BOLTON suffered their first defeat in eight matches on Saturday but not before giving high-flying Tarleton a serious run for their money on their home patch.
The Avenue Street men, who ended 2012 in the top five of North Lancs One and went into the new year brimming with confidence, took the game to their promotion-chasing hosts and dominated the early stages.
But after a scoreless first half, second-placed Tarleton – beaten just once in the first half of the season – came out strongly and, when a couple of sin-binnings reduced Bolton to 13 men, they took advantage to score two converted tries through Ben Kelly and Jack Skofic.
The Cherry and Whites kicked off 2013 with a positive attitude, making a flying start to the game and knocking Tarleton out of their stride which had been so formidable throughout the first half of the season.
Prominent in possession and territory, Bolton were dominant at the set piece and their confidence was illustrated when they turned down two kickable penalties in Tarleton’s 22, only for the resulting chances to go begging.
Nevertheless, they had the better of the home side with the pack, led by Sam Hilton, running strongly with Chris Mee and Dave Ormes repeatedly forcing their highly-rated opponents onto the back foot.
Even in the second half when Tarleton set up camp in the Bolton half, the defence was resolute.
Eventually the pressure told and Bolton ultimately paid for the two infringements at the breakdown that saw them reduced to 13 for a spell that proved pivotal.
Feeling aggrieved, Bolton rallied when they were back to their full complement, and there were opportunities for them to gain a vital losing bonus point.
Unfortunately, it was not to be, but Bolton returned to Avenue Street knowing they had given the promotion favourites one of their toughest matches of the season and are expected to carry that confidence into Saturday’s home game against Garstang.