Reigning champions stretched to limit!

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Burnley and Pendle Rugby League team made last season’s Merit League champions Ashton Bears fight hard for victory in their first game of the season.

The locals went down 28-26 after a last-minute converted try by Ashton, but they certainly knew that they had been involved in a good, spirited contest, with two sides willing to have a go and test themselves.

For the Burnley and Pendle lads, it was a moral victory, with 14 players under the age of 20, six from the recently formed Burnley College Rugby Academy, and a good mixture of Burnley and Pendle rugby union players.

Matt Crowley got Burnley and Pendle off to a flying start. The Burnley College speedster showed a clean pair of heels to go under the sticks in a side-stepping 60-metre dash following good platform work by Ben Peverley, Howard Metcalf, Ben Healy, Michael Jessiman, Ryan Bradley, and Josh Brown.

North of England Colleges stand off Lewis Allen converted for a six-point lead. The local lads were holding their own, but changes to the large Burnley and Pendle squad upset their rhythm, although the main object was to give everyone a good run out. Ashton dominated the middle period of play as the locals adjusted to the pace of the game, with thrree tries and conversions to lead 18-6.

Just before the break, following good work by Danny Owen and Shaye McCullough, Lewis Allen capitalised from a break down in play to go 80 metres for a crowd-pleasing try.

Aldo Trapanese, Richard Kew, Adam Healy, Tom Cooley, were introduced in a roll on, roll off system, and added an injection of pace to the attack. Within minutes Trapanese powered his way over, as Alex Widdop, Conrad Hill, and Lewis Allen combined on the short side. Shortly after, debutant Richard Kew powered over from short range for Burnley and Pendle to take the lead.

With the introduction of Great Britain Rugby League Police hooker and Pendle player Danny Rowland, Burnley and Pendle added a new dimension to their ruck area attack and it paid dividends as Rowland went 60 metres from open play to out fox the solid Ashton defence. Lewis converted.

A great Pendle and Burnley victory was on hand as they led 26-18 with 10 minutes to go, but after another change of five players, Ashton scored two late tries, one on the very last play, to win.

The Burnley and Pendle club would like to pay tribute to the assistance and support of local businesses such as the Prairie Inn, Bobbin Barbers of Burnley and Safe Homes Electrical Services. These local companies have been a great help to the club in their formative years.

Anyone interested in becoming involved in rugby league in any capacity, either playing or assisting in anyway possible, can turn up at the Hodge House playing field off Regent Street, Nelson on Tuesday evenings at 7 p.m. or contact the manager Bob Lennard on 07772600729.