Wirral 10-16 Huddersfield
Two second half penalties from Chris Bell were just enough to give Huddersfield RU a 16-10 win on the Wirral.
Wirral took a 7-3 lead in to the break as the Field struggled to create any real scoring opportunities, but Austen Thompson’s try a minute into the restart paved way for Gareth Lewis’ side to get their eighth league win in a row and maintain their 100% start to the season.
The weather in Liverpool almost mirrored the action on the pitch in the first half in a very dull start for both sides.
Huddersfield were initially stronger as they made decent ground with a succession of lineouts inside the Wirral 22, but they came to no prevail.
Wirral were first to offer a real threat and got the first scores of the day when Chris Burrows went through with ease. He had men in hand with just fullback Lewis Workman to beat and decided to hit the whitewash himself. Jimmy Annetts added the conversion.
The home side could have gone even further ahead had Annetts added his penalty less than ten minutes after his conversion, but he missed the target.
Wirral were unlucky not to score the second try of the game, too, when they were held up on the try-line, and with Elliot Hodgson leaving the field due to illness the half time whistle couldn’t have come quick enough, but Bell did well to score a penalty to put Huddersfield on the board just before the whistle.
Adam Tamanis was next to leave the match with illness and it looked to have been a long afternoon in the waiting, but whatever Lewis said at half time must have hit home with the players left on the pitch.
He brought on Reuben Pollard and Ben Hoyle for the pair within a minute of the restart, and within a minute of the second half Thompson went under the sticks after a lovely one-two with Hoyle. Bell added the extras to put the Field ahead for the first time.
Unlike recent weeks where the second half had been a walk in the park for the Field side, it wasn’t to be a straight forward 40 minutes, and Annetts scored a penalty to make it 10-10 with a quarter to go.
Still struggling to dominate, Wirral looked more likely to steal a win with the game in the balance until Huddersfield were awarded a penalty for offside, and Bell added a crucial three.
Wirral again had efforts to score a try but Huddersfield just about dealt with it, and Bell’s penalty with 10 minutes to go meant the Field were left to protect a slender but sufficient six-point lead.
“I’m quite relieved” said Lewis. “We weren’t at our best today and I sensed that in the warm up. These are the sort of challenges we’re going to face over the course of the season. In many ways, we can use this as a positive, it’ll keep us honest and on our toes and make sure we train hard this week.”
“It is good to win ugly sometimes. You can’t be racking up 50 or 60 points every week because it’s a hard league. I said at the start of the season you must respect the league. Wirral finished second last year and have beaten good sides and you could see why today.”
“They had some excellent players, especially their 10, Craig Harvey, who pulled the strings and their 9, Joe Murray, who was a real live wire around the ruck.
“We picked up a few injuries which disrupted our momentum. Elliot was struggling with sickness this morning and Adam Tamanis was the same, they started but on reflection probably shouldn’t have. But we showed the strength in depth of our squad, I thought Ben Hoyle, who has had a bit of a frustrating month in terms of selection, was brilliant. He came on today and showed what a quality player he is.”
“There were a few chosen words at half time but it needed to be said. The first half performance wasn’t good enough but in fairness they came out of the blocks. It was great play from Austen and Ben interchanging in passes and going under the posts is exactly the way you should start.
“At the end the way we managed it was controlled to see out the win showed the maturity of the team.”
It was a pretty hostile place to be at times too, but Lewis explained how it didn’t hinder his team. He said:
“I love that kind of atmosphere. There were a few verbals from the crowd and its part of the game. Wirral thrive off their amateur status vocal about how they don’t pay their players and in fairness they were outstanding they pushed us all the way so credit to them.