THE new decade started with Wilmslow Wolves’ bubble being well and truly burst.

North One West leaders Wilmslow fell 17-8 at home to Stockport on Saturday.

Several of their most influential players were still sidelined and they suffered during the game a plague of injuries, which by the end had reduced them to just 13 players on the pitch.

It became mission impossible as the short-handed Wolves were forced to concede a plethora of penalties at the breakdown against a well organised and much improved Stockport side.

Chris Jones now has to patch together his bruised and battered troops for the difficult assignment at Moss Farm in Northwich.

Three tries by the visitors to just one from Wilmslow was a fair reflection of the balance of play on Saturday.

Wilmslow’s fast running game was made to look pedestrian as it stalled against the steel like immovable object, which was Stockport’s defensive line.

The Stockport pack also held the upper hand in broken play.

Their scrum and lineout was generally solid and around the field, they played as a close co-ordinated unit, driving forward, retaining possession and being first to the breakdown in numbers.

Wolves were just shut out of the game, particularly in the second half when they hardly emerged from their own 22.

Yet, it all started with so much promise.

Stockport were forced to concede a lineout from the opening kick off and for 10 minutes Wolves pummelled at their defence.

The visitors were caught offside three times in quick succession but their defence held and Wolves should have earned more than just the three points kicked by Bob MacCallum.

It was during this early period that the dangerous Ben Day had to leave the field with a serious looking knee injury.

From the restart, Stockport started to put some phases together and it was against the run of play after nearly 25 minutes when Wilmslow stole a lineout and counter attacked down the right.

When centre Ethan Harding was pulled down off the ball, MacCallum set up a catch and drive situation from which prop Robert Taylor eventually touched down.

Thereafter, for the best part of an hour, Stockport were in the box seat.

The penalties against Wolves began to mount and from a lineout ‘Port scrum half Rory Austen took a recycled ball to get their opening score.

Only desperate Wilmslow defence and a pair of forward passes prevented them from adding a second try before the break.

They then dominated the second period and could well have had more than the two tries they got, the first after just five minutes when full-back Callum Owen made the extra man in the Stockport line and the second when centre Nick Coupland took the final pass.

Both tries had their origins in penalty awards at the breakdown, a solid lineout and forward drive sucking in the shorthanded defence, which eventually had to give.

For the intervening 30 minutes or so, the pressure on the Wolves defence was relentless.

Four Wilmslow forwards, Alex Taylor, Adam Taher, Conor McMurdock and Sammy Lawton all had to leave the fray during this period.

Credit goes to those remaining for denying Stockport anything more and for their tenacity in trying to make something out of not very much.