The only two undefeated teams in the division squared off in a mouthwatering clash at Bear Park this Sunday morning. The last meeting of these evenly matched teams ended in a 16-16 draw, setting the scene for a highly anticipated rematch. The previous game was played in the middle of a heat wave but this was in stark contrast to the conditions of this wet October morning in which both teams had to overcome a wet and muddy pitch.
The opening ten minutes of this match saw these two heavy weights engage in a ferocious contest. Both teams exchanged brutal blows, with colossal carries and thunderous tackles defining the early exchanges. Each set of players probed for weaknesses as they adapted their play to the unforgiving conditions on the pitch. Roose looked to have adjusted more quickly than Ashton and they dominated possession and field position. Roose created three opportunities to score but the Bears' defensive wall held firm, frustrating their rivals' attempts to breach their lines.
Fifteen minutes into the match, Ashton made a breakthrough. Connor Ashley's pinpoint kick deep into Pioneer territory was followed in by relentless Bears pressure. This led to a crucial Roose error, turning possession over to Ashton and putting them within striking distance. Capitalising on the opportunity, Matty Ward engineered an incisive attack through the heart of Roose's defence, offloading the ball in the tackle to Danny Hill. Hill's finishing touch produced the game's first try, propelling Ashton into a 4-0 lead.
The Bears extended their advantage in the 22nd minute. Isaac Wheeler set off on a forceful drive, shifting momentum in favour of the Bears. George Green seized the moment, launching a perfectly weighted kick over the Pioneer's defence. Daniel Hill's speed and determination saw him beat two Roose defenders to the ball, securing a vital try with fingertip control. Ashton's lead now stood at 8 points, and their confidence was building.
The next ten minutes saw both teams engaged in a ferocious tussle, with the packs from both teams going at it hammer and tongues. Players such as Isaac Mather, Tom Rogers, Ethan Bibby, and Tom Shaw showcased their physical prowess, contributing to the thrilling contest and winning the arm wrestle for Ashton.
However, Roose's persistent efforts eventually paid off just before halftime, as they managed to breach Ashton's line with a scoot from dummy half. At the interval, the score was 8-4 in favour of Ashton.
Ashton emerged from halftime with renewed vigour, and looked determined to seize control of the game. The opening minutes saw them launch a scorching attack down the right flank, but a knock-on prevented Daniel Hill from completing his hat-trick.
The fourth minute of the second half saw Ashton extend their lead. A superb team effort started with Tom Rogers, who forced an error from Roose, gifting Ashton prime field position. Ward orchestrated a sublime breakthrough, propelling the Bears forward. George Green's precision pass found Callum Cottington, who charged at the Roose line, drawing his marker before delivering a perfectly timed ball to Isaac Wheeler, who slid in at the corner. Ward's conversion attempt hit the post but Ashton were still in a commanding position with an 8 point advantage.
Ryan Hickey, operating now at hooker, began exerting a significant influence on the game, contributing notably to both attack and defence.
Twelve minutes into the second half, Roose surprised Ashton with a counterattack from deep within their own half. They seemed certain to score, but Matty Ward pulled off a game-saving tackle, forcing the Roose player into touch and wrestling back possession and momentum for the Bears.
Despite Roose gradually regaining momentum and enjoying an extended spell of possession, the Bears' defence remained impervious to the Pioneers' efforts. Ashton eventually reclaimed control and started to dominate again.
In the 33rd minute, Ashton further extended their lead. Ethan Bibby unleashed a powerful surge into Roose territory. Ryan Hickey then found George Green, who executed a sublime switch in play with a reverse pass to Callum Cottington. Cottington's raw strength proved too much for the Roose defence as he powered over the line. Ward successfully added the conversion, establishing Ashton's dominance at 18-4.
In the closing moments of the match, Cottington secured his second try of the day. Tom Shaw's strong run started the attack, taking the Bears into the Roose half. A magical move from George Green created an opening, but he was stopped just short of the line. On the next play, Connor Ashley delivered a precise pass to Cottington, who showcased his strength by overpowering a would-be tackler and grounding the ball beneath the posts. With Ward's successful conversion, Ashton sealed a resounding 24-4 victory.
Final Score: Ashton Bears 24-4 Roose Pioneers
Man of the Match: George Green
Video Highlights Courtesy of Pericles Van Zelst