End of an era at Pontefract as Matthew 'Rasher' Bacon hangs up his boots
Another era is ending with long standing Pontefract RUFC favourite Matthew Bacon deciding to call time on his playing career.
“Rasher” to his mates in the team is not injured, not lost his pace nor his desire, not been dropped. Retirement is his own initiative, just as it should be for long-term servants of the game of rugby.
Bacon has played at inside centre for a decade at Pontefract Rugby Club. In fact, it has been 10 years of non-stop rugby since 2011, 50 weeks a year, as he was one of the club’s first dual-code players, having played regularly for Castleford Panthers ARLFC each summer during Ponte’s close season.
That he stayed injury-free, fit, fast and healthy is remarkable and testament to his athleticism and commitment to his physical strength and fitness.
His strong-running style and angles of attack suited both codes of rugby.
Rasher has been an integral part of some of the best centre partnerships in Pontefract’s recent history.
He initially partnered Nick Dykes between 2011-13, when he had lots of strawberry blonde hair; partnered Chris Sant between 2013 and 2015; and finished his career from 2016 until lockdown alongside Craig Fawcett, by which time he had surrendered to a ‘number one’.
Pontefract’s director of rugby Mike Parkinson paid his tribute to a player who live long in the memory of club’s supporters.
He said: “We can’t count precisely how many tries Rash has scored, but it’s a lot, consistently in our top three try scorers each season. For example, he scored nine tries in 2011/12; 12 tries in 2016/17; nine tries in 2017/18. The stats go on and speak for themselves.
“What they don’t show is that Rash always played with a smile on his face. He’d take a hit and then congratulate his opponent; beast his opposing centre with a crash tackle, then help him to his feet and ask if he’s okay – quite what Castleford Panthers or the rugby league lads thought of this aspect of his game is anyone’s guess!
“In a nutshell, Rasher has had a remarkable career with us.”
His last game was on November 13, 2021 for our second XV against Moortown at Leeds, away, to prove his fitness.
“It was almost as fulfilling as my first game, all those years ago, but it’s now time to quit,” said Rasher.
Last weekend Rasher enjoyed his first free Saturday for a long time, with no rugby to fill his day. What did he do?
“I had a bit of a lie-in, thanks. Then took our lass out for brunch at Farmer Copley’s. Then came over to Halifax to see my mates play Old Crocs and have a pint. It was almost the perfect day.”
Almost perfect, what could be better?
“You made me run touch! Never again…”
Pontefract, without Rasher in their side, put up a battling display, but lost their first versus third clash 25-20 at Old Crossleyans in Yorkshire One.
Ponte started well with Liam Kay landing an early penalty to open the scoring, but Crocs hit back hard to score three tries before half-time with the visitors down to 13 men at one stage with scrum-half Josh Walker and winger Richard Dedicoat receiving yellow cards.
But from 19-3 down Pontefract produced a big effort, particularly in the scrum as a superb eight-man drive gave number eight Calum Rogers the chance to score a try.
As the players celebrated a Crocs player threw punches at prop James Griffin, who responded by pushing the player in the face. This was the only thing seen by the referee and Griffin was given a straight red card with the Crocs player only a yellow.
Kay converted the try and right at the end of the half Walker put over an opportunist drop-goal to make it 19-13 at the break.
Despite playing with a man down Ponte made the running in the second half, but had a “try” disallowed and Kay hit the post with a penalty attempt.
They did go into the lead when prop Josh Hough found himself clean through in the centre to gallop over for a try that was converted by Kay.
But Kay hit the post again with a penalty and they could not quite hang on as Crocs sealed victory with two late penalties.
It was a superb effort nevertheless from Pontefract that should give them confidence for their home game against Beverley this Saturday with 80 ex-players in attendance for a pre-match meal.