Despite the support of a big home crowd, Sandbach 1st Team were unable to take the honours in this tense match at the top of National 3: Midlands. The big, experienced Nuneaton side just had the edge in defence and managed to stifle most Sandbach attacks, whilst Sandbach discipline let them down with two yellow cards, effectively meaning that they played one quarter of the game with one man down.
Sandbach started that game brightly enough with a tight, controlled approach to the game and were unfortunate not to score an early try as a planned move saw Jack Leech almost clean through before an outstretched hand tapped his heel to thwart his ambitions. After that incident the game tightened up as Nuneaton elected to move the ball wide of the Sandbach back-row who were controlling the loose play. Ten minutes into the game Benny Elliot, took 3 points for the home team as they were awarded a penalty as a result of Nuneaton playing ball on the ground. That was almost immediately followed by an audacious drop-goal attempt from Elliot that just hit the upright and bounced wide.
The remaining 25 or so minutes of the first half was spent mostly in the Sandbach half as the visitors, superbly directed by Stand-Off Will Maisey, mounted attack after attack on the Sandbach try line. Only superb tackling by Sandbach and excellent pressure-relieving kicks by Will Cargill, prevented a glut of points for the “Nuns”. Eventually though and almost on half time, pressure told and the strong Nuneaton forwards drove over to score their first points of the game.
HT Sandbach 3-5 Nuneaton
The 2nd half opened with a Sandbach kick-off and an amazing catch and run by eventual Sandbach Man of the Match Josh Longson. This attack resulted in a second kickable penalty for Elliot which gave Sandbach a single point lead to defend for the next 36 minutes. It wasn't long before Nuneaton pressure began to tell again and Sandbach found themselves playing the game from within their own half. Rather than go back to basics and play traditional rugby and take control of the game, Sandbach started to pressurise their own game with a series of hopeful long miss-passes and speculative 'kick and chase' moves. To their credit though they realised that this tactic was wrong and after 15 nervy minutes, calmed down and started to play rugby again.
Unfortunately, Sandbach winger Dan Massey was then shown the yellow card for a deliberate knock-on. This was a tough call for Sandbach, and the second such penalty in two weeks, but “Them's the rules”. With a man down Nuneaton turned up the wick and scored another good forwards' try on Massey's wing.
Once back to 15 men Sandbach began to compete again although, despite some good attacking moves, they could not break the Nuneaton defence. The final nail in the Sandbach coffin came when Sandbach prop Matt Beesley, took exception to a robust tackle from his opposite number and found himself sitting on the bench for the remainder of the match. In a final turn of the screw, the visitors recycled the ball through five phases, moving the ball from one side of the pitch to the other until they found the gap to run through and score their 3rd and final try.
Sandbach Man of the Match, presented by Match Sponsors “Plasto-Sac” and “AB Profile” was Josh Longson.