After a gap of one year, five months, 20 days, 23 hours and some 20 minutes, Firwood Waterloo returned to league action with a deserved bonus point win against Manchester 42-26.

The two sides last met in April 2019 in a winner takes all relegation battle with the Merseysiders running out eventual winners. It is good to see our friends from the other end of the M62 returning to this division at the first attempt, losing only two games in the season 2018-19.

There was limited evidence of ‘match- rustiness’ from either side with the match being played at a brisk tempo – testimony to the hard work that had clearly been put in during the long pre-season and players’ fitness levels.

Firwood Waterloo kicked off to a rousing cheer from the home supporters and soon got into their stride, Josh Jenkins making good bursts through the midfield. Further good handling by the forwards lead to a break for the first try by Alex Tenev, the ever reliable Daragh O’Brien adding the extras.

As a side used to winning, Manchester responded within five minutes to level the score. From the restart a promising move was intercepted by Manchester but they conceded a penalty, O’Brien converting from 40 metres. Further pressure led to a try by Charlie Harrocks.

Although both sides were committed to playing open rugby it was the boys from Blundellsands who extended their lead with a fine debut try for James Ratcliffe for a half time score of 22-7. However just before the referee signalled the end of the first period, a bad injury to Charlie Harrocks saw him leave the field. We wish him a speedy recovery.

From the kick off, confusion between two Manchester players allowed O’Brien to gather a spilled ball and race up the field to pass to James Ratcliffe for his second try.

Manchester then tested the Waterloo defence until eventually a well-worked push over try from their powerful forwards doubled their score. They continued to press their hosts kicking well into space, but a fine clearance by debutant Jago Ford who found himself in the full back position relieved the pressure.

Manchester were determined to make a contest of it and sustained pressure inside ‘Loo’s 22 led to another deserved try to take them within eight points of their hosts.

At 29-21, the vocal crowd were expecting a tense final quarter but Firwood Waterloo’s forwards retook control with the industrious Rob Hager and Louis McGowan making impressive debuts.
The home side stuck to their disciplines for Jack Weare to brush off challenges and score close to the posts.

Head coach Sean Fletcher was delighted with the result “It’s brilliant to be back, playing in front of Boozers’ Bank and the crowd but the most impressive thing for me is that the lads stuck to the shape that we have coached over 12 months. After we had two major injuries in the centres we could still adjust and had depth to come off the bench. You can’t beat a win at home”. What pleased him most was listening to the captain throughout the game, “The lads listened to him and trusted him as the game kept moving forward.”

The last word must go to captain Luke Clifford who led his team out for the first time.
“I am ecstatic to seal my debut as captain with a convincing win at home. The conditions were great, Boozers’ Bank was bouncing and the all round atmosphere of being back in that environment was brilliant. It’s great to see old and new faces down the club, and I hope they enjoyed the day as much as we did. It gives the team an edge with that kind of support on the touchline. I’d like to thank the back room staff, coaches and volunteers for getting us to this point through a difficult 18 months. We will definitely carry the momentum built today through training and into the first away trip next Saturday.”

Next Saturday sees the boys in myrtle travelling to newly promoted Glossop  

Photos from the match taken by Eddie Thomas can be found by clicking here

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