North Division North Lancs 1
Didsbury Toc 17
Yet another last minute try saw 14-man Garstang defeated by top outfit Didsbury at the weekend.
A red card for Paul Brown and yellows for Pete Duckworth and Lee Acton saw the side reduced to 12 men late in the second half, but Garstang were only denied victory after a Didsbury try on 79 minutes took the score to 17-15.
It was the second narrow loss in a row for Garstang, who now sit seventh in the North Division league table.
Garstang started the game on the front foot, and a couple of intelligent kicks from Matt Constant ensured they were able to launch a series of attacks from deep inside the Didsbury half. Despite battering the line for the first 15 minutes, Garstang could not find a way through.
Just before the half-hour mark, Garstang were forced to defend a five-metre scrum after some desperate defence.
The Garstang pack could not halt the Didsbury drive, and they won the scrum and claimed a try to take a 5-0 lead.
Within minutes, another great run under the posts extended the lead to 12-0.
Garstang rang the changes at this point, with Ben Corless, making his debut on his return to the club, and Pete Duckworth being brought on in the front row. This had an instant impact, as the first scrum after their introduction saw Garstang demolish their opposition.
And it was O’Brien who broke through in midfield and fed the ball out to Adam Nickson, who scored in the corner to get Garstang back in the game at 12-7.
At half-time Garstang made another change, with Lee Acton being introduced on his return to the club after over six years away.
And, within minutes of the restart, Acton scored a spectacular try. The forwards took the ball up well and when it was worked out wide Acton broke through a gap, surged past the covering defenders and smashed over the full back to score in the corner (12-12).
Garstang were now starting to dominate. However, a series of unfortunate events led to them being severely handicapped.
Firstly, Pete Duckworth received a yellow card for being offside to reduce Garstang to 14 men. Then a Didsbury player assaulted Lee Acton while he was on the floor with a flurry of unanswered punches. Several players from both sides charged in, before the situation finally calmed down.
The referee sent off Paul Brown, Lee Acton received a yellow card and the Didsbury player who was the aggressor only received a yellow.
Garstang were fired up by the injustice of the events, and the 12 men were inspired as they tackled everything that moved, with captain Slater leading by example.
When Duckworth returned to the pitch five minutes later, Didsbury had been unable to create a single chance despite a two-man advantage. Garstang, still with only 13 men, then built some pressure of their own, and forced a penalty which McLennan converted to give Garstang an unlikely 15-12 lead.
But, with just a minute to play, Didsbury exploited their numerical advantage as they spotted a gap in behind, with just two men covering the back three slots.
An intelligent kick was put over and their winger won the race to touch down and score the try.
Didsbury won the restart, but Garstang piled in and put pressure on the receiver, which forced him to hold on and concede a penalty.
The penalty was a good distance out, but it was kickable so McLennan elected to go for goal. He struck the ball well, but it just shaved the upright and the chance was gone as the referee called time.
Garstang: Miller, Gunn, Whitaker, Orr, O’Brien, Slater (C), Kelsall, Billington, Brown, Dawson, Rowbottom, McLennan, Pye, Constant, Nickson. Replacements: Acton, Corless, Duckworth.
On Saturday, the 1st XV are at home to St Edwards Old Boys, kick-off 2.15pm; The Blues play away against league leaders Wigan 3rds.