Bird marks his return (See what I did there?) with inspirational performance
Team captain Mark Bird returned after a three match injury enforced layoff to spark a massively improved performance from the Bradwall Road team. From the initial meeting in the changing rooms to the final whistle, Bird together with club coach Simon Verbickas encouraged, praised and led from the front, always pushing and encouraging the team to greater efforts.
If Bird fired up the minds of the Sandbach team then it was Mike Egglestone who fired up the bodies. Two massive tackles in the opening three minutes followed by a dynamic 25 metre charge “Eggy” showed his fellow forwards what was expected. Egglestone’s break was supported by Gaz Caen who drove a further 15 metres before the ball was recycled quickly across the backs to Benny Elliot, who was in lethal form, to score his first of four tries on the day. Elliot converted his try putting the home team 7-0 ahead inside 5 minutes.
Seeing their forwards in such a rampant mood the Sandbach backs decided to show their class. Leech picked up a loose ball close to the right touch line and, breaking every rule taught to schoolboy teams, ran sideways behind the scrum and slipped the ball to Will Cargill. A long pass gave Dan Massey the space to beat his man and slip the ball inside to Leech, who had continued his run and was able to dive over for a try under the posts. Mesmerising stuff! Elliot took the extra points to give Sandbach a 14-0 lead after 12 minutes.
The first of Jack's hat-trick
With Cargill now beginning to run the show and his forwards dominant in all phases Sandbach scored two more tries on 22 and 33 minutes. Both scores were created by Cargill’s control of the midfield and finished by Elliot who was as sharp as a tack and pretty much untouchable with the ball in hand.
How many tries is that so far?
For the final 10 minutes of the first half Mansfield who, to be fair, were fielding a make-shift set of backs, changed their tactics, stopped kicking to the Sandbach back three and focussed on driving the ball through the forwards. This switch paid off in terms of stopping the home team try-fest, but alas and despite some valiant efforts failed to change the scoreboard.
Half Time Sandbach 28 : 0 Mansfield
Mansfield continued their good work into the second half, but despite coming close, were unable to breach the Sandbach defence. The green back row of Tom Austin, Ali Burton and Jack Seddon worked tirelessly to snuff out any chances created by the Mansfield forwards.
The opening deadlock was broken in the twelfth minute when Bird broke from midfield and got in behind the Mansfield defence, chipped through for Leech to kick and chase over the line. Another conversion from Elliot took Sandbach beyond reach.
A precautionary substitution for Cargill slowed down the Sandbach forward momentum for the next 20 minutes or so, especially as the Mansfield pack played out of their skins and starved the Sandbach backline of possession. Eventually though the Mansfield engines started to slow down and in the 35th minute Elliot again joined the line as the ball was passed quickly across to give him his fourth try of the match which he again converted.
Three minutes later a weaving run by Richard Murray took the game to within 5 metres of the Mansfield line and from the resulting melee Bird nipped through to score his team’s seventh try. The final Sandbach try came following a break by Sandbach Hooker Tom Herd, who also had his best game for a number of weeks. Herd passed to Massey, who was through had he not lost his footing although he still managed to feed Leech to complete his hat-trick. Elliot converted with the final kick of the game and was duly voted Man of the Match by his team for a personal haul of 32 points.
This Saturday Sandbach travel to Nuneaton and the ground of Nuneaton Town Football Club, where they play their last game of 2012. There are no games at Bradwall Road this Saturday.