In an outstanding display of strength and skill, the Ashton Bears Under 18s team delivered an awe-inspiring performance as they faced Pilkington Recs. Despite missing players such as Tom Rogers, Joe Rustage, and Isaac Wheeler, the Bears welcomed four young talents from the U16 team with Jayden Aaron, Cody Newton, Matthew Sayer, and Alfie Shearer, making their debut at the Under 18s level.
The match started with both teams delivering bone-crushing tackles, however, it was a somewhat scrappy start, with unforced errors and turnovers disrupting the flow of the game. The breakthrough for Ashton came in the 5th minute when Tom Shaw powered over the line after an impressive sequence of play. Big carries from Ethan Bibby, Ryan Hickey and debutant Jayden Aaron, took Ashton into Pilks' territory. George Green's precise pass found Shaw, who forced his way over. Matty Ward confidently added two more points.
In the 9th minute, Jayden Aaron showcased his immense potential by breaking the line with an exceptional solo run. Green and Cottington combined to create an opportunity for Danny Hill, but he was forced into touch just short of the try line.
The Ashton onslaught continued in the 11th minute when Aaron's break and Bibby's strong carry paved the way for Callum Cottington to score. Ashton extended their lead to 12-0 after Ward converted the try.
In the 19th minute, Ashton displayed their attacking prowess once again. Sustained pressure from the Ashton defence in the Pilks' half forced a drop-out. Ethan Bibby returned the ball with ferocity, setting the stage for an exquisite try. Connor Ashley passed to Hickey, who drew in the defence perfectly before delivering a pinpoint pass to Ethan Goodban, who crossed the line.
The introduction of Alfie Shearer, on debut for the Bears, in the 20th minute had an immediate impact as he took in a powerful carry which almost resulted in a try when Ronny Broderick was held up over the line in the next play.
By the 27th minute, Ashton was dominating possession. George Green's exceptional skills bamboozled the Pilks' defence, and he found Callum Cottington, who strolled over for an unopposed try.
The 30th minute marked the debut of Cody Newton for the U18s, and he quickly acclimated to the game with notable contributions.
In the 32nd minute, Shearer won possession for Ashton with a thunderous tackle that forced a Pilks' knock-on. A powerful drive from Cottington propelled the Bears to the halfway line. In the subsequent play, Connor Ashley broke through the defensive line, sprinting 50 metres to earn a well-deserved try under the posts.
Just before the halftime hooter sounded, Ethan Goodban secured his second try of the day. Newton and Brown laid the foundation for the attack with their powerful running. Quick hands and an excellent combination between Ashley and Green created space for Ward, who expertly passed to Goodban, securing the try in the corner. Ashton headed into halftime with a commanding 24-0 lead.
Ashton began the second half by welcoming another debutant, Matthew Sayer, onto the field.
The Bears continued their dominance from the first half, thoroughly controlling the game. In the 3rd minute, Callum Cottington sealed his hat-trick with another try. Matthew Sayer's strong tackle forced a knock-on, and Danny Hill made a superb break, backed up by a powerful drive from Isaac Mather. Precise passing in the next play saw Cottington walk over for his third try of the day. Ward's conversion added two more points.
In the 6th minute, Mather and Sayer led the line, dominating in the middle. George Green exploded through the Pilks' defence, creating a one-on-one opportunity with the fullback. Green's agile footwork left the defender bewildered as he passed the ball to the supporting Matty Ward, who finished off a remarkable team try. Ward's conversion was on target.
The 14th minute saw George Green finally get the try his incredible performance deserved. Green and Cottington combined with exquisite passing to bewilder the Pilks' defence. Green finished the move with another sensational try for Ashton. Ward's conversion was successful, and Ashton's lead was now comfortable.
In the 19th minute, Ashton were awarded a scrum. A powerful drive from Bibby, put Cottington in a perfect position to score his second try of the day, walking over without a hand laid on him. Ward added the two-point conversion.
In the 24th minute, Ashton executed a move from the base of the scrum, straight from the training ground. Ashley combined with Cottington to wrong-foot the Piks defence, creating space for Ward to speed through and score his second try of the afternoon. Ward converted his own try.
Pilks fought hard in an attempt to salvage a consolation try, but the Ashton defence stood tall, denying them any points.
In the 35th minute, just before the final whistle, Ethan Bibby put the finishing touch on a clinical Ashton performance with a well-deserved try. Tom Shaw to a strong drive to advance the ball upfield. Jayden Aaron broke through Pilks' lines, and Alex Roughsedge showcased his pace, making more metres before offloading to Alfie Shearer. Shearer was stopped just short of the line, but in the very next play, Ronny Broderick connected with Bibby, who ran a perfect line to carve through the tiring Pilks' defence and score under the posts. Matty Ward added the extras to end the match with a resounding 64-0 victory in favour of the Bears.
In a performance that displayed their strength, skill, and the potential of the U16s on debut, the Ashton Bears delivered an convincing victory.
Final Score: Pilkington Recs 0-64 Ashton Bears
Man of the Match - Callum Cottington
Video Highlights Courtesy of Pericles Van Zelst