Brilliant first half sees Garstang take Birchfield to the cleaners

Graeme Slater on with the ball.
Graeme Slater on with the ball.
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Garstang 33, Birchfield 5

North Lancs One

Garstang opened their account on Saturday with a scintillating first half performance which gave them the bonus point before the half-time whistle.

Garstang were still smarting from the cup exit and opening day league defeat at Ashton and they were determined to make amends this week. With several players who missed the defeat the previous week returning to the starting line up the team looked much stronger and this proved to be the case.

Within minutes of the start of the game Garstang scored the opening try.

The forwards set up a platform before Stuart Dawson, starting in the unfamiliar Scrum-Half position, released the ball out to his back division who spread the ball wide to Adam Nickson who went over in the corner (5-0).

Soon after Garstang doubled their lead as Graeme Slater broke through the defence and went over the line (10-0). Garstang were creating chances at will but the final execution often let them down and with almost thirty minutes played a certain amount of anxiety started to creep in, especially after John O’Brien had a try disallowed for a double movement. However, Max Everest helped to allay any fears Garstang may have had when he took a quick tap penalty, before racing through the ragged defence to score Garstang’s third try of the afternoon (17-0).

Just before the break Garstang scored the best try of the afternoon which also secured them the four try bonus point.

Big runs from Greg Billington, John O’Brien and Lawson Whitaker were all quickly recycled and, with the defence pulled all over the place, Garstang were able to move it quickly down the line to enable Adam Nickson to race over in the corner. It was an excellently worked try with all the players doing their jobs to create the space and then execute the opportunity when it arose (22-0).

With the game almost certainly won the half time talk was all about the need to continue to play to the game plan and maintain the intensity. However, the inevitable lull happened and the spark seemed to disappear as Garstang struggled to motivate themselves to match the highs of the first half.

Garstang decided to freshen things up on fifty minutes with O’Brien, who had an outstanding game, being withdrawn to preserve him for future battles, and Danny Gunn coming off in place of Craig Johnston and Martin Hindle.

With try-scoring opportunities drying up Garstang decided that they needed to get the scoreboard ticking again and when they were offered a couple of penalties under the posts John Robinson decided to take the shots at goal and he successfully kicked them both to extend the lead to 28-0.

With fifteen minutes to play Max Everest added his second try of the afternoon following a dominant scrummage and the win was secure at 33-0.

To their credit, Birchfield never gave in, and with time nearly up they scored a well- worked consolation try to make the final score 33-5.

Garstang can be fully satisfied with their win as they stuck to their structure and game plan, but they know if they want to compete at the top they need to maintain their intensity and precision for the full 80 minutes every week.

Team: Miller, Gunn, Whitaker, Everest, Raby, Billington, Slater, O’Brien, Dawson, Davies, Rowbottom, Robinson (C), Knowles, Nickson, Lambert. Replacements: Barton, Hindle.

The Blues started their league campaign on Saturday against Blackburn 3rd XV but they suffered a 48-0 defeat.

On Saturday the 1st XV are away at Burnley and the Blues are at home against Burnley 3rds.