Broughton Park arrived at Rivacre Road after a fifty point humbling of Birkenhead Park the previous week and Anselmians were under no illusions about their task to subdue last season’s champions of South Lancashire/Cheshire 1. Lunchtime chat revealed that Park had used over forty players in their ten games thus far and their supporters travelled more in hope than expectation. There were six changes to the published team sheet.
Anselmians began brightly enough. Moving the ball swiftly down the backs prompted by scrum-half Josh Stead, the centres put pressure on the visitors’ defence. A superb break by Sam Russell, after seven minutes, released burly Charlie Hough and it was only the desperate covering tackle of centre Joseph that prevented a score. Hough was injured and, in the hiatus, Park re-organised. Anselmians continued to press and the foraging back row of Lamming, Dowler and Grabe were prominent. Not for the first time, Saints’ pressure was dissipated by a loose final pass or a knock-on. Nevertheless, after fifteen minutes Anselmians were on top but with no rewards for their efforts.
Slowly Park, having weathered the initial storm, got into the game and, after a sustained period of possession, were rewarded with a kickable penalty. Newcomer and stand-off, Duddell missed to the left of the post. However, stand-off Andy Cummings was kicking astutely for position and, after twenty-five minutes, Anselmians’ first penalty was boldly struck by full-back Ben Sadler to give the home side a deserved 3-0 lead. Park were not to be denied and replied with a third penalty which Duddell converted to make the score 3-3 after half an hour. Defences on both sides were dominant but, approaching the break, Anselmian indiscipline resulted in an extra ten metres, but Duddell missed the penalty. A second penalty soon after was successfully converted by Duddell making the score, 3-3.
Approaching the break, Anselmians were under pressure and captain Russell was yellow-carded. A familiar story of Saints’ pressure yielding little reward was unfolding. Just on half-time, Duddell made no mistake with another penalty and Park led 3-6 at the break.
Anselmians began the second half more focussed and determined and dominated the early exchanges. The back row, particularly Will Grabe, were gaining valuable possession and it was Grabe who thought he had scored diving over the white line. Unfortunately, the white line was an old soccer marking. The rugby boundaries were in red. This was forgivable but a few minutes later, the same player repeated the dive, much to the amusement of some spectators. Anselmians did cross the line but the referee awarded them a penalty which, again, Sadler hooked wide. Anselmian had dominated the first ten minutes, but a moment of madness by second-row Niall Cavanagh, would turn the game. Adjudged to have butted an opponent, he was immediately dismissed and the seven man home pack, hitherto dominant, would slowly concede territory and the game as the unequal task became too much.
Just before the hour, Anselmians drew level when Sadler successfully goaled his second penalty and, at 6-6, Saints had some reward for their efforts. In the last twenty minutes, Park slowly wrenched the initiative as the numbers began to count. Park’s pack began to push the Anselmian seven backwards, generating more ball and more mistakes from the retreating pack. Another penalty on eighty-two minutes by Dudell restored the Park lead, 9-3, but Anselmians were offered immediate redress with a relatively simple kick but Sadler, again hooked the kick to the left of the posts.
With five minutes left, a Park counter-attack produced another penalty which Duddell converted, and at 12-6, Anselmians needed a try. Enormous pressure on the Park line was withstood and it was a measure of the relief that the visitors felt when the roar went up at the final whistle. For Anselmians, a losing bonus point was scant reward for their efforts and coach McKinney will doubtless have some opinions on the sending off. This was a game Saints should have won, but they have only themselves to blame.