Champions Sandbach scored 6 tries to 1 against mid-table Rochdale, but the match wasn’t as one-sided as the score might suggest.
Sandbach started the game playing into a stiff breeze coming straight off the Lancashire hills and bringing a chill to players and spectators alike. Despite this Sandbach started 'Hot' as within four minutes Chris Davenport had taken a crash ball and made 30 metres on a straight charge through the centre of the home defence. The ball was quickly (really quickly) recycled left and moved wide to Matt Smith to touch down in the corner and leave the Rochdale squad wondering what sort of afternoon they might have to endure. To their credit though, and despite coming off second best in the set pieces, Rochdale used their own fast backs and clever kicking to peg Sandbach in their own half. A sustained period of attack from Rochdale eventually led to a penalty, knocked over sweetly by ‘Dale centre Ollie Coleman.
In response Sandbach sprang into life with another break, with free-running Smith slicing through the Rochdale defence and popping up on the wing again to score his second try, this time in the opposite corner. Repeating their reaction to the Sandbach first try, Rochdale came back strongly and threatened the visitors’ line for a sustained period but once again could only manage another Coleman penalty as Sandbach player/coach Verbickas was given a 10 minute breather for tackling the man without the ball.
Half Time: Rochdale 6:10 Sandbach
The second half followed the pattern of the first with both teams showing flashes of inspiration but neither side able to maintain those peaks for long. The visitors’ first try of the half came from Matt Beesley who crashed over as the Sandbach forwards began to assert their dominance. Benny Elliot managed to take his only points of the game and converted the try. Sandbach soon followed this score, with perhaps the best try of the match as substitute James Beal came into the line, beat his man and moved the ball to Elliot and in turn to Jack Leech who scored in the corner.
Never say die, Rochdale came back again, moving the ball though a number of phases and eventually out to 'that man' Ollie Coleman, who had a simple run-in to score…. And he converted his own try.
With 15 minutes to go Sandbach introduced Mike Egglestone, (who having been somewhere hot and sandy for a few months was champing at the bit) and Colt Ben Twemlow. Eggy made his presence felt immediately with some big tackles, but perhaps more impressive was to see 'Traditionally Built' prop Twemlow jump above the Rochdale 2nd Row, like a leaping salmon, and take the ball. From there he charged through two tackles and safely recycle the ball. A nice cameo for the two substitutes!
Sandbach scored next as Smith showed his pace and ran around the outside of the defence to complete his hat-trick in fine style. Final score for the visitors came from club captain Will 'Zimmer' Stockdale who completed his first 80 minutes since November 5th last year in fine style. Stockdale was authoritative throughout and once again displayed his mastery of the maul.
Next week Sandbach face Anselmians in the Final of The Cheshire Vase competition. The game, to be played at Winnington Park, on Easter Monday, 9th April kicks off at 3 pm and all supporters will be much appreciated.