At least the weather was good !
Sandbach 15 : 25 Longton
That was about the only consolation for the large and loyal Sandbach supporters as their team delivered a miserable performance against a highly motivated Longton team. On a day when the Bradwall Road fans were lauded, on the ”Rolling-Maul.com” web site, as the most knowledgeable and hospitable in the league, their players displayed not enough knowledge and too much hospitality!
The game started brightly enough with a typical Sandbach pushover try from their lineout close to the Longton line. A good take by Ally Burton, was fed to Josh Longson at the back of the maul as his forwards walked him over for the score. Benny Elliot took the extra points to give the home team a 7 point lead with just 6 minutes gone. That however was almost the last positive thing we saw from Sandbach for the rest of the half.
Within 3 minutes of the first score, Longton recycled well from a ruck close to the Sandbach 22; scrum half Chris Moore spun the ball wide to Hendry Vaka who breezed through the home team defence and popped the ball back to Moore who ran in an easy try. Grant Hallam converted. The game then went silent for 25 minutes, both packs slogged it out in a fairly uninspiring way although, apart from Gaz Caen and Tom Concu the Sandbach props, Longton always seemed to get numbers to the breakdown before Sandbach.
On 25 minutes Elliot slotted a penalty given for not releasing, he should perhaps have had others, but the team elected to go for touch rather than take the points.
England World Cup Winner, Will Greenwood joined Sandbach for a training session during the week before the match and was very keen to see Sandbach simplify their passing game and restrict the tricks and long passes. Unfortunately Sandbach backs seemed to forget that advice. They squandered hard earned possession with some poor decision making, missed kicks, dropped balls and speculative long passes. Compared to their lethal handling and finishing against Mansfield in their last home game, Sandbach were a shadow of what they can be.
As if to emphasise their own failings on 35 minutes from a ruck on the opposition 10 metre line Sandbach passed the ball simply and at pace across the pitch, both wingers and full back joined the line and they scored perhaps one of the best tries seen at Bradwall Road for some years. Great passing, excellent support running and pace gave the ball to Jack Leech, who had a comparatively easy run-in to the corner. Elliot missed the touchline conversion.
Unfortunately for Sandbach, on the 40th minute, Hendry Vaka came into the game again and, in a typical move that he makes look so simple, angled his run to slice through the Sandbach defence and score under the posts. Hallam took the extra points as the sides went into half-time with the score 15 – 14 to the home team.
The second half was a dour affair with Sandbach camped inside the Longton 22 for long periods but unable to turn territory into points. Longton defended well, but Sandbach made a few wrong decisions as well as being unable to shake off the malaise throughout the backline. Sandbach winger Richard Murray had a good game throughout, but didn’t get enough ball or support to capitalise on his advantage.
Isolation! .....and where are the back row?
In the 30th minute Longton were awarded a kickable penalty as the home team were adjudged offside. The resultant 3 points from Hallam gave the lead to Longton and the Sandbach game fell away. On 35 minutes another dropped pass in the centre of the pitch gave possession to the visitors, a long kick was handled badly by the Sandbach defence and the rampant Potteries side passed the ball quickly to their winger Ethan Clowes who scored in the corner.
Moments before the final whistle, Longton Fly-Half Scott Rawlins took an easy drop goal to cap of a fine personal performance and give Longton a 15 – 25 win.
Next week Sandbach take the first of three long road trips in succession as they travel over to Lincolnshire to face a strong Scunthorpe team. Team coach leaves at 9.45 am