At 5pm on Saturday evening the results table for RFU National 3 Midlands looked a bit of a disaster area with six of the seven scheduled matches postponed because of snow covered pitches. Thankfully, at least this weekend, Sandbach stood in its own little micro-climate and the large crowd at Bradwall Road were treated to a highly competitive match and a wonderful advertisement for the skills and commitment of both teams.
At the final whistle Sandbach were worthy winners, but this was never an easy contest for the home team. Both teams put their heart and soul into the contest with crunching tackles and blistering breaks being the order of the day.
After an emotional one minute silence in honour of Ian Murray, who sadly passed away earlier in the week, Sandbach started very brightly with the bitterly cold Easterly wind at their backs. Scrums and lineouts were fiercely competitive with Mike Egglestone and Josh Longson on fire as they smothered any attempts by the visitors from Coventry to boss the set pieces.
Eggy leaps like a ..........
Whilst we felt that he was wearing the wrong coloured shirt it was good to see ex-Sandbach Junior Nick Alsop back at Bradwall Road. Alsop was very lively from the whistle and remained a handful throughout the game.
The open forward exchanges soon moved towards the backs as both teams began to move the ball out to the wings. Sandbach seemed to have the faster men outside and it didn’t take long for Jack Leech to show his pace and score the home team’s first try in the corner. The 6th minute try was aided by more than a fair share of good fortune as Leech juggled the ball for a few paces before properly claiming it on his 4th attempt. Benny Elliot hit an excellent conversion from way out on the right.
Five minutes later Elliot was on target with a penalty kick as the visitors were adjudged offside.Brimming with confidence Sandbach pressed forward again and following an excellent period of forward pressure, Club Captain Will Stockdale displayed his class (or was that weight?) and charged over the whitewash to bring the score to 15-0.
Two minutes after that, Will Cargill was adjudged to have deliberately tackled high and received a 10 minute cooling off sentence for his efforts. As if to emphasise how close the game was, Broadstreet took just 4 minutes to make the extra man count and scored a good try from a series of perfectly executed ‘Pick and Drive’ moves. Into the strong wind the conversion failed to cross the line.
Sandbach finished the half with a further 3 points from the boot of Elliot as ‘Street were punished for failing to release the ball in the tackle.
After the turnaround the strong wind balanced the game as Broadstreet were able to kick for territory and Sandbach had to work hard to carry the ball back against the elements. The home side missed a great try scoring opportunity as with one man to beat and an overlap outside, Leach managed to throw the ball forward and into touch. Note: Perhaps this wasn’t Jack but a peculiar localised tornado, as 30 minutes later Matt Beesley repeated exactly the same gaffe in exactly the same area!.
12 minutes into the half Leech redeemed himself as with the same opportunity on the opposite side of the pitch he slipped the ball to substitute Andy Rollings who duly scored his first try for the 1st Team in 5 years! Elliot’s conversion attempt into the wind fell away before the posts.
The remainder of the half was an equally matched affair with big crunching tackles from both teams. In particular Marcus Broad’s tackle on the Broadstreet giant Second Row echoed around the ground….. but Marcus stood up and the Second Row headed for the dug-out.
Defensively again for Sandbach, Josh Longson was everywhere and was a well-deserved winner of the sponsor’s (Frayling Holdings) Man of the Match Award. Player Coach Simon Verbickas has his hands full containing ex-Auckland Marist centre James Otutaha, and did well to extinguish any threat from the Kiwi.
Sandbach 1st Team take an Easter Break at the weekend but Bradwall Road will be buzzing on Saturday as Wallasey face Southern Nomads in the Finals of the Senior Cheshire Plate and Sandbach 3XV face Oswestry in a tense mid-table league clash.