Half way through their run of ‘difficult’ away games, Sandbach travelled to Sutton Coldfield to face the well drilled, semi-professional unit who are currently in second place of National 3 Midlands. A win for Sutton was the correct result, but Sandbach played marvellously throughout the game and perhaps the final score was a little flattering to the home team.
Sandbach started the game at a furious pace, using player/coach Simon Verbickas to smash into the heart of the Sutton midfield, draw in the cover defence and spin the ball wide. In fact inside four minutes this tactic followed by quick hands span the ball left to Benny Elliot, who stepped outside his man and chipped the ball over the try line for Jack Leech to chase. Without the benefit of a video review the ball was adjudged to have been knocked on in grounding, but either way it was a VERY close call and Sutton breathed a sigh of relief.
Sandbach continued their game plan, playing the game in the Sutton half and tackling like demons to prevent the home team from making much headway back up the field. Forwards Gaz Caen, Matt Beesley and particularly Jack Seddon and Josh Longson were outstanding in this period, with their bullocking charges and blitz tackling they really stunned Sutton and disrupted their confidence.
Despite all this effort and pressure the eventual Sandbach try came on 25 minutes from an individual breakaway by Jack Leech. Snatching a spilt ball from one of the increasingly frequent Sutton attacks just inside his own 22, Leech kicked forward and sprinted down the pitch. A second chip, another chase and a sublime pick-up at speed saw Leech score in the corner with two opposition defenders on his back but the remaining 27 players still 20 metres away!
Despite numerous and ever threatening attacks by Sutton, Sandbach somehow managed to defend their line for the next 15 minutes and it was only in the dying seconds of the 1st half that Sutton managed a pushover try by grabbing the initiative of a quicker ‘shove’ as the ball came in. Sutton converted their try to go in at half-time leading by 7 points to 5.
Sutton started the second half in fiery mood, but once again superb defensive work, especially by Seddon and Longson quashed any of the home teams structured plays almost before they started. In fact the second Sutton score came from an individual breakaway, as the Sutton left wing caught a mistimed clearance kick, stepped around the Sandbach chasing winger and then spotting a mismatch accelerated past the Sandbach forwards. A quick interchange with his supporting players to beat the visitors cover defence gave Sutton another 5 points, converted to give them a 14-5 lead as Sandbach started to tire.
Having given their all on a heavy pitch in the first 60 minutes, Sandbach struggled to mount any credible attacks for the remainder of the game. Sensing victory Sutton pushed forward in waves. Despite this pressure, Sandbach defended like demons, Longson in particular demonstrating his class and fitness. Sutton however are a physically strong and skilful team and pressure began to tell as they scored three more tries and a final penalty goal to take the honours 31 – 5.
The winning margin, perhaps understated the Sandbach performance in this match. In the first half especially they showed a hitherto unseen level of maturity and guile as they tied up the Sutton attacks and controlled the territory and possession. Fitness told in the final 20 minutes, but that just makes the prospect of off season training at Delamere Forest and The Cloud more enticing than usual.
Match Photos here : http://www.suttoncoldfieldrfc.com/photos/sutton-v-sandbach-h-16022013-359807.html