Match Report by Guest Reporter Mike Corfield (AKA Andy Partington)
Once upon a time Sandbach Under 12s travelled away to Winnington Park for the semi final of the Cheshire Bowl, the sun was shining brightly and the conditions were perfect. The mood of the squad was tense as they warmed up and got ready for the biggest game of the season. It was always going to be a close encounter and coach Andy John made sure they were ready and raring to go.
Sandbach kicked off and immediately had attacking ball after Park knocked on. Sandbach had early possession and territory and put the ball through the hands and down the back line as they looked for the early score. Howeve,r the home side’s defence was strong as they thwarted the early attacks with some very strong defence. Alex Bishop was in the thick of it in the loose and was making good ground, backed up, as ever, by Matt Hopton and Joe Curwen.
Winnington were not going to let Sandbach have it all their own way and were looking to run the ball every opportunity they got, however, Kyran Davies and Max Clayton-Barker made sure the Park's runners were stopped with some strong tackling.
As the half progressed Sandbach were starting to get the better of their opposition in the scrums giving them more possession and territory. Rai Bennett was controlling the game well at Fly Half, ensuring the backs got every opportunity to run the ball, but the home side's excellent defence continued, Daniels Partington and Jakeman were trying to break through the opposition defenders but Park's defence held strong. Sandbach were recycling possession very well, Luke Graveson and Guy Cooke clearing out in the rucks.
Sandbach then played some of their best rugby of the season as the backs took the ball forward, Nathan Almond setting up the ruck as the ball went wide through hands down the back line, the forwards then piled in to recycle again as the backs took the ball down the opposite wing. Kyran Davies was stopped five meters short of the try line, but powerhouse Alex Bishop was on hand and picked up the ball from the back of the ruck, with the perfect body position he drove low and hard to crash over the line for the first score of the game, Kyran Davies duly converted and that gave the visitors a 7-0 lead.
Half Time: Winnington Park 0 Sandbach 7
The second half got underway and once again it was Sandbach with ball in hand and Davies again on the charge, but as in the first half Park's tackling was strong and they were again running the ball at every opportunity, Sandbach had to be alert and ensure their own tackling was strong as the early period was very even.
Sandbach were gradually getting the upper hand as the backs passed the ball down the line at every opportunity, but were held up over the line, indiscipline then cost the visitors and Park were able to relieve the pressure, however Sandbach used the ball well and were in Park's territory again. Rhys John snipping from the back of the scrum, but was tackled just short of the line. Sandbach then made some changes, Greg Wilkes, Tom Hilditch, Jimmy Bebbington and Kofi Esegbona came on the field, all of whom got stuck straight in to the action, Wilkes was on the end of another backs move, but again held up just short of the line.
As the half progressed, Sandbach continued to look for that all important second score, but Winnington continued with their excellent defence, Jack Irving and Liam Miller were primed and ready for action as the whole squad effort continued. It was however Winnington that threatened next as they broke away and moved the ball wide. Up stepped Kieron Murphy with a bone crunching tackle to stop the attack and Sandbach were in possession again, playing sensible rugby John with a neat kick through and chase to put the pressure on again, but as the clock ticked down, although Sandbach were rucking well and dominating in the scrums, they couldn't break the stubborn defence of the home side.
Winnington went on the attack, but Sandbach were not going to let them score and defended with dogged determination as the final whistle went. It was a hard fought victory but well deserved, the Sandbach squad had given their all and a place in the final was the perfect result.
Full Time: Winnington Park 0 Sandbach 7
Players of the week: Alex Bishop & Rai Bennett