Thu 18 Jan 2018 23:58

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Isle of Man Examiner – ‘It was an Orwellian 1984 when Douglas beat Wilmslow in the Cheshire Plate at Pownall Park, but an even better performance from an injury-ravaged Old Mutual Douglas squad took this season’s result at a damp Port-e-Chee. The reverse September fixture in Cheshire with a theoretically stronger Douglas team went 45-24 to the hosts, but Saturday’s herculean win bounces the Manx team back up to 6th in North One West and two league places above Wilmslow. Conceding an unconverted try after 5 minutes to Wilmslow flanker Alex Taylor under a rolling maul added to the task, but the home side’s response was swift. Harry Hewson carved open the Wilmslow midfield defence with ease and burst upfield. The covering defenders got ball to ground, but a chip ahead on the right wing had Douglas in hot pursuit and looking odds-on for the score. An illegal challenge prevented the touch down, and referee Dave Bundy signalled for a penalty try to put Douglas in to a lead they were never to relinquish. It was nevertheless a closer run thing than it should have been. James Maddrell added a try after 20 minutes when the Douglas forwards, with Ralph Clark and Akkie Van Den Berg bossing the contact, did the spadework. Aidan O’Shea added three points when Wilmslow buckled in the corner as the Douglas line-out and subsequent maul surge was pulled down for 15-5 at half time. The heavy Port-e-Chee underfoot did’nt discourage both sides ambition, and Wilmslow struck first after the break with winger James Coulhurst sprinting in for 5 points. The powerful Douglas back-row combination of Niall Killey and Liam Kirkpatrick then fashioned an opening for the impressive Van Den Berg to bludgeon over, and crucially O’Shea added the extras for 22-10. Judicious use of rolling substitutes by Douglas kept the likes of Chris Bollen fresh at the front-row coal face, and Robert Todd’s belligerent performance belied his time out from first team duty. The otherwise excellent referee was unsighted for a Wilmslow knock-on 15 metres out from the Douglas posts which led to Taylor chalking up his second try and 22-15 at 60 minutes. O’Shea’s calm game management kept a lid on any Douglas anxiety, but the Douglas line-out misfired occasionally and from one such loss a Douglas defensive slip was enough for Wilmslow to set up a midfield scrum and work space for centre Jack Masters to score. The conversion was missed, and with 6 minutes on the clock, Man of the Match Hewson helped shred Wilmslow’s thin blue line again. Conor Stephens’ pass to the usually clinical finisher Nick Brooker had forgone conclusion written all over from 40 metres, but as the ball hit the deck, so did Douglas try bonus point hopes.’

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