Match report: Hawcoat Park 29 Fleetwood RUFC 20
Fleetwood won their final two games of 2017 but made a disappointing start to the New Year with a shock North Lancs / Cumbria League defeat away to the Barrow strugglers.
The pressure told as second row James Lilley picked up at the ruck and motored over the whitewash to score for the opening try and a penalty by number eight Scott Richardson increased the lead to 8-0.
Canadian scrum-half Gavin Rowell went close with a drop goal attempt from halfway as Fleet looked to turn up the heat but Park responded positively and exploited poor tackling to craft a try from a lineout inside the 22. The conversion was missed but Fleet’s lead was down to three points.
With the bit between their teeth and their opponents lacking intensity, Hawcoat seized their opportunity to take the lead with a converted try.
Despite having plenty of possession, Fleet were making costly mistakes and the Park pack drove forward to score a third try and stretch their lead to 17-8.
Fleet responded as Richardson kicked a penalty deep into opposition territory as the hosts had a player sin-binned for not releasing in the tackle.
The best move of the day then saw fly-half Paul Bamber deliver a fine pass to Karl Bowling, who skipped past two defenders to touch down.
The conversion was landed but Richardson then saw a long-range penalty effort go wide and Fleet ended the half still in arrears 17-15.
Like two heavyweight boxers slugging it out, neither side could really assert themselves after the restart and matters worsened for Fleet when second row Andy Holme was dispatched for a high tackle.
Good work driving forward by Fleet props Peter Benny and Scott Dobbie was too often undone by mistakes, though Park were next to have a player sent to the bin.
More good drives ended with centre Bowling muscling over for a try in the corner, and although the conversion was missed Fleet led 20-17.
But they couldn’t maintain the upper hand and within two minutes Park were back in front from an unopposed break down the blindside.
The conversion was missed but Park sealed victory with a late converted try to climb out of the bottom two after Fleet squandered further opportunities.
Having beaten top Cumbrian side Aspatria, this was a disappointment for Fleet, who remain seventh in the table but are capable of much better than this .
Winger Joe Kirton tackled well and Bowling was prominent in attack, though Richardson edged them to the man of the match award for his overall workrate.
Fleet aim to show their true colours on Saturday, when they welcome Aldwinians to Melbourne Avenue for the first home game of 2018.