Fleet’s title race is hotting up

Fleetwood RU v De La Salle'Ryan Riches
Fleetwood RU v De La Salle'Ryan Riches

Fleetwood 34, De La Salle 13

The sun shone at Melbourne Avenue as Fleetwood turned up the heat on their Mancunian visitors and on their North Lancs and Cumbria title rivals Kirkby Lonsdale.

Both sides started slowly and the Fleet pack looked sluggish, second to the ball at the breakdown.

And it was De La Salle who drew first blood with a penalty on 11 minutes.

Fleetwood then had flanker Danny Tomlinson sin-binned for a high tackle, but a second yellow card soon made it 14-a-side for a spell and Ryan Riches converted the resulting penalty to level the scores.

But dropped balls and wrong options continued to cost Fleetwood, who fell behind to another penalty on 21 minutes.

Fleetwood’s dominant scrumming was the highlight of a scrappy first half, which ended with De La Salle still 6-3 ahead, having missed the chance to stretch their lead with a 37th-minute penalty.

From the restart, Fleetwood rampaged upfield as Lee Storton and Neil Hartley combined well, and player coach Roger Banks bulldozed over from a five-metre scrum for the opening try.

Fleetwood were in front for the first time, Riches’ conversion making it 10-6.

From the restart, birthday boy Nick Smith received an unexpected present in the form of a high tackle which again saw the visitors reduced to 14 for ten minutes.

Fleet were not going to pass up this opportunity to build a telling lead, and on 50 minutes Storton accelerated away from a maul for a 20-metre try, again goaled by Riches.

Two minutes later, man of the match Storton scored his second, breaking down the right after good work by Craig Aikman. This time the conversion was missed but Fleetwood led 22-6.

Both teams were left a man short for the rest of the game when De La Salle had their fly-half sent off for punching and Tomlinson saw red too for a second yellow.

The warm weather seemed to be causing the match to boil over as both sides suffered a further yellow card, Storton the Fleet player ordered to cool off.

More Fleetwood pressure paid off as Dale Thompson’s fine lineout take launched the move which ended with him scoring, taking Riches’ lovely inside ball.

Over eagerness for more points resulted in Aikman’s pass for Tom Evans being intercepted by the De La Salle full-back for a converted try.

This seemed to lift the visitors, but they fumbled in atack and winger Kris Phillips was able to pounce on the loose ball and release Evans.

He hurtled up the left and returned the ball to Phillips, who galloped in for Riches to add the goal and complete the scoring.

Kirkby Lonsdale were winners over Upper Eden, meaning Fleetwood lead the way by four points with three to play.