AN under-strength Ormskirk first team travelled to Aigburth to play fourth-placed Liverpool Collegiate knowing that they would have to be at their best to record a victory.
With five regular starters missing through injury or work commitments it was imperative that they started strongly and gain a foothold in the match and even playing up the hill and into the wind in the first half, they did just that.
The first 20 minutes were played almost entirely in the middle third of the pitch with defences on top, Martin Rothwell, Phil Davis and Glyn Roberts, playing out of position at centre, to the fore for Ormskirk, continually knocking back Collegiate’s ball carriers.
After a period of pressure from the home team, the deadlock was broken with a penalty, converted by the impressive Collegiate fly-half.
Back came Ormskirk immediately and after a trademark jinking run from full-back Joe Hodson, backed up by a strong carry from Val Gateley gave them good field position they were awarded a penalty.
Up stepped fly-half Alex Lambie to level the scores.
Collegiate regained the lead on 28 minutes with a try in the corner after Ormskirk failed to keep their ‘pick and go’ tactics at bay and they crashed over the line, converted by their fly-half.
The game continued to be a dogged contest with no quarter asked or given from either side in a very even contest. Ormskirk were next score, after a sniping break from captain Gaz Prytherch, Dan Hitchlock took the ball into Collegiate’s 22 were the home side were penalised for slowing the ball down.
Opting to kick for the corner, Ormskirk won their line out and the rampaging Ryan Purcell bulldozed his way over the line for his 3rd try in three games. The conversion was missed and ‘Kirk found themselves 2 points down at half-time.
Now with the elements in their favour, ‘Kirk were confident they could turn around this deficit and straight away piled the pressure on the home side.
The front five of Gateley, Fogarty, Purcell, Davis and Merrill started to dominate the scrum, providing the possession for Prytherch and Lambie to kick Ormskirk into good positions on the pitch.
This pressure told and on 46 minutes, a penalty from Lambie put the Gingerbread Men in front for the first time.
Collegiate weren’t about to give up though and back they came, forcing Ormskirk into giving away two penalties of their own, fortunately for Ormskirk the home team’s fly-half was just off target with both long-range efforts and ‘Kirk maintained their 11-10 advantage.
As was the nature of this game, the next wave of attacks came from Ormskirk, the hard-working Rothwell, Webster, Purcell and Davis taking the ball up time and time again. This pressure inevitably turned into transgressions from the home side and after narrowly missing with one penalty attempt, Lambie made no mistake with a second to put ‘Kirk into a 14-10 lead going into the dying minutes.
The hard work had seemingly been done at if Ormskirk could just gain possession and get the ball into the home side’s half then they would see the game out.
However, Collegiate got their hands on the ball and with the last play of the game, pounded Ormskirk’s defence time and time again with same driving tactics that bore fruit in the first half. Kirk’s defence seemed to be set to hold firm but after a couple of questionable penalty decisions had already gone against them, the referee who had been outstanding up to this point decided that a further transgression, for a different offence to previous penalties, warranted a penalty try.
As frustrating as it is to lose a game in this manner, Ormskirk showed dignity in defeat and can hold their heads high as they never gave up against a strong Collegiate outfit.
The tough games come thick and fast at the moment for the Gingerbread Men; next week sees them entertain 3rd-placed Dukinfield when they know they will have to be at their best to avenge their early season loss.
l Seven days is a long time in the week of a rugby captain, especially if the previous Saturday was possibly a disaster! Unless you play for Ormskirk that is.
Taff brought his Lions home to face Eagle in Division 5 West, confident that last weeks result was an aberration, he was proved correct.
Tries from Clarke and Critchley plus five points from the boot of Rees and Smith adding three, gave the Lions a sniff of victory over their Warrington rivals, who prevailed with a last gasp penalty to secure the spoils 20-18.
Taff was hard pressed to be down about the result: "After last week the lads could have stayed home or gone shopping with the wives, obviously they realised it was unfinished business.
“Everyone put in a hard shift today, none more so than Graeme Ford at stand off. I'm right proud of the lads to be honest".
Seven days eh? Last week you couldn't raise a smile for love nor money, well maybe one, a certain Welshman left the club early Saturday gone with a spring in his step and a whistle on his lips, the Welsh optimist had left the building....