After making the short trip to Hindley to play in the first round of the Lancashire Cup, Ashton started brightly and found themselves in a good attacking position within the first 2 mins. George Green expertly put Ryan Hickey through a gap in the Hindley defence but he was tackled off the ball which resulted in an Ashton penalty and an early yellow card for a Hindley defender. Ashton chose to run the ball in an attempt to make the most of the extra man but Hindley held up and turned over possession.
The Bears were now dominating field position and Tom Shaw and Isaac Mather were making a big impact with their strong running. The Bears finally turned their possession into points when George Green showed his skill to find Callum Cottington, who’d made a dangerous run down the left side. Callum made 30 metres and held off two defenders to power over the line.
With time ticking on, Ashton were keen to make the most of the sin-binning and Connor Ashley set up Jack Blake but he was unfortunately held up over the line. Hindley worked hard to get themselves back into the game and with their full compliment of players back on the field they were starting to get a foothold in the game. Hindley capitalised off the back of a couple of penalties and scored a converted try to the left of the sticks to take the lead, 6-4. Ashton were then guilty of an uncharacteristic knock on from the kick off which gifted Hindley possession and allowed them to score their second try in quick succession and extend their lead to 10-4. The Bears were looking for a spark to get them back in the game and even through they worked themselves into a good spot they couldn’t get over the Hindley line. The Hindley forwards were now starting to dominate as the momentum had shifted their way and after they were given a penalty for a late hit from an Ashton defender they went over for another 4 points to put some daylight between the two teams.
Ashton introduced Morgan Brown from the bench and he made an immediate impact with a strong run and a superb pass out wide, he then went on to make 15 metres after a clever exchange of passes with Ryan Hickey. Ryan then broke through the Hindley defence and looked certain to score just before half time but the scramble defence from Hindley stood up strong to hold him up over the line. The game went into the half with the score at 14-4.
Ashton needed a big second half performance to stay in the cup and the first 6 minutes were end-to-end as Ashton threw the ball around looking to create opportunities to score. The momentum swung back into Ashton’s favour as Hindley, guilty of pushing at the tackle, were reduced to 12 men again, as the referee sent another one of their players to the bin. It didn’t take long for Ashton, who were now full of enthusiasm, to start to get on top in the forward battle with the relentless Tom Shaw leading the line again.
The Ashton back row and outside backs started to have more joy too with some great lines from Isaac Wheeler giving the Hindley defence a few problems. Callum Cottington, with another strong carry, bust through the Hindley defence and passed to George Green who then switched the play to Connor Ashley to gift him a walk in try just to the right of the posts. Matty Ward added the extras to get Ashton back into the cup tie at 14-10.
Hindley, who were now back to 13 players were trying hard to maintain their lead and tested Ashton’s resolve a number of times but the Bears stood strong and Daniel Hill made a number of big tackles to deny their efforts. Ronny Broderick, then looked to have levelled to score when he forced his way over from dummy half but the referee deemed him to be short and this halted the Ashton celebrations. Hindley were still plugging away and took a little bit of the wind out of the Ashton sails when they scored again to go 18-10 up with 15 mins left to play. The Bears kept plugging away and eventually they were rewarded for their hard work with an outstanding try. Wheeler and Cottington made ground from the back row before Alfie Leah showed his pace to take the Bears into the Hindley 20. Ashton then put the ball though very quick hands with Green feeding Ashley who then found Ward slotting nicely into the line from fullback, Ward then popped the ball neatly to the supporting Tom Shaw who finished in style for a thoroughly deserved try.
Matty Ward kicked the conversion to take the score to 18-16 and the Bears thought they might have a little left on the clock to grab a winner but the referee immediately blew his whistle to dash Ashton’s hopes. One thing about this Bears team is that they never know when they’re beaten and they showed incredible team spirit to give everything right up to the final whistle.
Congratulations to Hindley who progress to the next round of the cup; Ashton will now go into the draw for the NWC Cup.
Final Score Hindley ARLFC 18-16 Ashton Bears
Man of the Match - Callum Cottington
The U18s play their next league fixture away at Widnes St Maries on 2nd April.
Credit for Photographs to Ruth Ward - Thank You
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