Orrell Rugby Union Club finished 2018 on a high following a hard-fought win in Widnes at Birchfield.
By Tracy Monckton
BIRCHFIELD 5 - ORRELL RUFC 14
Wintry conditions again restricted the ambitions of both sides with any hopes of kicking points in a blustery crosswind made close to impossible during the early stages. Despite this, Orrell fullback Chris Owen almost slipped the net in the first couple of minutes with some elusive running before home fly-half Ben Royle tested the breeze and duly missed with a penalty attempt. For a long while it looked like it may be a scoreless first half but the hosts kept the pressure on with Royle's kicking from hand and some big forwards keeping them in the Orrell half.
Eventually, Birchfield made a breakthrough when impressive number eight Richard Dennett crashed through the line from close range on the back of a free kick after 22 minutes. Royle hit the post with his conversion attempt. Orrell had a couple of opportunities to add points themselves as the otherwise impressive Josh Grant spilled a high pass with the line beckoning, former Sale Jets centre Adam Glover was stopped agonisingly close and second row Jack Granby and was adjudged held up by match referee Chris Holt.
With the hosts ahead 5-0 at the interval they had hopes of completing victory but Orrell had other ideas. They set about their defence with relish. With the front five forwards creating an impregnable defensive wall in the middle it was a case of being patient and when the chance came, Orrell grabbed it. Excellent pressure resulted in a clearance kick being charged down by Grant and lightning reactions from fly-half James Ratcliffe saw him touch down for five points. Winger Craig Thomas, back in the side after missing the last game with injury, navigated the conditions to convert and nudge Orrell ahead.
Minutes later a startling break by second row Jack Johnson covered almost fifty metres. Four phases later flanker Max Huxley got the scoring touch amidst a melee of bodies. Thomas goaled to make it 14-5 and brave rear-guard defence kept the hosts out as they camped on the Orrell 22' for much of the last ten minutes, before the visitors confirmed victory.