In sunny conditions at Bear Park we were treated to a thrilling Father's Day encounter between Ashton Bears and Saddleworth Rangers.
Saddleworth kicked off the game, but the first five minutes saw Ashton dominating possession and dictating the game in Saddleworth's half. They applied consistent pressure on the Rangers' defence. However, at the 10-minute mark, Saddleworth fought back and created sustained pressure of their own. Despite their best efforts, Ashton's defence held firm and denied Saddleworth any points.
As the game progressed, Saddleworth began to gain the upper hand. Although Ashton's defence remained resolute, the team struggled to maintain possession due to a surprisingly high number of unforced errors. The teams were evenly matched, but it was Saddleworth who broke the deadlock in the 24th minute. A well-executed try down the Ashton right side put Saddleworth ahead 4-0, although they missed the subsequent conversion.
Responding brilliantly, Ashton surged forward, led by strong carries from Ethan Bibby and Jack Blake. Ronny Broderick delivered a sharp pass from dummy half to George Green, who displayed exceptional skill by dummying the defender and sprinting past the Saddleworth defence. Green reached out at full stretch to score a try. Matty Ward successfully converted, giving Ashton a 6-4 lead going into halftime.
The second half began with intense battles between the forward packs of both teams. Tom Rogers, Isaac Mather, and Joe Rustage led the charge for the Bears, relentlessly driving the team forward. It took only five minutes for Ashton to convert their pressure into points. Ronny Broderick capitalised on sloppy marker play by Saddleworth and scored with a trademark scoot. Ward added the extras, extending Ashton's lead to 12-4.
Saddleworth fought back vehemently, throwing everything at Ashton to regain momentum. Several repeat sets from penalties took them deep into Ashton's half, and they seemed certain to score. However, a determined defensive effort from Alex Roughsedge and Matty Ward denied Saddleworth any further points. The game took a dramatic turn when a Saddleworth player was shown a straight red card for an alleged biting incident. With the extra player advantage, Ashton looked to capitalise quickly. However, the referee halted their quick restart by issuing a yellow card to Matty Ward for pushing at the play-the-ball. Both teams were reduced to 12 players and had to quickly regroup and reorganise themselves.
Despite being a player down, Saddleworth came close to scoring again with a break down the Ashton right edge. However, outstanding defence effort from George Green and Jack Blake forced the Saddleworth attacker into touch. Ashton regained the momentum, and their forward pack, led by Mather and Rustage and supported by Morgan Brown, began to dominate in the middle.
The Bears showcased their class with the ball as Ethan Bibby made a break up the middle. He offloaded expertly to the supporting Alex Roughsedge, who was held up over the try line by a solid cover tackle from a Saddleworth defender. Ashton persisted and made a break down the left edge, but a forward pass from Bibby to Ryan Hickey resulted in a disallowed try.
With just 10 minutes remaining, the Bears were back to their full complement of 13 players and began to assert their dominance on both sides of the ball. Ronny Broderick displayed his play-making prowess as he burst through the defence, deftly drawing the Saddleworth defender. Executing a perfectly timed pass, he found the supporting Matty Ward, who skilfully evaded a tackle and sprinted over the try line for a well-deserved score. Ward confidently converted his own try from a easy position in front of the posts, extending Ashton's lead to 18-4.
Amidst the celebration of this pivotal try, one Saddleworth player allowed frustration to get the better of him, resulting in a red card issued by the referee for the use of inappropriate language. With the numerical advantage, Ashton maintained composure and professionalism in the remaining minutes, controlling the game until the final whistle.
As a result of their impressive performance, Ashton Bears U18s secured their spot in the Semi Finals of the NWY Cup, which are scheduled to be played on 9th July.
A special thank you goes to Aaron Ward, who took on the role of water carrier for the team today. In the scorching conditions, he certainly had his hands full, ensuring the players stayed hydrated throughout the match.
Final Score - Ashton Bears 18 - 4 Saddleworth Rangers
Man of the Match - Ronny Broderick