RUTHLESS BUFFALOES DESTROY TAME LIONS
East Lancashire Lions 4 (0) v Bramley Buffaloes 82 (52)
Following the previous week’s disappointing result at Huddersfield Underbank, Buffaloes coach Mark Butterill was a more satisfied man on Saturday evening after he had watched his team ruthlessly put a gallant East Lancashire Lions to the sword at Blackburn RUFC, winning 4-82 and maintain their advantage at the top of the table.
Injuries, suspensions and holidays decimated the Buffaloes squad and the only 17 players available played, however the team still looked too strong on paper for a struggling East Lancashire outfit, and so it proved. East Lancashire had recently been enjoying some improved performances themselves although they still remained in the lower reaches of the league.
Paul Drake kicked off at the excellent Blackburn RUFC ground and immediately East Lancashire allowed the ball to go dead in-goal and had to drop-out, the first of many. Bramley immediately applied pressure to the Lions line and a deft pass by Aidy Manley put his wing man, Craig Green, over in the corner inside the first minute. Paul Drake missed the touchline conversion, his only miss of the afternoon as he then went on to land 13 consecutive conversions, including 3 beauties from the touchline – all this on his 100th appearance for the club!. Bramley completed their second set of 6 tackles with a delicate Jon Nicholls chip ensuring East Lancs would have to bring the ball out from deep within their own half. John Moore then made an excellent try saving tackle on Flynn on 6 minutes as he scythed through some weak tackling, however 3 minutes later Flynn was again allowed too much room and his intelligent angled run and inside pass saw Nick Fontaine go in for a try, his first of 4 in the game. Shortly afterwards Robin Wilkes was not held in the tackle and the referee waved play on, Robin made another 20m before off-loading to support player supreme, Jon Nicholls who bagged a hat-trick of tries in 11 first half minutes. Although there was some indifferent Lions tackling, all the Bramley players, particularly the forwards were running hard and straight with ball in hand and laying a great platform from which the backs could capitalise. As players fell off tackles the Buffaloes took the opportunity to play a quick expansive game against opponents who were struggling to keep pace with them. Quick play the ball followed, resulting in wave after wave of Buffaloes pressure. John Morley did well to diffuse a Drake chip with 3 attackers bearing down on him on 13 minutes. Robin Wilkes crossed under the posts 4 minutes later as he proved too quick for the defence; Jon Nicholls scored 2 tries in 2 minutes following excellent handling involving Scott Pendlebury, Alex White, Graham Harrison, Chris Gardner and Shaun Flynn.
There was nothing seen of the Lions as an attacking force as they had very little possession and what possession they did have was restricted to coming off their own line. Another Wilkes break saw him pass to Flynn who unselfishly put Fontaine in for his second. Further first half tries followed for Fontaine, (great flick pass from Booth) and Aidy Manley, who showed good speed and strength all afternoon in the centre. East Lancs did have a brief foray into the Buffaloes 10m area on 32 minutes and Barry Rothwell went close to a score, however his flicked pass was well collected by Shaun Flynn who read the play, quickly collected the loose ball and put the Buffaloes on the attack again.
Playing with the wind at their back in the second half East Lancashire made a determined effort to stem the flow of points. Nick Fontaine and Shaun Flynn were both prominent in early second half attacks, Fontaine in particular was proving a real handful for the Lions to deal with. Graham ‘G-Man’ Harrison put in a crunching ‘ball and all’ tackle on Warren Malloy which resulted in Lions losing possession, Aidy Manley capitalised with a strong run out of defence and although well tackled short of the Lions line, from the play the ball Craig Green crossed for his second try on 46 minutes. East Lancs then had a spell of around 15 minutes where they adopted a very aggressive approach to the game, particularly their tackling. They also enjoyed their best spell of possession, without really threatening to score. The game became scrappy, and the Buffaloes did drop the intensity of their game and a few unforced errors crept in. On 60 minutes the referee lost patience and 2 Lions payers were sin-binned for dissent and a high tackle respectively. Nick Fontaine grabbed his fourth try on 66 minutes when he collected a loose pass and somehow weaved his way through a clutch of players to score.
Adam Hesketh burrowed over for a consolation try for the Lions on 68 minutes. Normal service was resumed as the Buffaloes posted 3 further tries in the last 10 minutes. Aidy Manley showed great determination to collect the re-start and that set-up Shaun Flynn to score a deserved try. From another drop-out Antony Ward proved unstoppable from 5m as he bulldozed his way over on 74 minutes. Finally Simon Speight who put in another good shift, got on the end of another passing move started by another Manley run, and he scored right on time.
Clearly East Lancashire did not pose the same type of threat that Underbank, Featherstone or Nottingham did. Nonetheless the team did the job they had to do. They played with pace and no little skill. Discipline was excellent and the team kept their focus and concentration. A similar attitude in the remaining games should ensure a successful end to the league season. Huddersfield Underbank who are in second place, lost away at Warrington so they are now 9 points behind the Buffaloes with 2 games in hand. Nottingham and Featherstone both closed the gap on Underbank as they both won.
Game star: All the Buffaloes team played well, however Shaun Flynn was awarded the man-of-the-match for his non-stop display at full-back. Safe as houses at the back and continually made good metres with his broken play running. A constant threat.
Game breaker: As a contest the game was over as early as 11 minutes in when Bramley were already 16-0. The Buffaloes had already shown pace in attack, quick hands and more urgency and skill than their gallant opponents who never gave up.
East Lancashire Lions: 1. Ben Williamson, 2. Tyrone Quinn, 3. John Moore, 4. David Walls, 5. John Morley, 6. Barry Rothwell, 7. Adam Hesketh, 8. Mark Baggaley, 9. Ryan Lowe, 10. Warren Malloy, 11. Rob Russell, 12. Mark Fisher, 13. Adam NcNulty, Subs (all used) 14. Martin Fisher, 15. Stephen Speakman, 16. Thomas Gallagher, 17. Adam Wagstaff.
Try’s: Hesketh (68)
Goals: Hesketh (0/1)
Bramley Buffaloes: 1. Shaun Flynn, 2. Nick Fontaine, 3. Matthew Booth, 4. Aidy Manley , 5. Craig Green, 6. Jon Nicholls, 7. Paul Drake, 8. Alex White, 9. Graham Harrison, 10. Chris Gardner, 11. Jim Shuttleworth, 12. Robin Wilkes, 13. Scott Pendlebury, Subs: 14. Andy McGann (not used), 15. Simon Speight, 16. Daniel Lavery, 17. Antony Ward.
Try’s: Fontaine (9, 25, 29 & 66), Nicholls (11, 21 & 22), Green (1 & 46), Wilkes (17), Manley (35), Flynn (70), Ward (74), Speight (79)
Goals: Drake (13/14)
Sin-Binned: Rob Russell (Dissent) Martin Fisher(Head high tackle), both East Lancashire Lions on 60 minutes
Final score: 4-82
Man of the Match:
East Lancashire Lions: Rob Russell
Bramley Buffaloes: Shaun Flynn