Carney who pulled off a very important try saving tackle, then Eccles immediately went to the other end to extend their lead. Bradley Lonsdale made the initial break before Taher drove the ball in and off loaded out of a tackle for Mark Thomas to go 30 metres and round the sticks for a try that Carney converted (22-6). On 46 minutes Judge made a tackle in goal to force a goal line drop out, but it was Millom who scored next, on 49 minutes with Brooks pouncing on a kick behind the sticks and Palmer converting (22-12). That was the end of the visitors’ resistance though, as Eccles moved up a gear and ran away with the game, starting with Andrew Muscat “stepping” past a defender after taking a good pass from Openshaw to score an unconverted try 15 metres from the corner on 56 minutes (26-12).
On the hour mark Lonsdale and Steve Barry combined to send Thomas on a run and he popped the ball up as he was tackled inches from the try line for Glynn Watson to score a try that Carney converted (32-12), and Carney also converted, off the post, 5 minutes later when Eccles scored an identical try. Again Thomas made the break but this time it was Openshaw who off loaded out of the tackle for Lonsdale to go round the sticks (38-12). A rare thing in RL happened on 69 minutes with Openshaw winning a scrum for Eccles “against the head” and sending a long pass to the wing where Judge scored in the corner, although too far out for Carney to convert (42-12). Carney did convert the last 2 tries though, and created the first for Openshaw when he squeezed through a gap and made a break before sending the hooker between the posts (48-12).
The best try of the game was saved for the last and came on 75 minutes when Mike Forgham caught Millom high kick 7 metres from his own line and just managed to escape 2 would be tacklers before out running the rest of the Millom defence to score between the sticks again (54-12).
Team: Mike Forgham (1T), Christian Higgins (1T), Andrew Muscat (1T), Mike O’Boyle, Martin Judge (1T), Steve Barry, Mike Carney (7G), Glynn Watson (1T), Richard Openshaw (1T), Mark Thomas (1T, MoM), Marc Gilligan, Chris Smith (2T), Brad Lonsdale (1T), Payden Candland, Christian Pereira, Adam Taher.
Eccles recorded their third consecutive victory that took them out of the relegation zone – with a stunning display that saw prop Glynn Watson leading a stirring second half showing that swept away the resistance of a Panthers side in which second row Chris Knowles desperately tried to keep Eccles within reach.
Defences were very much on top in the first half – a solitary penalty from scrum half Mike Carney giving Eccles a slender 2-0 lead. The Eccles pack worked hard, and stand-off Steve Barry’s excellent kicking game punished the home side.
A well deserved try from winger Christian Higgins and a Carney conversion extended Eccles’ lead in the second period (0-8) and tries followed for Mike O’Boyle, man of the match Glynn Watson, and finally Steve Barry, with only one further conversion from Carney.
It was an excellent all-round performance from Eccles, who played some excellent rugby – and the victory opened up a two-point gap between them and the relegation zone.
Team: Mike Forgham, Christian Higgins (1T), Andrew Muscat, Mike O’Boyle (1T), Martin Judge, Steve Barry (1T), Mike Carney (3G), Glynn Watson (MoM 1T), Richard Openshaw, Mark Thomas, Bradley Lonsdale, Marc Jones, Marc Gilligan, Payden Candland, Christian Pereira, Adam Taher.
Eccles recorded back to back wins for the first time this season to move 4 points above Normanton of Wakefield in this bottom of the table clash. On current form Eccles have a good chance of escaping relegation despite never being out of the bottom 2 so far this campaign. They are now on the same points as Stanningley and still have the Leeds club to play at home. Victory over Normanton though, was a much tougher task than it should have been. Eccles completely dominated the first half but failed to turn pressure into points, while the visitors’ “never say die” attitude saw them take a second half lead before Eccles finally secured the points two minutes from time.
The game was only 7 minutes old when man of the match Mike Forgham “dummied” his way through a gap and broke across half way before popping the ball up out of a tackle for Christian Higgins to score the opening try between the sticks, leaving Mike Carney an easy conversion (6-0).
On 18 minutes Normanton looked set to open their account when winger Andrew Greaves dived for the corner, but Mark Thomas was on hand to push him into touch, then Eccles increased the lead on 34 minutes with Forgham again involved, along with Carney, setting up a try wide out for Mike O’ Boyle. This time Carney’s kick unluckily bounced back off a post (10-0).
Eccles seemed to be well in control of the game, but 3 minutes from half time Normanton gave themselves a lifeline with only their second serious attack of the game. Paul Seal spun out of a tackle and forced the ball down next to the posts for Jacob Crossland to convert (10-6).
Eccles started the second period lively and forced a goal line drop out 4 minutes in when Carney’s kick to the in goal caused panic and Andrew Muscat, Martin Judge and Marc Jones trapped the ball carrier in goal, but Normanton took the lead against the run of play on 49 minutes when they sent a high kick to the corner, on the last tackle, and Lee Starbuck jumped highest to claim the ball and touchdown in the corner. Crossland added an excellent conversion from the touch line (10-12), and Crossland proved to be a thorn when he converted his own try 2 minutes later, although there was a lot of luck about this effort. A kick over the defence bounced badly away from Higgins then Crossland got his boot to it as Forgham lost his footing and Crossland was free to score a converted try (10-18).
Eccles needed to score quickly and Richard Openshaw did just that 5 minutes later, “dummying” his way through to score wide out. Carney added a difficult conversion (16-18), then 3 minutes later Carney’s boot brought the game level with a long distance penalty after a high tackle on Chris Smith (18-18).
Just after the hour Eccles regained the lead with a superb individual try from Forgham. He squeezed through a gap in his own half and just escaped the clutches of the winger before cutting inside and “skinning” the full back with pace to score between the posts, leaving Carney an east conversion (24-18).
Even then though, it was a nervous ending for Eccles and Normanton forced a goal line drop out on 71 minutes when Higgins was tackled in goal, but Forgham ensured the points with his second try just 2 minutes from time. He appeared to be held up over the line, but somehow managed to get the ball down. Carney’s 5th conversion settled the nerves (30-18), and the game ended with an outrageous long distance drop goal attempt from Steve Barry that fell just short.
Team: Mike Forgham (1T, MoM), Christian Higgins (1T), Andrew Muscat, Mike O’Boyle (1T), Martin Judge, Anrtony Aldcroft, Mike Carney (5G), Glynn Watson, Richard Openshaw (1T), Mark Thomas, Bradley Lonsdale, Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Martin Wilcock, Christian Pereira, Steve Barry, Adam Taher.
Eccles moved off the bottom of the table for the first time this season after completing the double over St. Annes. Eccles were deserved winners after a thrilling, incident packed game, although the home side contributed to their own downfall with some indiscipline. They suffered a 4-18 penalty count against them and had 2 players sin binned. Defensive coaches would have been tearing their hair out, but in attack Eccles looked more like a top of the table side than a team struggling at the bottom. With some winnable home games coming up, if they can tighten the defence there is no reason why Eccles should not avoid relegation.
The home side opened the scoring on 6 minutes, taking advantage of Eccles spilling the ball from a high kick, with Gregg Worrall stretching out to score between the sticks, leaving Jordan White an easy conversion (0-6). Eccles had a chance to equalise however when Christian Higgins made a great break on 10 minutes and looked set to score until Connor Karren chased him down, but the Oldham winger held on to Higgins too long, preventing a quick play the ball and was sent to the sin bin. Eccles took advantage 2 minutes later with some great handling from Mike Carney and Mike Forgham allowing Higgins to get over in the corner. Carney added an excellent conversion to tie the scores at 6-6.
Carney was tackled in goal on 15 minutes, conceding a goal line drop out as the game swung from end to end, but Eccles took the lead 3 minutes later with a great long pass from man of the match Richard Openshaw to Andrew Muscat, who beat the last defender to score in the opposite corner. This time Carney’s kick came unluckily off the post (10-6).
On 20 minutes Forgham denied St. Annes with a try saving tackle after Worrall broke away, then Carney increased the lead with a 30 metre penalty (12-6) in the 24th minute before Eccles added another try on 28 minutes. This time Forgham was in attacking mode as he squeezed through a gap on half way and showed great
pace to score 15 metres from the corner. Carney again converted (18-6).
Eccles seemed to be cruising at this point but two tries in two minutes brought the Oldham side level. The first, on 32 minutes, came when Andy Sands forced the ball down between the sticks and White added the second of his 5 goals from 5 attempts (18-12), and the second was a class effort with Worrall re-gathering his own chip kick and off loading out of the tackle for White to stroll in unopposed (18-18). Carney’s kick from the restart though was allowed to go dead, putting Eccles on the attack from a drop out, then a 36th minute penalty from Carney restored the lead for Eccles (20-18). It could have been worse for the home team but Muscat’s second try 2 minutes from half time was ruled out for a forward pass off Openshaw.
Eccles opened brightly in the second period and when Antony Aldcroft’s low kick bounced off a defenders leg Carney was on hand for an easy try and conversion next to the post (26-18). There was nothing lucky about Eccles’ next try though, just 3 minutes later. It was all down to hard running from Chris Pereira and the alertness of Openshaw, who spotted a gap to dive over wide out from Pereira’s play the ball. This time Carney’s effort sailed across the goal (30-18).
To their credit St. Annes would not throw in the towel and they went straight to the other end to score a converted try when Worrall took a great pass from White and went under the cross bar (30-24). They thought they had drew level on the hour when poor tackling allowed Karren in, but his effort was ruled out for a knock on, then on 63 minutes frustration got the better of White and he was sin binned for dissent.
It took 6 minutes for Eccles to take advantage of the extra man when Openshaw used Marc Jones as a dummy runner and sent a great pass to Muscat for his second try half way between the posts and corner. Carney’s kick seemed to be going in all the way until the wind took it at the last minute just past the far post (34-24).
Eccles secured the victory on 76 minutes with Openshaw again involved, combining with Ben Williamson to provide Muscat with his hat trick. Muscat still had work to do though, spinning out of a tackle to get the ball down in the corner, just too far out for Carney to convert (38-24). Even then, St. Annes came back to make it a nervous last two minutes with Dave Cookson powering over for a converted try next to the posts (38-30), but the final say in a dramatic game went to Eccles in the dying seconds. Carney attempted a penalty and missed but the ball went dead off a defender, forcing St. Annes to drop out. They tried a short kick in an attempt to retrieve the ball but it did not go the required 10 metres and Carney was successful with his second penalty (40-30).
An excellent performance from Eccles, with Rick Openshaw taking the Man of the Match award.
Team: Mike Forgham (1T), Christian Higgins (1T), Andrew Muscat (3T), Mike O’Boyle, Martin Judge, Antony Aldcroft, Mike Carney (1T, 6G), Glynn Watson, Richard Openshaw (1T), Martin Wilcock, Marc Gilligan, Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Ben Williamson, Payden Candland, Chris Pereira, Adam Taher
There may have been the gulf of the section separating the top of the table Raiders from the relegation-haunted Roosters, but a visiting Martian would have struggled to determine which was which in a contest which summed up the highly competitive nature of the Hattons Solicitors National Conference League.
Eccles had the better of the opening period and looked capable, at the break, of ending a 6-match losing run when a 10-6 interval lead had been established through tries by winger Christian Higgins and fullback Mike Forgham. Scrum half Mike Carney added a conversion. Oulton had been limited to a try by loose forward Aiden Bowden, which prop Sasch Brook improved – but it was Eccles that had dominated and looked the better team.
The second half saw frustrations grow from the home team, and Eccles centre Andrew Muscat and Raiders winger Scott MacDonald were dispatched to the bin for a 10 minute cooling off period for being too vocal for the referee’s liking.
Eccles continued to dominate – but one small lapse of concentration and a simple Roosters’ error saw the home team level the score with a try from Billy Kershaw (10-10).
A surprising lack of discipline from the Raiders’ Matty Handforth followed, and he was promptly sent for an early bath for head-butting an Eccles player. Raiders’ fullback Tommy Griffiths and Eccles’ Mark Thomas argued before both being spelled for 10 minutes apiece.
Despite the best efforts of the Roosters, the home team capitalised once more on an error and Andy Falkingham crossed for a try that Brook converted.
It was an excellent performance by Eccles, with the forwards outstanding once again. Stand-off Antony Aldcroft was adjudged the man of the match – but it was hard to isolate one player to be deemed the best on the day.
Team: 1. Mike Forgham (1T), 2. Christian Higgins (1T), 3. Andrew Muscat, 4. Mike O’Boyle,
5. Martin Judge, 6. Antony Aldcroft (MoM), 7. Mike Carney (1G), 8. Glynn Watson, 9. Richie Openshaw, 10. Mark Thomas, 11. Bradley Lonsdale, 12. Marc Jones, 13. Chris Smith, 14. Adam Taher, 15. Martin Wilcocks, 16. Paul Viller
The difference between bottom of NCL division 1 and mid table premier division was obvious for all to see as Wigan St. Patricks progressed in the Challenge cup with a defensive display that was awesome. The visitors were worthy winners at Moat Hall on Saturday, but they left with nothing but praise for a very enthusiastic, if slightly inexperienced Eccles side that surely will start moving up the table, once all the players are fit again.
Payden Candland was back in the Eccles side and the young forward impressed for Eccles, although he was upstaged on this occasion by hooker Richard Openshaw for the Eccles man of the match award.
St. Patricks opened the scoring on 7 minutes when Liam Gannon stretched out to score wide out and Dean Birkett converted from the touchline (0-6). Birkett also converted his own try after the visitors’ man of the match – Anthony Atherton put him through a gap in the 18th minute (0-12).
Eccles got back in the game on 27 minutes when Mike Carney sent a neat reverse kick, low between the sticks, and when it bounced off a defenders legs Anthony Aldcroft pounced to score. Carney added the conversion (6-12) but the visitors restored a 12 point advantage 5 minutes later with Mel Alker showing great strength to force the ball down and Birkett again converting (6-18).
At half time Eccles were 4-3 up in the penalty count, but they fell foul of the referee in the second half conceding 8 consecutive penalties, which put them under tremendous pressure. To their credit though, Eccles defended well with Mike Forgham pulling off a try saving tackle on Anthony Hughes on 49 minutes, until they finally buckled on 66 minutes with Alker again scoring the try. With Birkett off the pitch Ian Schofield took over the kicking duties and was just as accurate with the boot (6-24).
The final say also went to the visitors, on 70 minutes with Hughes not being denied a second time, racing 50 metres after squeezing through a gap to score between the sticks, leaving Schofield an easy conversion (6-30).
Team: Mike Forgham, Christian Higgins, Ben Williamson, Andrew Muscat, Martin Judge, Antony Aldcroft (1T), Mike Carney (1G), Glynn Watson, Richard Openshaw (MoM), Mark Thomas, Carl Mort, Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Bradley Lonsdale, Adam Taher, Payden Candland, Jon Smethurst.
Eccles put their lowly league position behind them to progress in the Challenge cup at the expense of Castleford Panthers, who contributed to their own downfall with a mistake ridden game and a 5-11 penalty count against them. All credit though to Eccles who looked a different team under new coach Chris Irwin, cutting out the unforced errors of previous weeks and, despite still suffering a horrendous injury list. Eccles welcomed back long term injuries Mike Carney and Richard Openshaw, but were still forced to put injured Marc Jones on the bench in order to send 13 players away with the second team.
Eccles took just 2 minutes to take the lead. Aussie stand off Mike Forgham was held just short of the line and from the play the ball Openshaw and Bradley Lonsdale combined to send Andrew Muscat crashing over in the corner. Everybody in the ground was convinced that Carney’s conversion attempt was successful, but the officials ruled that he missed (4-0). All 6 of the Eccles tries were scored wide out and Carney went on to convert only the last of them.
Panthers threatened on 6 minutes and Lonsdale was called upon to kick the ball dead, conceding a goal line drop out, but Eccles were back on the attack 2 minutes later with Ben Williamson forcing a try just inside the corner flag (8-0).
Panthers bombed a golden chance on 20 minutes when Karl Robinson dropped the ball over the try line after a good break by Chris Hepworth. Eccles replied on 32 minutes when Carl Mort provided the pass for Muscat to push off the last defender and score (12-0), and there was still time for another with Openshaw making a break across half way before sending Forgham over for a try 4 mins from the break (16-0).
Panthers came out firing in the second half although it was a rare Eccles mistake that allowed them to score their only try. Desperate to keep the ball alive on the attack an attempted “back door” pass went to ground and Panthers man of the match Andy Tillett swooped to race 90 metres for a try that Chris Knowles converted (16-6). Earlier in the season this would have signalled panic stations for Eccles, but not this time, and 3 minutes later a Carney kick to the in goal caused havoc with the visitors conceding a drop out. It took Eccles until the 66th minute to make the game safe though with Mike O’Boyle Running 35 metres down the wing, handing off 2 defenders along the way to score (20-6).
On 71 minutes Panthers had Tillett sin binned after 2 quick penalties and Eccles took advantage of the extra man on 76 minutes with the final try of the afternoon. Mort was again the provider of the pass that sent Muscat racing round the defence to complete his hat trick.
Team: Bradley Lonsdale, Mike O’Boyle (1T), Andrew Muscat (3T), Matt Wild, Ben Williamson (1T), Mike Forgham (1T), Mike Carney (1G), Glynn Watson, Richard Openshaw, Mark Thomas (MoM), Mike Foster, Carl Mort, Chris Smith, Antony Aldcroft, Christian Higgins, Jon Smethurst, Marc Jones
The enforced two week lay-off, due to the atrocious weather conditions, did little to alleviate Eccles’ injury woes, and work commitments, plus Christmas works parties made matters worse for the trip to Wigan. Only winger Martin Judge returned from the injured list, but he lasted only two minutes before breaking down again. The one positive to come out of a game where Eccles were outplayed by promotion chasing Ince was the debut performance of Australian full back Mike Forgham, who scored their only try and took the man of the match award.
The home team were quick “out of the blocks” and forced Eccles into a goal line drop out on 4 minutes when Dave Furniss was tackled in goal. This led to the opening try a minute later when Tony Baker shot in for a try that brother Kenny converted (0-6). The stand-off went on to convert all 8 of the Ince tries.
Eccles gave as good as they got in the opening quarter however, and they levelled the scores on 17 minutes when Forgham got through a gap 18 metres out to score a try that Andrew Muscat converted (6-6). The Wiganers took control again though with 2 tries in 3 minutes, the first on 24 minutes when Jordan Boyd forced the ball down (6-12), and then Wayne Leyland scored in the corner (6-18). The first half scoring was completed 4 minutes from the break when Danny Rigby broke down the wing and sent Steve Sutcliffe round the posts (6-24).
It was a mistake by Eccles that allowed Ince to score just 3 minutes into the second half with Sutcliffe swooping for his second try after an Eccles pass went to ground (6-30), and the second half became an onslaught by the home side. Eccles held out until just before the hour, but such was the pressure they found themselves under that Glynn Watson ended the game with an incredible 51 tackles to his credit.
Steve Winstanley crashed over for Ince on 59 minutes (6-36), then Matthew Meandon spun out of a tackle and forced the ball down (6-42), and the scoring was completed by Michael Houghton on 68 minutes (6-48).
Desperate defending for the last 12 minutes kept the score below 50, although Winstanley did cross the try line again when he chased an early kick, only to have his effort ruled out for off side on the intervention of a touch judge.
Team: Mike Forgham (1T), Dave Furniss, Mike O’Boyle, Andrew Muscat (1G), Martin Judge, Chris Smith, Antony Aldcroft, Jon Smethurst, Bradley Lonsdale, Martin Wilcock, Mark Thomas, Marc Jones, Glynn Watson, Christian Higgins, Mike Foster, Will Rigby, Mike Bolton
Eccles are going through possibly the worst injury crisis that the club has ever known, and yet, often, in the face of adversity there is some light. This was the case with the promising debuts of former under 18’s players Christian Higgins and Will Rigby. Eccles were also boosted by the clearance just before kick-off of Carl Mort to play after re-signing from Leigh East in midweek. Unfortunately, Mort joined the ever growing casualty list that is crippling the side, and with several players playing despite injury the side played the last 15 minutes with no fit substitutes once again. Despite all that the spirits in the club remain high.
Considering the team that Eccles took on the long trip to Cumbria, many would have considered this a good result before the game, but it was a disappointed coach Paul Viller at the end because Eccles “bombed” chance after chance in the second half through impatience, but he was happy that the side are still creating those chances.
Millom opened the scoring with a try from stand off Ricky Donaghue that Mathew Palmer converted (0-6), and edged further in front with a 18th minute penalty from Palmer, given for a high tackle (0-8). Tom Sibley burst over for another home try on 25 minutes, although this time Palmer missed the kick (0-12) and Eccles were unlucky not to get on the scoreboard when Bradley Lonsdale went over between the sticks four minutes from the break, but his effort was ruled out by the touch judge for a knock on.
Eccles played the second half with more belief in themselves and took the game to their hosts. It was a measure of the pressure that Eccles were mounting that Millom resorted to a drop goal attempt from Paul Evans just before the hour which missed the target, and they were very relieved on 66 minutes when Evans converted a penalty kick when Eccles were caught off side (0-14).
Eccles did make their pressure count on 73 minutes when Mike O’ Boyle made an excellent break across the half way line, handing off a couple of would be tacklers and handing on for Lonsdale to go round the sticks, leaving Andrew Muscat an easy conversion (6-14). That made for a nervous finish for Millom, but with Eccles running out of fit men Andrew Dawson broke through to score with the final play of the game. Evans converted and the referee blew for time (6-20).
18 year old Christian Higgins, in his debut for the National Conference League side, was outstanding and was a constant thorn in the side of the home team.
Team: Christian Higgins, Mike O’Boyle, Carl Mort, Andrew Muscat, Ben Williamson, Chris Smith, Antony Aldcroft, Glynn Watson, Brad Lonsdale, Mark Thomas, Jake Carr, Marc Jones, Marc Gilligan, Will Rigby, Jon Smethurst, Adam Taher.
Eccles’ injury ravaged side were predictably beaten at home by promotion chasing Mayfield, and yet, with a little more belief in themselves at the start of the game they might have done much better. It has become a problem this season that Eccles are slow out of the starting blocks, and once again they found themselves 0-18 down in 22 minutes with tries from Steve Wood on 2 minutes (0-6), John Foy on 12 minutes (0-12) and Ben Butterworth, all converted by Aidy Gleeson (0-18).
Eccles’ half back hoodoo struck again with the loss of stand in scrum half Richard Openshaw after only 6 minutes and he was followed to the treatment room on 19 minutes by Lancashire under 19’s captain Payden Candland. Mayfield added to their score 6 minutes from the break when Ben Namulnatua went in at the corner and Gleeson added an excellent conversion (0-24), but there was still time for Eccles to open their account. A minute from the whistle Jake Carr forced his way over between the sticks and Andrew Muscat added the conversion (6-24).
Eccles were the better side in the second half and two minutes into the restart they were right back in the game when Marc Jones burst over between the sticks, leaving Muscat another easy conversion (12-24). Mayfield were then given two kickable penalty opportunities in the 53rd and 56th minutes but Gleeson, who had been faultless with the boot up to then, somehow managed to miss both, but Mayfield added their winning try on 66 minutes when Simon Moore scored in the corner and Gleeson showed that he could score from the touchline (12-30). Gleeson also added a long distance penalty, given for holding down on 70 minutes (12-32).
Eccles were reduced to walking wounded for the last 10 minutes and had no fit substitutes when Ben Williamson limped off on 71 minutes, but Jon Smethurst then Steve Barry and finally Williamson himself all bravely returned to the action one after the other. Man of the match Chris Smith was magnificent in defence and Eccles were rewarded for their bravery in the last action of the game. Anthony Aldcroft sent a low kick towards the Mayfield line where Muscat re-gathered and passed inside for Mark Thomas to score 15 metres from the corner. The referee blew the final whistle as Muscat’s conversion attempt sailed through the posts (18-32). Eccles were disappointed to learn that ever-present Steve Barry had suffered a badly broken arm and was transported to hospital to await surgery.
Team: Brad Lonsdale, Mike O’Boyle, Ben Williamson, Andrew Muscat (3G), Matt Wild, Antony Aldcroft, Richard Openshaw, Glynn Watson, Steve Barry, Mark Thomas (1T), Payden Candland, Marc Gilligan, Chris Smith, Jon Smethurst, Marc Jones (1T), Jake Carr (1T), Mike Foster.
This season is fast becoming one that Eccles will want to forget as far as injuries are concerned, after another defeat in Leeds where once again the score does not reflect the effort that was put in by a changed Eccles team. Promising debutant Craig Rennison was missing from the side that beat Oldham St. Annes the previous week, due to work commitments, and goal kicking scrum half Mike Carney broke his hand in that game just as he was starting to fulfil his potential. On top of that, young hooker Jack Chapman came off with a serious looking leg injury early in this game and winger Martin Judge, never one to give in easily, limped off too.
It was the worst possible start for Eccles with Scott Hargreaves scooting over next to the posts for the home side after just 3 minutes. Fortunately, somehow, Stuart Halliday managed to miss the conversion (0-4) and the same player failed to convert either of the next 2 tries after Ross Barnard scored wide out on 21 minutes (0-8) and Matthew Brook crashed over from close range 6 minutes later (0-12).
Four minutes from the break Eccles got on the scoreboard with a long pass from Marc Gilligan allowing Andrew Muscat to score 18 metres from the posts. With usual kicker Carney out injured Muscat took over but his shot sailed inches wide (4-12), then, Eccles suffered a hammer blow when Stanningley scored again right on the whistle. Fast hands across the park enabled Frank Mayfield to go round the sticks for a try that he also converted (4-18).
Within a minute of the restart Eccles scored again as a lovely “back door” pass from man of the match Chris Smith allowed Jon Smethurst to score close to the posts. Muscat’s conversion attempt bounced back off the post (8-18), and the home team responded on 50 minutes with Barnard off loading out of the tackle for a try that change kicker Mayfield converted (8-24).
Eccles took the game to Stanningley and only a last ditch tackle prevented Ben Williamson profiting from a good break, and then a tackle in goal by Glynn Watson and Jake Carr forced a goal line drop out, but the home defence was on top form.
As Eccles ran out of steam, and fit bodies, Stanningley scored again through Brook on 68 minutes (8-28) and Tom Sharp 3 minutes later, with Mayfield tagging on the goal points to the last try (8-34).
Chris Smith deservedly took the Man of the Match award.
Team: Brad Lonsdale, Mike O’Boyle, Ben Williamson, Andrew Muscat, Martin Judge, Richard Openshaw, Anthony Aldcroft, Glynn Watson, Jack Chapman, Mark Thomas, Payden Candland, Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Jon Smethurst, Marc Gilligan, Jake Carr, Steve Barry
Eccles enjoyed only their second victory of the season over local rivals Oldham St. Annes. In a game that, at one point, could have gone either way, Eccles worked hard to earn and retain the upper hand.
The visitors opened the scoring after centre Greg Worrall took an interception and raced virtually the length of the pitch to score a try that Keil Lancashire converted (0-6). Eccles hit back minutes later when winger Martin Judge took a well earned, but unconverted, try (4-6). Just past the quarter hour, Payden Candland (back from his U-19s Lancashire County captaincy last week) scored a great try after debutant Craig Rennison took a fast play the ball which allowed hooker Jack Chapman to break through the line. Candland took the ball well, but still had to work hard to score under the sticks. Mike Carney converted (10-6).
On 35 minutes, substitute Jake Carr burst through the defence to score an impressive try, again converted by Carney (16-6). 3 minutes later Carney took advantage of a penalty (lying on) and brought the scoreline to 18-6 (h-t).
St. Annes started the second period on top, and just 3 minutes in Worrall took his second try well after gaining possession after an Eccles knock-on. (18-10). On 50 minutes Worrall claimed his hat-trick with a try from a suspiciously forward pass. The conversion failed (18-14). Centre Craig Rennison, who had run well all through the game, on the hour barged through the St. Annes defence to score out wide (22-14).
Eccles were looking good for a home victory and on 65 minutes Chris Smith collected a loose ball that had been kicked through but couldn’t be collected by a visiting player, and scored under the sticks. Carney’s conversion brought the scoreline to 28-14. The game was finally sealed when Antony Aldcroft kicked a fine field goal that bounced off the cross bar before going over to give Eccles a great 29 pts to 14 win.
A top performance by Eccles, particularly the forwards, in a very entertaining local derby. Antony Aldcroft took the man of the match award.
Team: Bradley Lonsdale, Mike O’Boyle, Ben Williamson, Craig Rennison (T), Martin Judge (T), Antony Aldcroft (FG), Mike Carney (4G), Glynn Watson, Jack Chapman, Mark Thomas, Payden Candland (T), Marc Jones, Chris Smith (T), Joe Marchant, Marc Gilligan, Jake Carr (T), Steve Barry.
Eccles are still looking for their first away win this season after another defeat at Stanley in Wakefield, but on this occasion the scoreline does not reflect the effort put in by the Eccles boys. The spirit in the Eccles camp has never been better though and there is a feeling that they are not far off “turning the corner”. It was always going to be a difficult season after losing so many influential players over the last year for one reason or another.
Stanley opened the scoring after 7 minutes when Jamie Collings dummied his way through to score and Danny Grice converted (0-6), and things looked bleak when they doubled that score on 11 minutes when Tom Colloran stretched out of a tackle to score between the sticks, leaving Grice an easy conversion (0-12). Eccles shored up the defence though and defended the slope manfully for the rest of the half, restricting the home side to just a 40th minute penalty attempt that Grice missed.
Eccles felt they could win the game with the advantage of the sloping pitch in the second period but when John Gleadhill off loaded just 5 minutes in Richard Catley was on hand to score next to the posts. Amazingly, Grice missed the kick (0-16), but Stanley ensured victory on the hour when Grice converted his own try after re-gathering a chip over the defence (0-22). Eccles finally got a reward for their efforts 4 minutes later. Ben Williamson made a great break before being brought down 20 metres short, then a quick play the ball allowed Eccles to move the ball wide where Mark Thomas sent Antony Aldcroft in for his first ever Eccles try and Mike Carney converted (6-22). Stanley had the final say though 3 minutes from time. The referee awarded a goal line drop out when Glynn Watson was adjudged to have been tackled behind the line, although Eccles protested that he was in the field of play. Anyhow, from that kick Stanley scored through Jacky Hogan in the corner and Grice showed that he could convert from the touchline (6-28).
Eccles created chances, twice being held up over the line, and with Mark Thomas being just stopped by a try saving tackle after making a break, but the most pleasing aspect, despite leaking 28 points, was the defence, typified by Chris Smith with 38 tackles, man of the match Watson with 32 and Carney with 27 from scrum half.
Team: Bradley Lonsdale, Dave Furniss, Ben Williamson, Andrew Muscat, Martin Judge, Steve Barry, Mike Carney, Glynn Watson, Jack Chapman, Mark Thomas, Marc Gilligan, Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Antony Aldcroft, Payden Candland, Jon Smethurst.
Eccles suffered a heavy home defeat against a side that will surely finish in the top two this season and it could have been much heavier if Oulton had brought their kicking boots. Sasch Brook kicked 2 from 7 attempts and Gareth Hynes managed 3 from 5. Yet Eccles will take heart from the fact that they held the Leeds outfit to 30-30 in the second half.
Apart from Eccles forcing a drop out on 37 minutes, the first half was an exhibition of speed and back up play from Oulton as they raced into a 28-0 lead. Scott Macdonald opened the scoring on 5 minutes, but it was the 20th minute before the same player added their second, and that was the opening of the floodgates. Oulton added tries through Adrian Holdsworth (26 mins), Ryan Laycock (30), Gavin Wood (35) and finally Laycock again just before the whistle.
Eccles started the second half well only to be sickened when a stray pass went to ground and Wood raced away to score on 42 minutes (0-32). 4 minutes later Holdsworth added his second (0-38) but then Eccles had a purple patch with 3 Mike Carney converted tries in 7 minutes. The first, on 48 minutes, came when Marc Jones crashed over off a short pass from Carney (6-38). Jones also added the second and it was identical to the first except Jack Chapman provided the pass (12-38). Carney struggled out of a tackle to score the third (18-38).
At this point Oulton had 4 players on 2 tries each and they all went on to complete hat tricks. Wood was first on 62 minutes (18-42), followed 4 minutes later by Holdsworth (18-46) then Macdonald scored a 90 metre interception with 10 minutes to go (18-52).
Eccles refused to give in though and Carney combined with Steve Barry to send Mark Thomas crashing over for a Carney converted try (24-52) on 73 minutes. Laycock completed the scoring for the visitors on 77 minutes (24-58) but Carney managed to get the ball dead from the restart, forcing a goal line drop out, which led to Barry spinning out of a tackle to score between the posts – with Carney making it 5 goals from 5 attempts (30-58).
Man of the match deservedly went to Mike Carney, although credit must also go to the forwards, who were outstanding.
Team: Bradley Lonsdale, Dave Furniss, Ben Williamson, Andrew Muscat, Martin Judge, Steve Barry, Mike Carney, Glynn Watson, Jack Chapman, Mark Thomas, Chris Smith, Jon Smethurst, Anthony Aldcroft, Richard Openshaw, Marc Gilligan.
Eccles recorded their first win of the season in a hard fought battle against a very spirited Myton Warriors side, for whom second row Allan Dunham was outstanding. It took 15 minutes for Eccles to open the scoring with Glynn Watson and Mark Thomas combining to send winger Martin Judge over for 4-0, but Myton hit back with a try and conversion from scrum half Kris Walker on 26 minutes (4-6), and they increased the lead 4 minutes later with winger Lee James scoring from 65 metres out and Walker converting again (4-12).
A good break from Jack Chapman led to a Mark Thomas try for Eccles, which Mike Carney converted (10-12), but Myton scored again on the stroke of half time with James scoring his second try with an 80 metre interception. Walker added the goal (10-18).
A high kick from Steve Barry bounced kindly for Eccles 4 minutes into the restart and Carney was on hand to score a try which he also converted (16-18). Eccles regained the lead on 51 minutes when Barry provided a pass for Andrew Muscat to score and Carney converted again (22-18). Barry was again the provider to the next try with a high kick that Payden Candland regathered to shake off a defender and score in the corner (26-18), but Myton refused to lie down and scored on 71 minutes through John Hobman, converted again by Walker (26-24).
The match clinching Eccles try came on 76 minutes with Watson’s pass putting Thomas in for his second try and Carney adding a vital conversion (32-24). It was still a nervous last couple of minutes though as James completed his hat trick with a try in the corner for Myton. The Hull side opted not to take the kick for goal and instead tried to retrieve the ball from the kick off. With the final whistle approaching, Eccles held on for the win, with loose forward Chris Smith taking the Man of the Match award.
It looks like it could be a long hard season in the higher division for Eccles after another heavy defeat in Leeds. Eccles can have no complaints after they were out enthused by a very young, fit and very fast Milford side that look destined to be in the promotion frame this season. It could have been much worse, but amazingly, Eccles got their act together to keep the home side out for the last 21 minutes of the game.
Eccles actually made the brighter start and were looking more likely to score until Aaron Jones-Bishop intercepted a stray pass on the half way line on 8 minutes and raced away to score between the sticks, leaving Ryan Oxtoby an easy conversion (0-6). That was the start of the floodgates opening and Oxtoby went on to convert 8 of Milford’s 10 tries.
Milford were 16-0 up before Eccles got on the score sheet on 18 minutes. A good long pass from Marc Jones allowed Martin Judge to push off a defender and score in the corner. Mike Carney added a great conversion from the touch line, but Milford soon got back in their stride to take a 34-6 lead with the interval approaching.
Milford could have hit the 40 mark before half time, but debutant Dave Furniss came up with a try saving tackle. Milford picked up where they left off after the break though with 2 tries in 5 minutes (6-46).
Parle scored for Milford when he re-gathered his own kick on 53 minutes (6-52) and Milford scored their final try on 59 minutes (6-56). In between those tries Eccles had forced a goal line drop out with Mark Thomas and Glynn Watson making a tackle in goal. This was a sign that Eccles were going to get their “act together” for the last quarter. They did that by not allowing the Leeds outfit to cross the line again, and in fact, added a second try of their own with a great passing movement ending with Andrew Muscat and Matt Wild combining to send Judge over for his second try, although too far out this time for Carney to convert (10-56).
Steve Barry took the man of the match award, but with 35 tackles Chris Smith again was unlucky not to receive the award and Eccles team spirit remains high despite another defeat.
Widnes St. Maries showed true championship potential as they dominated a hard working Eccles side. It took just 10 minutes for the visitors to take the lead with a Mike Allen try, converted by Lee Birdseye (0-6). Birdseye also converted tries from Andy Benson on 19 minutes (0-12), Richie O’Rourke on 22 minutes (0-18) and Bensons’ second on 27 minutes (0-24). Birdseye did miss a penalty attempt on 37 minutes and also failed to improve Mike Gill’s try in the dying seconds of the half (0-28).
Eccles had a much better second half and restricted the visitors to two tries in a three minute spell, both converted by Birdseye. The first was scored by David Prescott on 57 minutes (0-34) and was quickly followed by a well worked individual try from Birdseye, following up and re-gathering his own kick (0-40).
Eccles twice managed to force goal line dropouts in the 50th and 75th minutes and Richdard Openshaw had a try ruled out on 65 minutes for a knock on – but the day belonged to deserved winners Widnes St. Maries. The visiting forwards were far too powerful for the home defence – although Chris Smith was outstanding in that department for Eccles – yet the man of the matches both went to backs. Lee Birdseye easily took the award for St. Maries, whilst centre Mike O’Boyle received the honour for Eccles.
Eccles: Brad Lonsdale, Matt Gilligan, Mike O’Boyle, Andrew Muscat, Martin Judge, Antony Aldcroft, Mike Carney, Glynn Watson, Steve Barry, Mark Thomas, Payden Candland, Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Richard Openshaw, Marc Gilligan, Matt Wild, Jack Chapman.
Eccles were severely depleted through injuries, holidays and work commitments for the trip over to Wakefield, but they still put in a much better performance than the score line suggests. The home side only scored three tries to two until they added a final try in the dying seconds, but their kicker booted seven goals from seven attempts, including three penalties, and two from the touchline.
It looked like Eccles were in for a torrid afternoon when they went 0-8 behind after just 6 minutes, but they shored up the defence and were just 6-14 behind at half time before eventually losing 12-30. It could have been much closer at the break if Mike O’Boyle’s try just before the whistle had not been ruled out by the referee.
Chris Irwin missed an opportunity to put Eccles on the scoreboard when his 12th minute penalty was caught in a swirling wind and sailed wide. Eccles did open their account five minutes from half time when Anthony Aldcroft’s short pass sent Glynn Watson crashing over. Andrew Muscat took over the kicking duties and converted both Eccles tries. He also provided the pass for the second try which saw Chris Smith crash through two defenders to score on 74 minutes, taking advantage of Normanton being reduced to 12 men three minutes earlier with their substitute being shown the red card for a high challenge on Aldcroft.
Muscat took the man of the match award, but he was pushed all the way by Smith, O’Boyle and Bradley Lonsdale, while Jack Chapman had a top game at hooker and Watson led the forwards superbly. Eccles will receive a timely boost for the home game with Widnes St. Maries next Saturday with Mark Thomas and Marc Gilligan returning from playing in Australia.
Eccles: Bradley Lonsdale, Matthew Gilligan, Michael O'Boyle, Andrew Muscatt (2G), Martin Judge, Chris Irwin, Anthony Aldcroft, Glynn Watson (1T), Jack Chapman, Jon Smethurst, Payden Candland, Marc Jones, Chris Smith (1T), Martin Wilcock, Simon Brown, Michael Foster, Danny Lancashire.
A last minute drop goal by our visitors denied Eccles a point in a game where a draw would have been a fairer result.
Eccles, fielding a vastly different team than last season for one reason or another – started well, with Martin Wilcox crossing for a well worked try on 7 minutes. Full back Chris Irwin, recently appointed to the coaching staff, missed what was to prove a vital conversion. (4-0).
10 minutes later the visitors took the lead with a try by centre Matthew Cunningham, converted by scrum half Tony Baker. (4-6).
Eccles controlled the game well and half back Antony Aldcroft – on debut for his first NCL game – kicked through for Chris Smith to chase. Smith was unlucky not grounding the ball despite his efforts. The table turned two minutes later, when Bridge’s Matthew Cunningham intercepted a pass and raced down field. A fine Eccles’ defence denied him the score.
The game quickly turned in Eccles’ favour, and minutes later Andrew Muscat collected a dropped ball and raced to the line to score. Irwin was successful in his conversion and the half finished with Eccles deservedly in the lead again by 10 pts to 6.
The lead was to last for only 10 minutes into the second half before Daniel Bullough scored a try under the sticks for Steve Sutcliffe to convert (10-12). A further try 10 minutes later by Sutcliffe, which he failed to convert, widened the scoreline to 10-16.
A determined Eccles side put pressure on the visitors and continued to push forward. Marc Jones took an opportunity well just four minutes from time and dived into the corner to bring the scoreline closer at 14-16. A conversion from the touchline by hooker Mike Carney delighted the home supporters, and the thought that a draw was on the cards seemed an acceptable result. Both teams worked hard in the dying minutes, but the boot of Bridge’s Steven Sutcliffe with a field goal denied us a point. The referee blew the final whistle as the touch judges raised their flag for the goal.
Eccles: Chris Irwin, Jack Chapman, Mike O’Boyle, Andrew Muscat, Martin Judge, Steve Barry, Antony Aldcroft, Glynn Watson, Mike Carney, Martin Wilcox, Payden Candland, Marc Jones, Chris Smith, Danny Lancashire, Mike Bolton, Simon Brown, Jon Smethurst.