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Article written by Patrick Baines, photographs courtesy of Lewis Mitchell and Heather Stanley
All Golds 18-38 Rochdale Hornets
A strong second half performance saw Rochdale claim the win at the Prince of Wales Stadium. The teams were well matched for the first half but the visitors put on a dominant second half showing and were well worth the 20 point winning margin.
The All Golds started in confident mood and took a deserved early lead. Rochdale were punished after knocking on and the home side made them pay when winger Ryan Pywell found himself in space and went over in the corner. Matt Bradley missed his conversion from out wide.
The Golden Fern carried on their early dominance and it was Pywell again involved. The Aussie took a smart catch close to his own try line then went on a mazy run beating three Rochdale players. The home side completed the set and were deep in the Rochdale half. The visitors gained significant ground and looked like scoring only for the home side to hold firm after a string of bone crunching tackles. Eventually the ball broke loose with Joe McClean powering his way down field. Jamie Murphy, on debut, hit an inch perfect 40-20 kick to give the All Golds another good chance to score. Captain Steve Parry looked to have done just that but the referee chalked it off for an apparent double movement.
After a quiet opening the Hornets got going and scored their first try on 13 minutes. The All Golds, with prop forward Ollie Purslow in the sin bin for a high tackle on Danny Yates, struggled to repel the visitors attack. After 4 tackles the ball found Danny Bridge who dived over in the corner. Crook converted to see the visitors take a 6-4 lead.
Straight from the re-start the All Golds took the lead after some disastrous play from the Hornets. They knocked on underneath their own posts and Joe McClean made them pay as he scored what will have been one of the easier tries of the season. Matt Bradley made no mistake from underneath the sticks to see the home side go 10-6 up.
Then followed a rather scrappy ten minutes as both sides struggled in possession. On 30 minutes Rochdale scored their second try. The influential Crook went over from close range and he converted his own try to give Rochdale a 2 point lead.
Jamie Murphy was having a big influence on the game but he suffered a nasty collarbone injury on the half hour mark and was replaced by Toby Topham. The referee awarded the All Golds a penalty soon after and they opted to kick for goal. The decision was vindicated when a fine kick from Bradley split the posts to see the score at 12-12.
It looked like that would be the half time score but Rochdale scored a well worked try on 38 minutes. The ball was moved quickly out wide to Dale Bloomfield who had just enough room to touch down in the corner. On loan St Helens man, Lewis Charnock, took over the kicking duties and struck a perfect kick from the tightest of angles. The hooter sounded with the visitors enjoying a narrow 18-12 lead.
The Golden Fern were straight out of the blocks in the second half and scored their third try. On the final tackle Matt Bradley sent a towering kick into the stratosphere which the Rochdale full back decided to let bounce. The ball went straight over his head and was gathered by the on running Callum Mulkeen who had the simple task of touching down without a Rochdale player near him. Bradley took care of the extras as the sides were level again.
Momentum was now with the home side but Rochdale hit back 5 minutes later when James Tilly powered his way over the white wash from close range. Charnock remained on kicking duty and he made no mistake. Rochdale again establishing a 6 point lead.
Perhaps the key moment of the game happened on the hour mark when Rochdale scored a try of real quality. After a fine move, Mike Ratu offloaded to Danny Yates who dived over. Crook, back on the field, took over from Charnock but his kick smashed off the upright. Rochdale now dominating and ten points to the good.
The game was as good as over on 64 minutes when Rochdale scored their third try of the half. Bradley Hargreaves received the ball out wide to race home in the corner. Crook stepped up for the conversion attempt but he dragged it wide.
Rochdale, defeated last week by Oldham, were relentless in their attacks and scored the last try of the game on 72 minutes. Paul Crook, a constant threat all afternoon, scored his second try of the game. He received the ball on halfway and scythed through the overworked All Golds back line. He still had a man to beat as he raced through but sold the All Golds defender a dummy and touched down for a try of individual brilliance. After a lung busting 50 yard run he picked up his kicking tee and slotted the conversion home
The last five minutes saw the All Golds push forward but the Hornets held firm and were fully deserving of their victory.
All Golds: Jamie Murphy, Callum Mulkeen, Lewis Reece, Phil Cowburn, Ryan Pywell, Joe Martin, Matt Bradley, Ollie Purslow, Steve Parry, Joe McClean, Emmerson Whittel, Brad England, Jamie Crowther
Bench: Toby Topham, Izaak Duffy, Chris Vitalini, Ash Haynes
Tries: Pywell, McClean, Mulkeen
Goals: Bradley 3/4
Rochdale Hornets: Gareth Langley, Brad Hargreaves, Dave Hull, Mike Ratu, Dale Bloomfield, Ryan Smith, Danny Yates, Richie Beaumont, Paul Crook, Warren Thompson, Jordan Case, Danny Bridge, Tony Suffolk
Bench: Lewis Charnock, Matty Hadden, Alex McClurg, James Tilly
Tries: Bridge, Crook (2), Bloomfield, Tilley, Yates, Hargreaves
Goals: Crook 3/5, Charnock 2/2
Penalty count: All Golds 7-5 Rochdale
Referee: Chris Campbell