Ashton started brightly and Tom Shaw and Isaac Mather made some big meters off the kick off to take them into the Chorley half. Ashton then broke down the left hand side and a good move saw Daniel Hill go close to scoring but he was just stopped short by the Panthers’ defence before Ronny Broderick scooted from dummy half to score and put the Bears up within the first 5 mins.
Chorley had some possession and gave Ashton some work to do but the Bears’ defence stood up well to the attack. It wasn’t long before Ashton had the ball and Matty Ward burst through a gap in the Chorley line to move the Bears into good field position. A quick play of the ball and George Green showed blistering pace to slalom up field as Chorley struggled to cope with the speed of the Ashton attack; George played an inside ball to Ryan Hickey and he was rewarded for his support play with a fantastic try under the sticks which Matty Ward converted with ease. Chorley were not to go down without a fight and they started to build some pressure with a number of repeat sets in the Ashton half.
The Bears defence was resolute and stood up to this sustained pressure to keep the Panthers out. Tom Shaw made more tough meters out of the Bears’ 20 and carry them out of danger. A strong run from Isaac Wheeler followed by another quick scoot from Ronny Broderick took the Bears over the Chorley 40. Quick hands from Ashton found Matty Ward as he moved up into the attack from fullback and he took the ball at full speed to finish just to the right of the posts. Matty converted his own try to put the Bears 20-0 with 10 minutes to play in the first half. The period of the game before half time was quite scrappy with handling errors and penalties from both teams resulting in possession moving back and forth until a couple of repeat sets from the Panthers finally resulted in their first try of the afternoon as they wore down the Ashton defence. Chorley converted their try with a difficult kick to take the score to 20-6 at the break.
Chorley came out in the second half with a point to prove and started the brighter of the two teams. The Panthers regained possession from their kick-off and a couple of missed tackles from Ashton resulted in a try for Chorley which put them right back in the game. The momentum was now with Chorley and they were working their way back into the game and starting to dominate the possession. Ashton stood strong for the next 10 minutes and were rewarded for their resilience with an incredible solo effort from Callum Cottington where he broke through two tackles to reach out at full stretch to put the ball down over the Chorley line.
There was a coming together of the two sets of players after this try and the referee did his best to diffuse the situation but was left with no choice but to show a red card to a Chorley player after he used foul language towards him. Once the players from both teams had moved away, Matty Ward calmly converted the try and put Ashton 26-10 ahead.
Despite being down to 12 men the Panthers started to play some good rugby and more than deserved the try that they scored when they caught the Bears napping and powered over. Chorley converted their try and at 26-16 they had everything to play for going into the last 15 minutes. Chorley and Ashton were matching each other blow for blow with notable contributions from Tom Preston, Jack Blake, Danny Hill, Morgan Brown and Connor Ashley, but just like in the final few minutes of the first half, the game was frustrating to watch as both teams were turning the ball over through errors and penalties.
As the game went on, Ashton’s extra man started to show and after George Green won a set restart, Connor Ashley created space for Matty Ward who reacted quickly and punched a hole in the tired Chorley line and outpace three chasing defenders to go over in the corner and finish under the sticks. Matty was deemed to have been hit late after his try which resulted in a yellow card for a Chorley player. Ward easily slotted over the 2 points to edge Ashton further ahead on the scoreboard 32-16.
With only a minute left to play, the Ashton players reacted to a high-tackle from Chorley and this ‘coming together’ led to a player from both teams finding themselves in the sin bin for running in and pushing.
Chorley gave Ashton a really hard game this afternoon, they were a big physical set and they were really tough to break down but Ashton stood up to the test, were clinical in attack and deserved the win.
Final Score - Ashton Bears 32-16 Chorley Panthers
Man of the Match - Matthew Ward
The U18s are next in action away at Hindley ARLFC in the Lancashire Cup on 26th March
Credit for Photographs to King’s Pix - Thank You
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