BOLTON Mets went into their summer mid-season break on the back of a 30-16 defeat at home to Blackpool Stanley in the North West Men’s League Division Five.

With the pitch bathed in scorching heat the rugby matched its intensity. The first 10 minutes would ebb and flow, with some tremendous tackling ensuring defences were on top.

Inevitably, pressure started to build on the Mets’ defence. Some sloppy line defence gave away a penalty and repeat sets took their toll, allowing Stanley to overlap and go over in the corner, a successful conversion taking them 6-0 ahead.

The restart from Mets captain Daryl Devlin was returned effectively, putting Blackpool right back attacking the Bolton defence. This time the home side dug in and some tremendous tackling – particularly from Pat O’Brien and Ethan Hill – forced a knock-on and some respite.

From the resulting scrum Bolton drove their way up to the Blackpool 20 and some great passing between Devlin and O’Brien resulted in Ben Latham going over in the corner in the 18th minute for the Mets’ first try. The kick was missed but the Mets were right back in the game.

The game ebbed and flowed with each team missing try-scoring opportunities. Tom Bradley twice broke clear after some good work from Hill but he was unable to outpace the Blackpool winger, while O’Brien made a number of one-on-one try-saving tackles and there was some great scrambling defence from the forwards to get back in position and hold out the visitors.

The ruck area was a great source of success for the Mets in the first half as hooker Adam Ryan was constantly testing the markers with smart darting runs and relieving pressure.

Going into the last 10 minutes of the half the unrelenting heat seemed to affect the Mets more than Blackpool as a couple of uncharacteristic mistakes led to two quick tries for the side from the coast.

The first was a debatable grounding on the line which should have been snuffed out by the marker while the second try came from another overlap in the corner for a walkover.

Rather than drop their heads the Mets forced a mistake from Blackpool and O’Brien finished a flowing move with some strong running to score near the post.

Devlin added the extras to take the score going into half time 16-10 to Blackpool Stanley.

The message at the break from coaches Sam Heyes and Darren Robinson Snr was positive. The main objective was to be strong on their line defence and defend a little wider on the right edge, an area Blackpool had exploited well.

Unfortunately, Bolton had lost Anthony Oliver with a hamstring injury while the hard-running Ryan McClusky was also struggling with an ankle problem.

Despite this, the Mets were undeterred as they took to the field looking to turn the scores around.

The second half kicked off in a similar vein as the first half had ended with both teams carrying the ball upfield with some strong running but it was Bolton who blinked first with a missed tackle on the left edge, allowing the Blackpool full-back to get in behind and score the first points of the half.

The half’s second try followed soon after, some good work in the middle sucking in defenders after good work by Blackpool’s scrum-half and loose-forward.

Another try out wide meant the gap was widening and Blackpool were beginning to get away from the Mets at 24-10.

The players rallied and on 56 minutes Mets were back in contention, thanks to a try from Hill, who went in after excellent build-up play from Tom Bradley and McClusky, Hill showing exceptional footwork to evade the tacklers and score a great try.

Mets dominated most of the remainder of the match, applying constant pressure inside Blackpool’s 20 but a series of untimely passes or players trying to do too much resulted in turnover ball time and time again as the Stanley defence showed great resilience.

The left edge of Callum Smith and Ben Latham consistently tested and broke the line with an incredible desire to get hands on the ball, with the evergreen Mark Dorning at the heart of the action, directing plays alongside the equally effective Devlin.

The magnificent attacking intent from Adam Ryan was proving to be Bolton’s most potent weapon in getting down the pitch. In one mazy run he took on all-comers, making 40 yards up the pitch while shrugging off and evading tackler after tackler.

Entering the last five minutes of the match it seemed Bolton had thrown all they had at the Blackpool defence but could not force a telling mistake or provide the moment of inspiration to get the all-important score.

Inevitably, after holding out for so long, Blackpool finally got out of their half and scored a well-worked try down the middle of the pitch, the concluding try making the final score 30-16.

The match was a great spectacle and proved how high the quality of rugby is in Division Five. Man of the match for Bolton Mets was O’Brien for his magnificent tackling and attacking prowess, while an honourable mention went to Adam Ryan, who put in an excellent performance at hooker in his first game of the season.

Bolton now head into a summer break with their next scheduled fixture in the north-east against a North-East Select on August 17.