Date published: March 24, 2022
Photo: Bruce Myers
O’Connell succeeds for Rochdale Junior Colts
Rochdale traveled to Liverpool St Helens (LSH) for the return leg the previous week, but this time it was Rochdale who were short-handed due to injury and absenteeism.
The game was more even than the first encounter, with neither team able to exert dominance. LSH spent the majority of the time in the Rochdale half using the wind to push Rochdale back, but the Rochdale defense held firm. The game started turning to the home team after Rochdale lost a few players to injury and at half time LSH were able to capitalize on a loose clearance, picking up the ball and scoring from the counter attack, 7 – 0.
After the break, Rochdale played with the wind at their back and were confident it would give them a good position on the court to attack the LSH back line. Unfortunately, those plans began to crumble when three third-quarter injuries forced players off the field and their substitutes out of position.
The disruption snuffed out Rochdale’s attacking advantage and gave LSH the opportunity to push for the deciding score. To their credit, Rochdale was still in the game and created several chances but couldn’t convert. LSH began to enter more into the game, but the Rochdale defense held on until late in the game when the LSH scrum-half received a fast ball into the Rochdale 22 and crossed a gap to score , 14 – 0.
You learn a lot about a team when they have their backs against the wall and about a man the Rochdale players reinforced in this game. Alex Barry and Ben Hankinson were excellent in the line-up and in the breakdowns. Joel Rigby and Sonny Joyce brought energy to the peloton. Declan O’Loughlin was immense on contact, especially in his first game back from injury. Jacob Jackson tackled and carried with great power all over the court. Behind the peloton, Will Rawlinson had another great scrum-half game. Will Simmons, Tom Shaw, Nick Wright and Ben Kershaw were solid in midfield. Gabe Fraser, Max Cooper and Ollie Simpson built good offensive positions from the backfield. Although this was not Rochdale’s desired outcome, their performance was outstanding.
After the game, the league announced that Rochdale’s remaining postponed games had been declared a draw, meaning the team had clinched the league title.
The team have now entered the League Cup which runs until the end of the season and they also take part in the Lancashire Cup final on Sunday April 24 to try to complete the league and cup double. .
Team: Jacob Jackson, Joel Rigby, Garrett Myers, James O’Connell, Ben Sunderland, Ben Hankinson, Will Rawlinson, Mitchell Holt, Tom Shaw, Will Simmons, Ben Kershaw, Alex Barry, Max Cooper, Oli Simpson, Sonny Joyce, Gabe Fraser, Tom Drennan, Nick Wright