Updated: May 22
The U18s welcomed Pilkington Recs to Bear Park on a glorious Sunday afternoon and the Bears were feeling confident as they welcomed back several players to the squad. The game started as brightly as the sunshine with both teams looking to strike first in the early exchanges but both defences held up well and the attacks were limited to only a few metres either side of half way. After 5 minutes of play the Bears started to gain an advantage in the middle with big carries from Isaac Mather and Tom Shaw laying a good foundation. Connor Ashley then made a line break and went on a 40m run down the right hand side to put Ashton in good field position. George Green then broke the line again with a subtle dummy to score under the sticks. At the restart Pilks kicked long and chased well in an attempt to pin Ashton back in their half but Connor Ashley had other ideas and he returned the ball strongly to put the Bears back on the front foot. Isaac Wheeler followed up with a good carry to take the ball into the Pilks' half and increase the advantage for Ashton. Callum Cottington showed his power when he burst through two defenders to break down the left and after making 20m he offloaded expertly to the supporting Danny Hill who hit the ball at a ferocious speed to round the last defender and finish under the posts. The Bears were in the ascendancy and they were keen to post more points. Ronny Broderick scooted from acting half and made 50m right through the middle of the Pilks' defence. Cottington then set off on a lateral run towards the left edge and as the cracks in the Pilks' line opened up he found space to beat a retreating defender and finish near the corner. With only 13 mins on the clock, Ward dispatched the conversion from near the left touchline and the Bears were now comfortably in front 18-0. The Bears were dominating possession and it wasn't long before they scored again. Kye Van-Zelst showed his blistering pace when he tied two Pilks defenders in knots and then showed composure to find Callum Cottington with a superb pass. Cottington, who was now giving the Pilks' forwards nightmares, broke another tackle and slotted a perfectly weighted kick towards the try line; Jack Blake chased the kick to finish off an excellent try. At 28-0 down Pilks were still throwing everything they had at Ashton and managed to build some pressure with a period of good possession near the Bears' line. The Ashton defence was resolute and held up well with all the lads working hard for each other. Danny Hill and Joe Rustage both leading the line with huge one on one tackles to snuff out the Pilks' attack and eventually force a turnover for the Bears. Connor Ashley then made another break and with Daniel Hill in support he kicked to the corner but the Pilks' defence just got to the ball first and Hill had to work hard to force a drop-out. The resulting dropout was picked up by Ethan Bibby who must have terrified the Pilks' defence with his speed and power because they parted like the Red Sea and he scored on his Bears debut after only entering the field moments earlier. The Bears were pushing for more points before the break and Ronny Broderick scored a great individual try from dummy half just before the whistle to take the score to 34-0 at half-time.
Pilks had clearly regrouped in the break and they came out playing for pride in the second half. The first few minutes saw both teams match up blow for blow and they struggled to break each other down. The Bears weathered the storm well and after 7 mins Callum Cottington made the breakthrough when he found space on the left edge. He bust a tackle and set up Ethan Bibby for his second of the day. Ashton were back in their groove again and George Green came up with his second try after going on a solo run from a kick return and scoring just to the right of the posts. The Bears were now well in front and enjoying the afternoon. Mather and Shaw were still working tirelessly in the middle and their hard-work set up a good position for Broderick to score his second try after a scoot close to the Pilks' line. Ward kicked his 8th conversion of the afternoon to take the score to 50-0. Knowing that points difference could play a part in this division the Bears were not taking their foot off the gas and they continued to work hard to turn their possession into points. Ryan Hickey went close on a couple of occasions and was causing Pilks all kinds of problems down the right edge. Cottington, who was a constant thorn in the Pilks' side, made a run down the left, played an inside ball to Ashley who found Morgan Brown who held off two defenders and crashed over the line to score his first try in a Bears' shirt. Joe Rustage was back after missing a few weeks through injury and looked like he'd never been away. He had tormented the Pilks forwards all second half and then he rubbed salt in the wounds when he broke a tackle and passed to Isaac Wheeler who went on to make 40m down the right. A quick play of the ball and Connor found Matty Ward who sped onto the ball and carved the Pilks defence wide open to score. Ward converted his own try and Ashton led 62-0 with only a couple of minutes left to play. Hat Trick Hero, Ronny Broderick, finished off the afternoon in style by scoring a carbon copy of his previous try in what turned out to be the final play of the match.
Final Score Ashton Bears 66-0 Pilkington Recs
Man of the Match - Callum Cottington