A short trip to Nuneaton to finally complete a twice rearranged fixture was the opportunity for Sandbach to recover some confidence after letting their last game against Newport slip away in the final minutes. All seemed to be on target, with excellent midweek training and an enthusiastic pre-match warm. Then we got ambushed ….
Almost from the kick-off Nuneaton took possession inside their own 22, used a rolling maul to suck in the Sandbach defence and then, quickly, simply and efficiently passed the ball across the backs. Each man, ran straight, drew his opposite number and passed the ball. The end result was a two man overlap running free and straight towards the Sandbach line. One more, simple draw and pass and Sandbach were 5-0 down inside two minutes.
Just over 5 minutes later, Nuneaton repeated the process, this time breaking left but with the same result another simple run-in leaving Sandbach 10 – 0 down after 8 minutes. The ambush was complete when just 4 minutes later, Nuns produced a replica break down their left flank; this time managing to score nearer the posts and allowing the conversion. So 12 minutes down and Sandbach trailing by 17 points to Nil.
Some supporters reckoned that the 2.00 p.m. Kick-Off rather than our normal 2.15, start confused the players’ body clocks and were still in pre-match ‘mode’. In truth, the Nuns were outstanding in that opening period; dynamic and strong in the loose, fast and precise in the backs. Nuneaton played the game simply and very well; no tricks, missed passes or special moves, just excellent rugby.
Despite this dreadful start, Sandbach composed themselves and started to claw their way back into the game. Initially they managed just to stop the Nun’s rampant try machine and gain some possession and allow the heavy pitch to take its toll on the legs of the Nuneaton speedsters.
No standing upstairs
Whilst they were able to slow down the home team, they weren’t able to stop them completely and on 28 minutes conceded a penalty for offside, followed just before half time by a converted try; the result on a series of well-structured drives by the Nuneaton pack.
HT Nuneaton 27: 0 Sandbach
Sandbach continued to work hard in the second half and gradually their fitness and determination took effect. The Bradwall Road forwards had another strong game, with Josh Longson (eventual Man of the Match), being a continual thorn in the side for opposition, whilst the front row of Gaz Caen, Matt Beesley and Joel Unsworth made the hard yards with some strong carries.
On the 7th minute, ever sharp Longson took a quick tap penalty to drive to within 5 metres of the Nuns’ line. From the resultant ruck, a quick reverse pass from Mark Bird to Will Stockdale allowed the veteran to drive through and score a fine try under the posts. Benny Elliot took the extra points. Soon after that Nuneaton burst into life again and scored their 5th try under the posts.
The next 30 or so minutes, became a bit of an ‘Arm-Wrestle’, with the pitch cutting up and both sets of players tired and taking knocks.
Ali Burton working hard for the team
It was however Sandbach that just managed to keep their noses in front and in the last 5 minutes of the game were rewarded for the efforts as the referee gave a Penalty Try to Sandbach as Nuneaton were adjudged to have committed one to many offences in a series of scrums on their own 5 metre line. Benny Elliot took the extras.