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Home > News > Ashton Under Lyme 7 - Garstang 20
Your News Ashton Under Lyme 7 - Garstang 20

With Ashton-under-Lyne on nine points and Garstang on eight both teams had this game marked down as a must-win. Garstang stood four points above the relegation places and knew that victory would almost certainly guarantee another season of rugby at this level.

With such a crucial game in the offing Garstang were desperate to give themselves every chance but they were frustrated with a long list of injuries and several players had to be drafted in from the Blues many playing out of position.

Garstang crucially won the toss and elected to play with a fierce wind behind them. Jimmy Richardson fired his players up and the team knew that they needed to take advantage of the conditions and put in a big first half performance.

From the kick off Jimmy took the ball and the team recycled the it well, it came back to Andy Blackley and he was able to put in a beauty of a kick which had the opposition full back in all sorts of trouble. The ball bounced into touch to give Ashton a line out close to their own line. Ashton won the line out but were only able to gain a few yards with their clearance kick. Garstang won their line out with a clean take from Keith Yates and rumbled towards the try line. Ashton defended well but they were powerless to stop Richard Orr from crashing over and scoring under the posts. Andy Blackley added the easy extras (0-7).

Following this score Garstang knew that they had to retain the same level of intensity to keep Ashton under the cosh. They did this extremely well and it wasnt long before they were in the opposition half again. Andy Blackley put in another booming kick but was the victim of a late tackle which took him out of the game, for this a penalty was awarded in the Ashton half. Garstang took a quick tap and were awarded another penalty within range. Blackers duly slotted it to give Garstang a deserved 10-0 lead.

Garstang were clearly dominating the exchanges up front and the prop pairing of Nick Smith and Bert Cross were magnificent as they tidily went about their work in the loose and excelled in the set piece.

It is inevitable that whatever level of dominance a team is establishing the opposition will always have their moments. Ironically, it was from Ashtons best period of play that Garstang got their next score. With the strong wind Ashtons only way out of their own half was to keep the ball in hand. They strung together two or three decent phases of play and looked to spread the ball out wide on halfway. They got the ball to the winger but he spilled it and Adam Nickson pounced. He went past the nearest man and was able to cruise in under the posts. Andy Blackley added the east extra two points to give Garstang a 17-0 lead.

Garstang knew that with the elements in their favour they had to maximise their advantage and they kept up the pressure well. A good kick into the opposition half gave Garstang one last chance before half time. Lee Waddell, making his welcome and timely return following knee surgery, threw the ball into Max Everest at the front of the line out. Ashton infringed and Garstang were awarded a kickable penalty, Andy Blackley stepped up and slotted a cool goal (0-20).

At half time Garstang knew that they would have a tough task in the second period with a lead to defend against a fierce wind.

At the start of the second period Ashton tore into Garstang but magnificent defence, particularly from Graeme Slater and Jimmy Richardson kept them out bay. Ashton could not get the breakthrough early on and their frustration started to tell as they conceded several penalties which allowed Garstang to clear their lines.

When Ashton did get the ball out the midfield combination of Andy Emmott and Simon Whittingham were able to manage their opposite numbers and diffuse any threat. Ashton never got the domination and possession that they required to threaten Garstang and very rarely used the advantages the conditions offered. On the few occasions they did the back three trio of Paul Shepherd, Roddy Bettaney and Adam Nickson were up to it.

Ashtons heads were beginning to drop but they raised their game and with fifteen minutes to go they gave themselves hope. Sustained pressure in the Garstang twenty-two eventually saw them score a try when they forced their way over from close range (7-20).

Garstang refused to let the game be drawn into a close contest and they bounced straight back. Nick Smith set up decent ball which was recycled well and Browny then popped it back inside to his forwards. Richard Orr took it on and went within inches of going over in the corner. The chance was gone but the clock was running down.

With time almost up Ashton had one last go at the Garstang line but squandered the chance. The referee indicated that their were just three minutes to play and Garstang saw them out extremely professionally. The forwards just worked the ball up the field and played the clock down before Paul Brown, who was making a welcome and productive return to the 1st XV, passed to Paul Shepherd who put the ball of the park to give the team a great win.

Keith Yates won the Man of the Match award for a performance which showed that he is back so somewhere near his best but the whole forward pack were magnificent and they set the platform for a great team performance.

Team: 1.Bert Cross, 2.Lee Waddell, 3.Nick Smith, 4.Richard Orr, 5.Max Everest, 6.Jimmy Richardson (C), 7.Graeme Slater, 8.Keith Yates, 9.Paul Brown, 10.Andy Blackley, 11.Roddy Bettaney, 12.Andy Emmott, 13.Simon Whittingham, 14.Adam Nickson, 15.Paul Shepherd. Replacements: Chris Bone, Jon Corless.

On Saturday 8th March the 1st XV are at home to Old Bedians, the Blues travel to Fleetwood and the Lions have a week off. All games are scheduled to kick-off at 14:30 but these times may change due to the clash with the Six Nations rugby. Further details will be published on

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