Widnes West Bank 15
Life is good for Ovenden at the moment and it could get even better.
That’s the view of player-coach Gareth Jones, whose side made it nine points out of a possible 10 at the start of the first summer Conference season thanks to hooker Luke Sutcliffe’s hat-trick try with four minutes left on Saturday.
The Four Fields men have been bumping around near the bottom of Division Two in recent times but they finished last season with a flourish and have added some defensive and mental steel to their armoury so far this time.
Stand off Jones is operating with a small squad but revealed that he is expecting a handful of useful reinforcements in a few weeks time when the winter season wraps up.
“Hopefully I’ve got four good players coming from the Pennine League plus Chris Hartley from Old Brodleians and that should be a big help because at the moment we are looking paper-thin,” he said.
Jones had to draft in a couple of second teamers on Saturday and 16-year-old Jack Sutcliffe made a promising debut from the bench but Ovenden still had enough to edge past a Bank side who look decent recruits to the Conference.
The home side had their three Lukes - Sutcliffe, O’Mara and Sandland - to thank for all their points and their no-nonsense tackling just tipped the scales their way against a Cheshire side which arguably offered a little more then them in attack.
The quicksilver Sutcliffe looks fragile for a forward but he has started the season like a house on fire and drew first blood for the hosts, who played towards the clubhouse but against the breeze in the first half.
Ovenden shaded the early changes and after Bank hooker Greg Picherlingi had been sin-binned, Luke Sutcliffe looped round the outside of winger O’Mara and took the return pass for an unconverted try wide out on 10 minutes.
Bank, wearing a fluorescent light blue strip, soon made it 4-4 with stand off Thomas Arrowsmith’s long pass finding winger Oliver Fay in acres of room wide on the right.
Big home forwards Tom Palmer, Matty Collins, Matty Turner and Pete Williams were serving it up to the visitors, whose response was to kick long and hunt the mistake. Fullback Niall Brady obliged a couple of times but also pulled off a trying-saving tackle on scrum half Ryan Millington.
However, one of Arrowsmith’s long punts was returned with interest by the hosts five minutes before half time. Brady sent the speedy O’Mara away from deep in his own territory and Luke Sutcliffe was there to go the final 30 yards unopposed for an excellent try converted by Sandland.
Ovenden were unable to make the most of good field positions after the break and it all threatened to unravel for them when Bank second row Adam Simm made a great break past several tacklers. Home centre Nathan Smith got back to prevent a try but Jones was yellow carded for interference at the play-the-ball and the visitors seized their chance.
Two tries in three minutes from the impressive Millington and winger Jordan Barr, plus a conversion and a drop goal from Arrowsmith, looked to have turned the game on its head with Bank now 15-10 up after 65 minutes.
Jones believes Ovenden would have folded in a similar situation last season, but O’Mara did tremendously well to beat his opposite number one-on-one in the top corner and Luke Sutcliffe wriggled over at the side of the posts to complete the comeback, Sandland converting.