Derby heartbreak for Mancunians RL.
The first competitive Manchester derby in almost a century ended with heartbreak for the travelling Mancunians RL side in their opening NW Division 4 encounter of the season on Saturday.
Manchester Rangers held off late Mancunians pressure to walk away 30-28 victors at Wright Robinson College.
Man of the match Mancunians’ Scott Fisher says the loss is bitter sweet.
“I’m obviously disappointed about not taking the two points. We were in the ascendancy at the end there and really confident we would score again but unfortunately the clock just beat us.
Manchester Rangers took hold of the match from the whistle. Rangers took a 20-0 lead after just 30 minutes and Mancunians were seemingly succumbed to begin the season as they finished the last. It took a turn of pace from stand-off Fisher to break the tide. Skipping through the Rangers’ defence, Fisher offloaded to debutant Kiwi Sully O’Sullivan who used his light step before feeding the ball to prop Stuart Stones charging forward with intent to reach the tryline and get Mancunians on the scoresheet. Paul Hallam added the two and Mancunians began a long journey towards getting themselves back into the Manchester derby.
After the break Mancunians continued the vigor with which they finished the first half. They quickly made territory into the opposition half and a swift passing move initiated by captain Mike Glennon found its way to Fisher on the left wing who dived across to build Mancunian hopes at 20-10.
An ugly side to the game appeared minutes later as a Manchester Rangers’ stamp in the tackle on Dom Bolger was reacted to by Mancunians loose-forward Kemar Giles. Giles was red-carded along with the Rangers stamper.
The 12-man game continued in Mancunians’ favour as debutant Luke Turner used power and decisiveness to score a textbook hooker try under the stick. Hallam converted and Mancunians trailed by just four point at 20-16.
Mancunians’ purple patch faded away as Rangers got themselves back onto the front foot. Two bursts of pace caught Mancunians’ defensive line napping and the home side stretched to a 30-16 lead with just ten minutes to go.
The answer from Mancunians came almost immediately. Forcing their way into the opposition 20 metres, the visitors stretched the Rangers defensive line creating the gap that allowed captain Glennon to sidestep his way through for a great solo try. With Hallam’s kicking on form, Mancunians trailed by only eight points with five minutes to go at 30-22.
Stones again burst forward on the next Mancunians set and offloaded to Fisher who found himself with enough space to cross the try-area and convert under the sticks, making it a simple conversion for Hallam. With just 30 seconds to go, at 30-28 Mancunians needed to score just one final try to walk away with the inaugural Manchester Rugby League derby victory.
Mancunians lead a late charge, reaching the Rangers 10 metre line on the final tackle. Unfortunately, it was one try that wasn’t to be as the kick from Glennon was charged down by a Rangers hand and the referee blew the full time whistle.
After years as an amateur Rugby League hinterland, Manchester now has a derby to be proud of and the performance put in by both sides shows this grudge match is seriously business for both sets of cross-town rivals.
Man of the match Fisher says his Mancunians side can take heart from their performance.
“The overriding feeling coming off the pitch was really positive. We are head and shoulders above where we were last year and we have got so much to build on.
“We had a lot of new faces making debuts and we probably panicked a little in the first 20 which let them build the lead. The impact of Stonesy coming on and the try before half time gave us a huge lift but we were determined to put it right and put in a better second half performance.”
Mancunians host promoted Blackpool Scorpions next week in their second North West Mens League 4 match. Fisher is confident that a bright season sits ahead of his side.
“We just need to focus on communication and getting used to our set patterns, the determination and commitment was there and I thought we played some really good stuff in the second half.
“The positive is it doesn’t really feel like a defeat after such a spirited fightback and everyone is looking forward to Blackpool next week and getting that win on the board.”
Mancunians RL V Blackpool Scorpions kicks off 2,30pm, Saturday 8 March at Manchester Rugby Club, SK8 7NB.
MANCHESTER RANGERS V MANCUNIANS RL MANCHESTER RUGBY LEAGUE DERBY PHOTOS AVAILABLE HERE.