Bowdon 32-56 Douglas
A top drawer away win by Old Mutual Douglas put a real dent in their host’s promotion aspirations, while confirming a robust challenge to league leaders Manchester as the minnows of Mann regained second place with two games in hand.
It took Douglas just 9 minutes to unleash Sam Randle after a maul 30 metres out. Shaun Wyllie has clearly gained from ex-All Black Mark Robinson’s input at training and cleared the ball rapidly as the pack rumbled forward. Adam Boyde measured up and fizzed a sublime pass to Luke Hyland which took at least one Bowdon defender out, and a two-to-one with Randle on the outside was a done deal for 0-7. Bowdon launched ex-Sale and Newcastle Falcons number 8 Mike Waddington from a ruck and Douglas coughed up an offside penalty converted by Charlie Reed. A surge from Douglas flanker Karl Evans returned the visitors to the front foot, and Bryn Snellgrove crafted a great ball for centre Conor Stephens to pick the choicest of lines for 3-14. Winger Dafydd Evans muscled through and Reed converted to reward Bowdon counter attacking, and Reed’s penalty when Douglas hands were spotted in a ruck made it 13-14 at the break.
When Bowdon winger Evans raced off for his second and Reed converted for 20-14 after 55 minutes, home tails were up. John Blanchard at second row and full-back Johnny Edwards were thorns in the Douglas side, but dramatically the tide turned as Douglas simply stepped on the gas. A 10-minute blitz began when Guy Wood skinned his opposite number in midfield and found prop Simon Hoddinnot on his elbow to plough over and 20-21. Moments later Max Singer blasted his way upfield in signature fashion to create a hole for Liam Kirkpatrick’s bonus point try, Karl Evans ran an intelligent supporting line in the 64th minute to score, and Carl Murray punished a Bowdon error for five more. Randle sprinted through to post try number seven, and with Snellgrove inevitably converting all his opportunities, Douglas comprehensively consigned last seasons reverse at the same venue to bed at 20-49. Bowdon sniffed a try bonus point when Wood was red carded for a mistimed tackle at the 70 minute mark, and Neil Bright crashed over for try number three. Michael Swetman stepped off the Bowdon bench to grab the try bonus point, but as the home side threw caution to the wind, fittingly the visitors had the last say when Murray polished off a counter from deep with an eighth try and the double over their Manchester hosts for the first time.