Longton beat Cheshire neighbours Crewe and Nantwich by 27pts. to 16 in an uninspiring game at Trentham Fields.
Under overcast skies Longton started very promisingly with a try after only 2mins. Their powerful pack set up a drive some 30m. from the visitors’ try line and with great control marched forward until flanker, Gareth Rawlings, secured the touchdown. Nicolas Gomtard’s conversion went just wide but Longton led by 5pts. to nil. Longton lost debutant prop, Ant Cornwall, in this play with a twisted ankle.
Crewe and Nantwich fought back immediately and won a penalty in front of the posts and 35m. out. The kick sailed through the uprights to make it 5-3pts.
The game lacked fluency and intensity with numerous handling errors with Longton in particular being guilty as they appeared to be in “cruise control” throughout. The visitors took the lead with a second penalty after 22mins. to edge ahead 6-5pts.
Despite some strong runs from centre, Joe Hall, and winger, Mark Dougherty, Longton did not score their second try until the 30th. minute. They kicked a penalty into the corner, some 10m. out and from the resultant lineout Gareth Rawlings again secured the touchdown for his second try. Nicolas Gomtard converted to make the score 12 – 6pts.
Despite their forwards totally dominating exchanges upfront Longton were finding it difficult to avoid minor handling errors thus spoiling several promising attacks. On the stroke of half-time Crewe and Nantwich landed their third penalty, this from 30m. making the half-time score 12 – 9pts.
Longton brought on Sam Bedworth at fly-half for the second half and he had an immediate impact bringing the back division into play with a variety of well delivered passes. This paid dividends after only 3mins. of the half. The ball was passed quickly right for Joe Hall to make a superb break in mid-field and several well-timed passes later flanker, Paul Housley, galloped in under the posts for a fine try. Sam Bedworth converted to make the score 19 – 9pts.
Longton continued to enjoy the better of the exchanges although the introduction of a replacement tight-head prop stabilised the visitors’ scrum, preventing Longton from marching them backwards.
Gareth Rawlings left the field with a knock to the shoulder with Chris Ainsworth coming on to replace him.
Longton’s final score came in the 35th. minute and it was a superbly crafted try. The ball was passed swiftly right and then left going through several pairs of hands to release left-wing, Mark Dougherty, who outstripped the defence to touch down in the corner. Sam Bedworth’s kick went just wide but Longton were now comfortably in front at 27 – 9pts.
Deep into injury time confusion at the back of a Longton scrum saw them lose possession allowing Crewe and Nantwich to kick the ball ahead into the Longton “22”. The home defence was caught napping and two visitors’ backs were quickly up to win the ball and touch down under the posts. The successful conversion made the final score 27 – 16pts. with Longton gaining a valuable 5 points from this scratchy win.
Next week Longton travel to neighbours Leek who have made a fine start to the season and who have a number of players in their side who have played for both clubs.