BOLTON’S perfect 2018 continued with a 17-12 victory at Aldwinians, despite them not being at their most convincing.

The win, that lifts the Cherry and Whites up to seventh in the North Lancs/Cumbria Division table, was their fifth from five since the turn of the year and took their winning streak to six.

And it came despite losing one of their key engine-room players to an injury sustained during high-speed high jinks at a team bonding session on the go-kart track.

Influential back-row forward Gareth Pritchard was ruled out of Saturday’s game – and this weekend’s match at home to Keswick – following an in-race clash with hooker Chris Cockton.

“Chris was trying to overtake Gaz on the inside,” revealed head coach Dave Crouch.

“He wasn’t having that so they were bumping and crashing into each other all the way.

“It was all good-natured but typically competitive of them, and now Gaz has bulging vertebrae and he definitely won’t be available again this weekend, possibly longer.

“Since then, [team captain] Rhys Pritchard, who works with him, has been getting at Chris, backing up his brother and telling Chris he owes us a big performance after putting Gaz out. Josh Holmes got himself banned from the track as well, so whatever they were doing it looks like they enjoyed themselves.

“I was supposed to go that night but didn’t. I’m quite glad about that, given what went on.”

Suitably bonded, a Pritchard-less Bolton team did put in a decent first-half performance at Aldwinians on Saturday, preventing their hosts from troubling the scorers and establishing a 14-point lead at the break.

Man-of-the-match Ben Cottam scored the first try, driving over from a quick-tap penalty and scrum-half Will Bate nipped in for the second, with Chris Brownlow converting both times.

But the home team fought back, two tries and a conversion bringing them to within two points with around 15 minutes remaining.

With an exhausted Bolton forced into displaying some stout defence the result was in the balance until Alex Waddicor put the brakes on Aldwinians’ comeback with a 76th-minute penalty.

“I think we thought we had it won at half time and when we went out for the second half we didn’t defend that well, until the last 10 minutes,” added Crouch. “We didn’t move the ball as well as we have been doing recently, our chasing to back up the kickers has to be much better, that is something that really disappointed me, so we should have done better in many aspects but we’ll take the ‘W’.”

In a tightly-congested division, Bolton could conceivably climb to third with a bonus-point win on Saturday, when they welcome fourth-placed Keswick.

But Crouch is adamant they will need to improve on last weekend’s performance as they gear up to take on a team whose success has been primarily built around their talented back row.

“The Keswick game will be hard, they have a very good back row, that’s what has been winning them games, so we’ll have to hope we can sort that out,” added the coach.

“We will need to keep them moving, try to pin them back in their half, force them to attack from deep and make sure our defending is red-hot for the full 80 minutes.”