Fylde Vandals climbed from 10th place to 7th in Sale Sharks Division 4 North following a hard fought win away against Blackburn 3rd XV. In perfect conditions on a pristine playing surface, the Ansdell men ran out 22-27 victors in an end to end encounter; a hat trick try by Alistair Atkinson during the last play of the game effectively settling the matter.
The opening exchanges proved to be rather stop-start with both sides kicking for position only to be pushed back by infringements at the ruck. Frazer Swindells challenged the opposition line early on with a pacy arcing run whilst his father Philip displayed his usual combination of elusiveness and tackling guile in the 10 channel. Centres Paul Green and Pete Acton looked hungry for work and both defences proved resolute. Unhappily, on 20 minutes Hooker Chris Cardwell attempted a trademark scything low tackle and was knocked unconscious by the attacking players knee. With no front row cover available among the substitutes, Tony Rawlinson was summoned from the wing into the front row and scrums went uncontested, with Stuart Satchell coming off the bench. The same pause in play saw front jumper Adey Grey leave the field with a pulled calf muscle, meaning Captain Ben James found himself joining the game earlier than planned, having suffered with a chest infection during the week.
Play resumed and Blackburn opening the scoring; their athletic looking fullback rounding the back line down the left wing with enough speed and momentum to smash through a last ditch cover tackle for 5 unconverted points. Shortly afterwards, Swindells Senior burst down the right in a promising move but wasn’t able to locate his support outside before being snared. Some fine tackling from Jack Jones and a penalty from the resultant counter-ruck allowed Green the chance to kick for position deep in the home side’s 22. 17 year old flank forward Rob King found middle jumper James with one of many accurate throws, the large pack converged tightly on the ball and drove to the line with Rawlinson powering over.
Despite having to leave the field temporarily for attention to a cut, Rawlinson was instrumental in the second try. Kicking from hand into space behind the advancing line set up a promising position in front of the Blackburn posts with Frazer Swindells chasing down the retrieving cover. The scrum that followed saw Green suck in a number of first up tacklers before Alistair Atkinson picked up at the base of the ruck and smashed over from 5 yards. The kick was hooked to the right of the sticks leaving the score 5-10 at halftime.
The second half began with a moment of light-hearted mirth. Despite scrums being uncontested, Ethan Harvey and Rawlinson still somehow conspired to lose one against the head, causing the scrum half to hastily change the angle of the feed. The Vandals advanced through a flowing move between forwards and backs that was halted when Atkinson entered contact a touch too upright and appeared to get stripped of the ball. However, the opposition were penalised for a high tackle on the lock allowing another deep kick to touch 10 yards out. Rawlinson was held up over the line from the following attack and no 8 Dave Porter went close before Rawlinson dropped his hips and shoulders lower and propelled himself over the line for his second.
Blackburn chased the restart hard, effecting a knock on at the Fylde 10 meters line. From the scrum they struck back with the fullback scoring a reversed version of his first try outpacing would be tacklers on the right flank. The kick was converted leaving the score at 12-15 and a penalty awarded for a Vandals tackler not allowing fair release on the floor shortly afterwards meant Blackburn drew level at 15-15.
The Vandals redoubled their efforts. Jack And Rob King slammed into contact and put the team on the front foot; Rob’s tidying up of captain James’s disruption of opposition line outs providing an important source of possession. Porter made way for newcomer Hakan Ilhan who busied himself supporting the two siblings in contact, along with their father Damian who hit rucks hard with fellow prop Richard Todd all afternoon. Pressure over on the far right touch line was converted into points. Atkinson blasted through for his second try from short range and with the kick just short the visitors reclaimed the lead at 15-20.
Like many games previously, Fylde again proved to be most vulnerable after scoring. A few phases after the restart and the Blackburn fullback joined the line and wrong-footed the visitor’s midfield to score a hat trick try under the posts. The kick was duly converted leaving the Vandals down by 2 at 20-22 with only a few minutes to play. EPD Sean Townsend rummaged in the file marked last minute tactical master strokes and dispatched Clive Holland to the right wing, Porter returned to the field in place of King Senior and Stuart Satchell eventually replaced Todd who hurt his back clearing out a ruck.
Breaking from inside centre, Green found another gear and glided past the defence in front of the clubhouse before dropping his right shoulder into the corner-flagging tackler tracking across. Absorbing the hit, Green flicked a deft backhanded pass to Swindells junior who was supporting closely to his outside left. The pass went to hand with the winger clear to score, only to be halted by the referee who adjudged the ball had gone forwards.
Any disappointment was quickly forgotten as clearance kick from the scrum failed to take play out of the 22. Called as the last play, the Vandals won the line out and formed a formidable maul that once again marched towards the try line as the backs flew in to add their weight to the drive. As the maul peeled infield at the 5 metre mark, the referee adjudged it had been sacked illegally and awarded a penalty. As the defence regrouped Atkinson took a quick tap and proved unstoppable for the 3rd time on the day, with Green adding the kick to end the fixture 22-27.
The Vandals would like to thank the hosts for an enjoyable game played in great spirit and the referee. Special mention must go to Vandalettes who debuted their Autumnal line of supporter wear in conspicuous ‘shock pink’ colours and Jackie Nickson for her photography during the game. Next week sees the team entertain high flying Thornton Cleveleys 2nd XV at the Woodlands
Report by Tom Godfrey (Vandals Head of Media).
FYLDE: 1 Todd, 2 Cardwell, 3 D King, 4 A Grey, 5 Atkinson, 6 R King, 7 J King, 8 Porter, 9 Harvey, 10 S-P Swindells, 11 Rawlinson, 12 Green, 13 Acton, 14 F Swindells, 15 Jones. Subs: 16 Townsend, 17 James, 18 Satchell, 19 Holland, 20 Ilhan.