BOLTON Mets kick off their new season tomorrow.

They are in North West Men’s League Division Five action at Ashton Bears A as they make a long-awaited return to competitive action.

Mets warmed up for the campaign with a first game in 14 months, a 12-10 friendly defeat at home to Garswood Stags A.

A tense opening period saw both teams trying to find their feet after a lengthy hiatus, a few knock-ons, forward passes and the odd ball steal made for a see-saw battle which was to be expected.

Then, on the 20-minute mark, the fleet-footed Jonathan McMillan, playing against his former club, was on hand to take advantage of a slow retreating defence and score under the posts, gifting Kieran Lockett an easy conversion to give the Mets a 6-0 lead.

More chances would come, a break by hooker Adam Ryan seeing him offload to the supporting Gavin Hatton, only for the covering defence to do just enough to stop him from scoring. Rather than taking the tackle, Hatton threw a pass that didn’t quite hit the mark and that was enough to see the chance go begging.

Another scoring opportunity came to nothing after a neat flick pass from Steven Harrison set away Rik Fletcher, but it wasn’t to be.

After a positive opening 40 minutes Sam Heyes made a few changes as with 21 players available, plenty of the squad were itching for game time.

Four players were making their Mets debuts in the game, Michael Farrington and Darren Cosgrove, both playing in the forwards, had already put in some solid graft from the start, but it was the turn of two 16-year-olds to get their chance.

Harvey Stigwood and Lewis Howard took their place on opposite sides of the field, and while the former has experience of rugby league, this was the first outing for the latter in the 13-a-side code.

The Stags were keen to level things up in the second half, and 10 minutes after the restart, they barged over the line for a converted score that levelled things up at 6-6.

Even though we had some new, young talent emerging, Mets’ experience was on show when Mark Dorning produced a little show and go to create space and leave the defenders in his wake.

With support from Ste Hickey and Stigwood, it looked like the hosts were going to score again as Dorning released the ball, but the Garswood defence again did just enough to halt the attack.

However, from the resulting play the ball, and with the defence still making their way back, McMillan was able to stroll in for his second try of the day. With Lockett off the field, the returning Ken Sackfield stepped up to take the conversion, but unfortunately he slotted it wide of the post and left the score at 10-6 in Bolton’s favour.

Entering the final 10 minutes, the away side managed to get a roll on and make their way down field.

The Mets defence was still putting in the big hits but they couldn’t quite stop the forwards making good yards and after a couple of players were held up on or over the line, the visitors touched down with the conversion sealing a two-point win, some late Bolton pressure coming to nothing.

The NWML Division Five has been split into two smaller leagues with Mets grouped with opening opponents Ashton Bears A, Burtonwood Chargers, Halton Simms Cross A, Ince Rose Bridge A, Runcorn, Salford City Roosters A and Waterhead Warriors A.

They will play 14 league games between now and August 21.