Manchester Chargers saw a full house sign up for this weeks turn up and play session on Wednesday evening, the format proving to be a real hit for players of all abilities. With the referee noticing Paul Ashton (from the red team) wearing the shorts of his beloved Brisbane Bronco’s, you could be forgiven for thinking they may get a few home decisions. But when he said they were going cheap due to them winning the wooden spoon for 2020, that notion was quickly erased.
The match started after a brief warm up and much the same as last week, it took 10 minutes for the first score to arrive. However this was down to some great defence rather than lack of endeavour or skill, with Victoria Kini and Helen McGartland in particular making some outstanding defensive reads. The first score of the night was worth the wait though, with the back team running the sweep to the right on the last touch, Bruce Bailey finding Jonny Gill to run in the try. As if by magic, this seemed to remind the red team of how to do it. From the ensuing tap off, they drove the left hand channel and a few plays later, Ashton, resplendent in his Brisbane Broncos shorts (❤️), fed Danny Lomax to score between 2 defenders in the centre. It looked like the floodgates could open as 2 more quick scores followed. The first came from the black team with Bailey taking a pass from Hugh Spencer on the left to add a try to his earlier assist, before Luke Hickson took the pass from Harry Thompson to bring the red team even at the break at 2-2.
The 2nd stanza started brightly for the reds, with Sarah Bellew winning this weeks’ Bondi shark award, diving between 2 defenders after some great lead up work by Stefan Redfern, taking them in to the lead for the first time in the match. However it didn’t last long as Bailey, by now having a big impact on proceedings, dotted down for his second try, juggling just before the dead-ball line after a great scoop and run to the in-goal area by Rory Payne. We’re almost at the end of the 2nd section and no mention of Cropper. Well it couldn’t last – with him taking advantage of an overlap to dot down on the right wing. The final pass came from Gill who could have scored himself, but decided to unselfishly give the pass, thus securing his long term future with the club. 4 – 3 to the black team at the break.
With both teams asking what the score was as play resumed, it was easy to see that neither side were considering this a friendly run out. And it was the black team who took the initiative with another impressive score to Bailey. It came after a break down the left by Payne, who was chased down in a great cover defensive play by Ken Sio (has he played the game before?). However Bailey instinctively realised the defence were gassed after a length of the field chase, and stepped back to the left to find a narrowest of holes to run in to for his hat-trick (see headline), adding to his earlier assist. For the first time in the match, there was daylight between the teams. But that didn’t last long as the red team bought it back to one score deficit when Sio scored on the left hand side, Thompson putting him through the hole with a delayed and well timed pass. With 5 minutes still on the clock, neither team could breach the defence, the black team holding out for a hard-fought 5 -4 victory.
With the cobwebs blown away after last week’s run-out, the standard of play and pace of the match went up a notch this week. As did the number of players on the red team not wearing red (cmon guys, it’s simple!). Despite it being a lower scoring match, it was great to see such competitiveness from both teams.
To avoid disappointment, make sure you sign up early for post lockdown 2.0 game #3 next Wednesday.