Date published: November 12, 2022
Rochdale Masters and Canadian Grizzlies with Rochdale Mayor Ali Ahmed
The Mayfield Sports Center hosted an international match on Sunday November 6 when the Canadian Grizzlies Masters team arrived in Rochdale to take on the Rochdale Masters team.
It was an absolutely fantastic event from start to finish with massive credit to organizers Carl Abrahams, John Wroe and Neil Wood, as well as Rochdale Mayfield.
The Grizzlies arrived on a rainy Sunday afternoon and the hand of friendship was immediately extended to them. While ultimately it’s rugby league, it’s more about camaraderie than competition in Masters games.
Masters rugby is for players aged 35 and over and the Masters motto is ‘we don’t stop playing because we get old, we get old because we stop playing’. The aim of Masters rugby is to encourage older players to return to the sport and to support grassroots clubs while having fun.
The teams lined up for the national anthems, which were sung with great enthusiasm, after being led by Mayfield’s youth section. The match started off at a fast pace with Rochdale looking the strongest. The Grizzlies defended well and held off marauding Rochdale forwards Simon Howe and Adam Baker in the halves ran the show, pushing the field forward at every opportunity. In fairness, their job was made easier by the quality ball they were getting from Curly Kershaw at interim half. Despite their best efforts, Rochdale couldn’t overcome the whiteout as the Grizzlies maintained the big defense, it turned out that one or two of them were actually bears because they were massive.
After fifteen minutes captain, coach, organizer and promoter Carl Abrahams made ten changes, strangely he was not one of them. The changes surprised the Canadians as the raw pace of Anthony Greaves and Ian Murgatroyd was replaced by the calmer Adam Parmesan and Stephen Bambi. The changes worked though and the defense finally broke through after some great work down the right side from (C&A man) Declan Walsh and Komai Nualamatua. Scott Stanley was the beneficiary as he took an excellent offload from Walsh to force his way in for a try on his Masters debut.
The match went much in the same vein, with both teams trying everything to get the next score. Try as they might even if it wouldn’t come. Scoffer Schofield gave his best as he tried to give his team a numerical advantage by knocking the slightly over-enthusiastic Canadians off the field, but again, they’re all rugby players. Abrahams tried to shake him again by ringing the changes, again ten at a time, again he was none.
It was a stunning game with massive effort from both sides, but as the rain increased errors crept in, with a dropped ball and missed passes costing both sides scoring opportunities. The visitors began to gain more of a foothold in the game and threatened on more than one occasion to level the score, but Rochdale’s defensive line was crisp and direct.
Tex Evans led the way as he met the Canadians head-on every time they came, he was ably assisted by Dave Mills and Old Rammy. Both teams gave it their all and Canada continued to search for the elusive score that would tie the game. Rochdale should have had at least one more try after an unusual break from Millsy, he later estimated he had sprinted at least 75 yards but review by the video referee proved it was 7.5 yards . Wiggy Watmough supported him all the way waiting for the pass that would undoubtedly have put him up for his team’s second try. The pass never came as Millsy remembered who he was and went to ground with the ball. The Grizzlies took heart from that and in the next set a fine pass from the tackle saw their winger tear up the wing with age-defying speed and grab a superb individual try.
The match ended shortly after at one try each and both teams and the referee retired to the bar for light refreshments and talking nonsense. What they did intensively. The Canadiens chose Curly Kershaw as their man of the match. The Rochdale team has chosen Mick Mullen as the star player for the Grizzlies. Both received their awards from England star Victoria Molyneux and Masters chairman Pete Duffy.