Garstang 5 De La Salle 18
The first two games of 2014 saw Garstang lose two games which they really ought to have won against teams in the lower half of the table.
However, this game saw Garstang come up against a very strong De La Salle team who seem destined for promotion, having won every game this season.
Despite the defeat it was probably Garstang’s best performance of the year and if they had been able to maintain the intensity of the first half an upset could have been on the cards.
Garstang started in fine form and caught De La Salle cold when they scored the opening try with just over five minutes played. A fine midfield break put Garstang in position and then the team worked the ball through three phases before spreading it wide to Matt Constant, who snuck over in the corner. The conversion attempt fell short.
De La Salle started to get back in the game with a combination of aggressive forward play, smart kicking and good back play, but were continually frustrated by a strong Garstang defence and errors at key moments. On the 15 minute mark they were awarded a penalty within range and decided to take the three points to close the gap to 5-3.
Garstang were still threatening themselves and were left to rue two good try scoring chances.
Firstly, Josh Knowles made an incisive break through the midfield and almost got to the line before being hauled down. The supporting players did not quite get there in time and the chance was gone.
Then Garstang looked to have scored their second try when they disrupted a De La Salle scrum on their own line. The ball squirted out and Kelsall reacted first to dive over the line and score.
Unfortunately, the referee deemed the scrum had been illegally disrupted and gave a penalty against Garstang.
That moment was probably a turning point, as De La Salle cleared their lines and established a period of pressure of their own. With the half-time break approaching, Garstang infringed in their own half. The kick was good and De La Salle led 6-5.
Garstang have conceded several late tries in recent weeks and allowed De La Salle a crucial score with the last play of the half when a line out from close range was driven over by De La Salle. The conversion from the touchline was outstanding to give them a 13-5 lead.
Garstang knew that the next score was going to be crucial. Unfortunately, it was De La Salle who got it when their prop burrowed over from close range with 10 minutes of the second half played.
The ball looked like it had been held up but the referee awarded the try to make it 18-5.
With the pitch and weather deteriorating, the game slowed down and became a very stop-start affair mainly played out in the middle third of the pitch.
The last period was still hard fought and closely contested, but De La Salle were able to close the game out and secure the win.
De La Salle voted Richard Orr as man of the match with the Garstang players choosing Lawson Whittaker.
Garstang: Miller, Barton, Whitaker, Orr, O’Brien, Slater (captain), Kelsall, Billington, Brown, Dawson, Rawlinson, Richmond, Knowles, Constant, Nickson. Replacements: Johnston, Everest.
l This Saturday the 1st XV were due to play Bolton in the Lancashire Plate semi-final, but their home league game against Mossley Hill, postponed earlier in the month has been rearranged for Saturday, kick off 2.15pm. The Plate semi-final will be on February 22.
The Blues are away against Wigan thirds in the second round of the BEST Shield.