Round 1

Wolverhampton Wolverines 11.24.90 – 12.8.80 Birmingham Bears

It was a wet and windy start to the season at Willenhall RUFC as the Wolverhampton Wolverines hosted local rivals the Birmingham Bears in round one of the newly renamed Central and Northern England division. Both teams have worked hard over the previous months and this clash was eagerly anticipated in both camps before the first ball up of 2012.

The home side won the toss and elected to kick with the breeze behind them. The Wolverines started out looking hungry for the ball and to gain some early momentum in the game to give them a good start. They kicked the first 3 goals of the game, with recent recruit and Ty Proctor bagging himself an early brace. The Bears fought back strongly however and kicked a couple of their own to keep within touching distance. The first quarter ended with a couple more goals for the home side that had dominated for the most part and saw them with a 23 point lead.

The second quarter went with the wind again as Bears looked to claw back some of the deficit from the first quarter. The two full forwards for either side (Cockerton – Wolverines, Sloane – Bears) weighed in with a couple of goals apiece as the second quarter went the way of the visitors but by less of a margin to send the Wolverines into the main break with a 19 point lead to defend.

The third quarter was a much tenser affair. With the wind behind them the Wolverines piled on the pressure on the field but this wasn’t converted effectively into scoreboard pressure as shots came back off the uprights or were touched through. Ten scoring shots from the home side registered only two goals, but the Bears mustered only a solitary goal in reply. The highlight being a goal scored from a seemingly impossible angle from Wolverines ruck man and first-gamer Cameron Cope. Going in at the final break saw the Wolverines have what looked to be a comfortable 6 goal lead.

The fourth quarter proved to be anything but comfortable for the home side though! As Birmingham came out fighting they kicked five goals on the spin to get within a goal of taking the lead for the first time all game. The home side were being cheered on by a sizeable crowd, who were thankful at this stage for any possessions the Wolverines could take and hold on to. With two minutes to go, the Bears needed one goal to take the lead when Wolverines captain Adam Munkevics got possession in the centre square. With a kick from just inside the scoring zone that bounced once on its way through to register a major he had not only kicked his first competitive goal for the club, but he had assured a first competitive win for Wolverhampton.

When the siren sounded, the Wolverines celebrated and the Bears were gracious in defeat. Bears had given their all in the final quarter but had left themselves a mountain to climb earlier in the game.

Manchester Mosquitoes 23.18.156 – 9.13.67 Huddersfield Rams

In a highly anticipated Round 1 clash, last season’s runners-up Huddersfield Rams took on a much-improved Manchester Mosquitoes at Burnage in Manchester. Manchester fielded a full squad of 16 players whilst Huddersfield had to make do with 9.

The Mozzies took the advantage of a strong breeze in the first quarter, booting an incredible 13 goals to 1. The Manchester midfielders led by Jayden Hocking were getting most of the centre breaks and the forwards didn’t let them down. The unstoppable Matt Wielgosz kicked five first quarter goals and Matt Kilheeney bagged four. It was a dominant display and sent out a message to the league that the Mosquitoes and going to be very difficult to beat in 2012.

Huddersfield came out much strong in the second quarter and stemmed the flow of Mozzie goals. Unfortunately for the Rams they couldn’t take advantage of the wind and only kicked one goal for the quarter. Wielgosz continued his day out, booting another four for the quarter to take his tally to nine for the half.

To their credit Huddersfield came out reinvigorated in the second half. Their on-ballers starting getting on top of the Mozzies and up forward James Sunderland was causing headaches for the Mozzie defence with his speed and work-rate. Manchester won the quarter but certainly had to work a lot harder for their goals.

The momentum of the game had shifted completely and the final quarter was mostly one way traffic in the Rams direction, with Matt Whiteley racking up a load of possessions in the midfield and Ally DeLooze kicking two goals from the ruck. The rejuvenated Rams showed what they are capable of with 20 minutes of top quality football. Such was the strength of their performance in the second half Huddersfield outscored the Mozzies to 49 to 41.

Their strong last quarter didn’t mask what was a disappointing performance by Huddersfield. Manchester played a strong attacking brand of football and were far too strong for the Rams for much of the game.

After next week’s league bye Manchester will be looking to continue their perfect start to the season when they take on Birmingham. Huddersfield will be looking to bounce back when they play Nottingham in a reply of last year’s grand final.

Match Day at Burnage Rugby Club

Leeds Minotaurs 17.18.120 – 13.13.91 Sheffield Thunder

In the early game Sheffield Thunder took Leeds Minotaurs in what was Leeds’ first ever game in the league. Leeds had a threadbare squad of 9 while Sheffield had 14.

Leeds surprised many by jumping out of the blocks and leading by five goals at half time. The Minotaurs looking to be tiring badly as the Thunder took control in the third quarter and reduced the margin to 10 points at three quarter time. Leeds showed their amazing fitness by running away with the game in the final quarter to win by five goals.

Dave Scarsella starred for Leeds with 9 goals while Chris Roddie was best for Sheffield.

It was certainly an upset given Sheffield’s strong 2011 season and Leeds’ lack of players on the day. Sheffield are a proud club and will itching to get to Round 2 where they take on Wolverhampton. Leeds have the bye which will help them get a few injured players back on the field.

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