Hoppers 2nd XV come good after a stuttering start to win away at Rochdale 5-47.
With injuries and unavailability of players continuing to make selection challenging, Steve Tiernan decided to hand 2nd XV debuts to two of the clubs colts, 17yr olds Nick Johnson (2nd Row) and Connor Dalgliesh (Back Row). With the numbers now healthier, Hoppers travelled to a dogged Rochdale in the hope of continuing the winning run. Although the score may suggest otherwise, Hoppers made hard work of what should have been a comfortable win.
Things didn’t start well as centre Jack Swarbrick got injured in the warm up therefore a late reshuffle was needed. Milliken was moved into the 13 position with Oli Yates slotting back into Full Back. Harry Swarbrick then replaced his brother and started on the wing. This left Hoppers with two replacements in new addition Alex Preston and the perpetual Craig Steel.
Rochdale took to the game with a feverish determination, putting the Hoppers pack on the back foot and a very scrappy game then ensued. With the game still 0-0 after 15 minutes, frustrations started to boil over from both sides and a lack of discipline from Clitheroe got him a flash of the Referees yellow card. Hoppers had lost concentration and reverted to a frantic style of play which seemed to suit the home side, however, the experienced Murray was able to calmly kick some great territory to relieve some pressure and allow the pack to regroup. This they did and duly opened the scoring with Dalgliesh carrying well and feeding in Milliken under the posts, who converted his own try. Hoppers led 0-7.
Rochdale soon got back in the game when a lack of concentration in defence allowed them to score in the corner. Hoppers continued to lead 5-7 after the conversion went wide. Half time couldn’t come soon enough for the coaches as some calm was needed to get the players refocused. A change was forced at the interval with winger Flanagan going off and Prop Alex Preston moving into the front row. The adaptable Jake Sheppard moved into the back row which allowed the swifter Dalgliesh to occupy the wing. The second half started after the players were unmistakeably reminded about what they needed to do. Hoppers were suddenly a team reborn.
Sam Whyte scored a well worked try just after the restart and with Milliken continuing to kick effectively, Hoppers increased the lead to 5-14. Rochdale soon found themselves on the wrong side of a determined and focused Hoppers pack with Corey Logan terrorising the opposition at every breakdown, turning over a remarkable ratio of ball. With this momentum, Hoppers pushed harder and Dalgliesh scored his first senior try for the club after going in from a pass from Milliken. With the conversion again good, Hoppers were up 21-5. However, the score of the day came from Milliken himself who from his own 10 metre line, stepped through the Rochdale defence and cantered 60 yards over the try line, stepping round the waiting full back to put down behind the posts to ensure his conversion was less demanding. The conversion went wide and hoppers now led 5-26.
Tries soon followed from Yates and Clitheroe, the latter taking advantage of a Rochdale Sin Bin as the home side’s resolve had been replaced with frustration. Hoppers led 5-40 on 73 mins when Steel came on to replace prop Dylan Bacha. Hoppers pressed once more which resulted in Milliken scoring the game’s final try which he duly converted. Hoppers won the game 5-47.
Although the game stuttered in the first half, it was pleasing to see how the players reacted at the interval. What ensued was a very mature and effective second half.
This week’s focus is now on the home tie against Vale of Lune in the first round of the cup.
Team: Sheppard, Taylor, Burns, Johnson, Bacha, Dalgleish, Clitheroe, Logan, Whyte, Murray, H Swarbrick, Forster, Milliken, Flanagan, Yates
Replacements: Steel, Preston