The 2013/14 season is starting to resemble Groundhog Day for Garstang 1st XV as another week came and another lead was relinquished in dramatic fashion on the last play of the day.
Conditions for the game were good but the pitch resembled a swamp on one side and this had the effect of slowing the game down as the contest took on an attritional nature.
Ashton were the first team on the scoreboard as they capitalised on a fumble by a Garstang player on his own line and recycled the ball from the subsequent scrum to score in the corner (5-0).
Garstang were providing a threat of their own and the back three of Walling, Constant and Rawlinson were returning the kicks with interest. When the equalising score came for Garstang it followed an error by the Ashton fly-half. He spilled the ball in midfield and it was scooped up by the ever-alert Nickson, he popped a pass to John O’Brien who ran through a gap and brushed off the last two defenders to score an outstanding individual try (5-5).
That was to be the final score of the half. Either side of the break Garstang unloaded their bench with Lambert, Everest and Barton replacing Kelsall, Haley and Quinn respectively.
Early in the second period Garstang allowed Ashton to pin them back in their own half when they missed a kick to touch. The ball was worked through the phases and Ashton eventually got over the line. The conversion was outstanding into the wind to give the home side a 12-5 lead.
Garstang didn’t panic though and they were making good ground with Whitaker, Slater and O’Brien making hard yards as the team established a period of domination.
Firstly, Dawson made a fine break in midfield before drawing the final man and passing to Barton on his inside shoulder who had the simple task of running in unopposed under the posts. Richmond added the conversion to level the scores at 12-12.
Shortly afterwards Pye took a quick tap penalty and he was the victim of a clumsy high tackle. The Ashton man was sent to the sin-bin and Garstang pumped the penalty into the corner to establish an attacking platform. The ball was recycled and when Dawson looked like he would spin it wide he threw a cheeky dummy and snuck through a gap to score under the posts (12-19).
By now all the momentum was with Garstang and they looked more likely to extend their lead rather than surrender it. However, Ashton, who were now back up to a full quota of players, started to get some field position and began to build some pressure.
With less than five minutes remaining Garstang were hanging on again and when Barton was yellow carded for slowing the ball down at a ruck Garstang were forced to defend a scrum from just five metres out. Ashton drove forward at the scrum and when a Garstang player tried to stop the ball the referee had no hesitation in awarding the penalty try. The kick in front of the posts was slotted over and the scores were locked at 19-19 with two minutes to play.
Garstang needed to play the last two minutes on the offensive and from the kick-off they took the ball at the Ashton midfield. However, they committed an offence by holding on and Ashton were awarded a penalty. They kicked the ball to the corner and had a line out which was called as the last play of the afternoon. Garstang defended the initial drive but were powerless to stop the back man from peeling off and scoring in the corner to give Ashton the victory (24-19).
Team: Miller, Quinn, Whitaker, Orr, Haley, Slater (Capt.), Kelsall, O’Brien, Nickson, Dawson, Walling, Pye, Richmond, Constant, Rawlinson. Replacements: Everest, Barton, Lambert.
The Veterans got a rare win away against Ormskirk 4ths by 50-7.
This weekend the 1st XV are at home hosting league leaders, De La Salle. The Blues are also at home against Ormskirk 2nds. Both games kick off at 2.15pm.
The draws for the team cup competitions have been made. In the Lancashire Plate the 1st XV have been draw away at Bolton and in the BEST Shield the Blues have been drawn away against Wigan 3rds. Both ties on February 1.