Edinburgh Eagles: (0) 10

Tries: Logan, McGuffog Goals: Clarke

Ashton Bears: (22) 58

Tries: Ormshaw (4), Jones (2), Buck, Bibby, Smith, Tootill, Woolfenden

Goals: Tootill (7)

Edinburgh Eagles welcomed North West Counties League club, Ashton Bears to Edinburgh for their Challenge Cup 1st round tie yesterday. The Eagles were confident they could go one better than their appearance in 2019 with a game against a side who had never played in the competition before and who brought a coachload of travelling supporters who braved the long trek north.

There was a last minute change to plans with a change of venue to the 3G surface at The University of Edinburgh Peffermill Playing Fields when the original pitch at Royal High School was deemed unplayable. This proved to suit the visitors better as they ran out 58-10 winners, although the scoreline was not reflective of a hard fought and competitive game enjoyed by a large crowd in stormy weather conditions.

The match started brightly with both sides enjoying possession although handling errors prevented any scoring until the 5th minute when Ashton opened the scoring with the first of their 11 tries of the afternoon through Daniel Buick to give an early 6-0 lead after a successful kick by Ben Tootill. The Eagles were not deterred by this early setback and both sides enjoyed good periods of possession and defence which prevented any further scoring until the 30th minute when Ashton extended their lead to 12-0 following another successful kick and then quickly capitalised with a further 2 tries before half time to lead 0-22 after Tootill missed his first kick of the afternoon after Ormshaw scored Ashton’s fourth try.

To win the match, the Eagles needed another of their obligatory 2nd half fightbacks which was a feature of big matches in 2019, however the second half started badly when they conceded another try just after kick off to take the score to 28-0 and it was becoming clear this was not going to be the Eagles day. It would not be until Ashton scored another 2 converted tries to extend their lead to 40-0 that Eagles finally got the score their hard work merited when, in the 53rd minute, Terry Logan finished off good work by the forwards to narrow the score to 6-40 after a successful Lewis Clarke kick. Ashton scored next to restore their 40 point lead however player/ president, Barry McGuffog lead his team from the front with a memorable try to narrow the score to 10-46 in the 60th minute and for a while it looked like the Eagles had found their confidence and rhythm as they camped in the Ashton half to press for another try to narrow the deficit further and make the scoreline more reflective of the match. Eagles momentum was finally stopped when Robertson was sent to the sin bin in the 65th minute and Ashton finished the match with 3 tries in the final 10 minutes to leave the final score as Eagles 10 – Ashton Bears 58.

Ultimately, Ashton were a fitter, more experienced team who deserved their win although the scoreline does not indicate the hard fought nature of this entertaining match played by two hardworking teams. This sentiment was reflected in Club President/ Player Barry McGuffog in his match address just after the final whistle to his Eagles players when he reminded them playing in the Challenge Cup is a bonus for the club and provides a useful opportunity to measure progress against the benchmark of a Rugby League heartlands club – for 30 minutes both teams were evenly matched until Ashton were allowed to take control of the game.

The Eagles will now start preparing the defence of their North East Rugby League championship crown starting in May. If you are interested in getting involved with the Eagles in any capacity, please contact them or follow their social media for regular updates.