Sandbach 19 - Crewe & Nantwich 20
Sat 20 November 2004
Whether it was through injury or Christmas shopping, Sandbach struggled in all senior teams to field a full side. The situation was helped when through the snow and rain on Thursday Crewe & Nantwich’s were waterlogged, so the match was switched to Bradwall Road.
Prior to going to pay for the second team captain Richard Pickford, was struggling to get a side out, but Micky Caen, who had come down to the club to watch the England vs. South Africa game, was sent home to get his kit. His inclusion in the front row meant that it had a combined age of 153! With two other front row players on the flank, Andy Ennis and Chris Dryer, meant Sandbach had a very substantial pack.
With the team changing, Paul Kennedy turned up with his kit, which on paper meant that the thirds had a full side, but with one player on his way. So first team replacement Tom Atkinson offered to play until the final player turned up. It also meant that Jason Keeble was again in action at Scrum half and Andy green had his first game at Fly half for many seasons.
With this poor preparation Sandbach started poorly and were very nearly 3 points down in as many minutes. Crewe Kicked off and put Sandbach under pressure, forcing them back into their own half. This pressure turned into points as Sandbach were judged off side, and Crewe were awarded a kickable penalty, luckily for Sandbach Crewe’s kicker had not brought his kicking boots and missed.
From the restart from the 22m line Sandbach painfully made their way back up the pitch, as their slower pack managed to scrabble the ball back to scrum half Jason Keeble. Sandbach’s backs were always under pressure as Crewe were always up quick on the slow ball which meant that the ball rarely got past first centre Tom Atkinson. To his credit Tom always managed to cross the gain line before being tackled.
Sandbach’s strength in its pack showed when they were awarded a scrum on Crewe’s 5m line. Winning the scrum, the heavy Sandbach pack pushed Crewe back to their line before number 8 Simon Astles picked the ball up and crossed the line. Tom Atkinson, who thankfully for the thirds was taking all of the kicks, converted the try.
Crewe rallied and again forced Sandbach into their own half, forcing them to kick for touch. Crewe’s line out was proving to be successful, as even Dan Stubbs was unable to take any ball. With the possession of the ball, Crewe quickly passed they ball through hands to their young winger who showed his metal and scored in the corner.
No in control Crewe kept possession of the ball, and their fly half proceeded to kick the ball over the Sandbach defence, straight into the arms of Dam Adams or Paul Kennedy, who showed that both could run and jinx through tackles. Unfortunately the Sandbach support play was not on the same level and time after time they became isolated. It was Crewe again who got points on the score card as from a kick through they won the race to the line to score again in the corner.
With Sandbach being 10-7 down and minutes remaining of the half Sandbach again found themselves with a scrum on Crewe’s 5m line, after the Sandbach pack had mauled the ball over the Crewe Line only to be held up. Again the experienced Sandbach pack pushed Crewe to their line to allow the ball to be picked up and put down over the line by Simon Astles. The try was again converted to make the score at half time 14-10 to Sandbach.
Realising that they could not get through Crewe’s defence Sandbach’s forwards kept the ball tight, either mauling it down the park or going on short runs, by either Dan Stubbs, Andy Ennis or Mick Caen. Thus tying the Crewe pack up the ball being shipped to either Steve Jones or Chris Dyer as a runner to take the ball on again.
Unfortunately When Crewe did get possession it was Sandbach’s first up tackling that let them down, and this led to Crewe’s next try as their centre was allowed to run from almost the middle of the park to score a converted try.
Minutes later Sandbach suffered two set backs, as Crewe extended their lead by a penalty and the first team sent a runner fro Tom Atkinson. Behind and down to 14 men Sandbach seemed to up their gear as every player gave their all. Sandbach started to beat Crewe to the breakdowns, and managed to get ball along their backline to allow Stuart Millward chance to out pace his opposite number and score in the corner, closing the gap with Crewe.
With minutes to go Sandbach again had Crewe under pressure and were awarded a penalty within range of the sticks, but with no kicker of note, Andy Green kicked to ball into touch on Crewe’s 5m line with the hope of securing the ball at the line and driving over fro a try. This was not to be and the game ended 20-19 in Crewe’s favour.
All in all a close game enjoyed by both sides, thanks to Crewe for switching venues, and organising the referee. Hopefully Christmas Shopping and the England vs. Australia match next Saturday will not cause the same problems as the thirds are at home to Marple 2nds who are currently running away with the league.
Steve Roe, Mickey Caen, Andy Maddock, Steve Jones, Dan Stubbs, Andy Ennis, Chris Dyer, Simon Astles, Jason Keeble, Andy Green, Dan Adams, Tom Atkinson, Lee Thompson, Stu Millward, Paul Kennedy.